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Lapu-Lapu could be a Maranao

So, the jury is still out. And the claim that Lapu-Lapu is a Maranao or Maguindanaoan or Yakan is not incredible in the absence of credible evidence to the contrary.

Macabangkit B. Lanto

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Ridiculous? It couldn’t be farcical for any tribe to claim that Lapu-Lapu was one of them. No solid evidence exists proving his ethnicity. But Maranaos are by their DNA enterprising and adventurous. I still have to see a single political subdivision in the country without a Maranao. They are everywhere eking out a living. And they can claim that one of them, a peripatetic trader, had established residence in Mactan to become chieftain Lapu-Lapu who was the hero in the Battle of Mactan on 27 April 1521. A kuwentong barbero or fishtalk, you can say. But, was it not General Napoleon Bonaparte who once said, “History is a set of lies agreed upon?”

Last week, there was an attempt to tinker with history. Or, rather to fill a void in our history books. A controversy sparked about the ethnicity of Lapu-Lapu. It has attracted comments from the general public especially among netizens. In fact, social media went abuzz with varied reactions.

What triggered the controversy was the speech of Senator Bong Go during the 500th anniversary of the landing of Ferdinand Magellan on the shores of Mactan and his death in the hands of the local fighters led by Lapu-lapu. He claimed that Lapu-lapu was a Tausug from Sulu.

This drew immediate negative reactions. They claimed it was a case of kuryente or bum steer. There is totally an absence of evidence to support the claim of the good senator.

To the credit of Senator Go, he immediately asked apology for the gaffe. He said he has “full respect for history and have no intention to change the honor and beliefs we have in our heroes.” He blamed his speechwriter and identified Abraham Idjirani, former spokesman of the Sultanate of Sulu, as the source of the information. Critics were more civil to the senator in the face of the mistake.

One wonders though why despite identifying Idjirani, there was no rejoinder from the latter. His credibility being put on the line, he should man up to face his claim and not leave the senator to fend for himself. Did his deafening silence mean that the senator was an unwilling victim of historical fraud? If the information he fed Senator Go is factual, why didn’t he come out publicly to explain?

Honestly, I was stunned by the revelation. This is not to belittle the claim of our brother Tausugs about their affinity with Lapu-Lapu, but I have not come across any account about it, oral or written. And I am an avid student of Moro history. But as Kurt Vonnegut claimed, “History is merely a list of surprises. It can only prepare us to be surprised yet again.”

Who knows? Our Tausug brothers must have staked the claim in good faith. Tribal nationalism is a common value among Moro tribes. It was during that period in history when the Sultanate of Sulu was so powerful and influential that the narrative about sending a Moro expedition led by Tausug Lapu-Lapu to Mactan to check on the arrival of a foreign armed armada could be plausible.

In an attempt to settle the controversy, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) declared publicly that Lapu-Lapu was a “chieftain” of the island of Mactan and not from Mindanao. It claimed “all information about Lapu-Lapu was based on accounts of Antonio Pigafetta, the chronicler of the Spanish expedition led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.” Did Pigafetta investigate the tribal affiliation of Lapu-Lapu? It didn’t say so.

The NHCP unfortunately did not put finis to the issue, but instead raised more questions when it asserted that there exists “no credible eyewitness account or any form of document… which could shed light on Lapu-Lapu’s birthplace, parents and other details of life.” In other words, it is not definitive, hence, vulnerable to contrary future findings and conclusion.

So, the jury is still out. And the claim that Lapu-Lapu is a Maranao or Maguindanaoan or Yakan is not incredible in the absence of credible evidence to the contrary. NHCP can put the taxpayers’ money to good use by initiating a historical investigation about the issue.

The dust of doubt has not settled.

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