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Lapulapu to break silence

Sautéed chili in prose
Cursin Måjellån

(First of series)

NEITHER do Ferdinand Magellan’s stardom and popularity among Chileans, nor their profound fondness of him, shrink this byline to atom size, but the question over a missing perpetrator does.

Lapulapu, the tribe warrior of the islet of Mactan, was alleged to have hacked to death in 16th century the Portuguese leader of the Spanish conquest-expedition to the archipelago, now Philippines. No one heard of him thereafter.

However irrelevant the crime – as it were technically – to Filipinos may be, but is so to a Chilean, uptight about the centuries-old fleeing criminal!

Whether or not was there any conspiracy of historical disdain that led to deliberate disregard of facts as to the flight of this unsung hero, our silence makes assumptions prompted thereof rather justified, however unfairly.

Nonetheless, I dont mind pursuing a story swallowed up by antiquities if only to find hope that rewriting history will indeed change the prevailing people's traits that have traces of the relics surrounding, in particular, the hero-warriors disappearance.

Let the carrots at the end of the tunnel be for those who succeed changing them. I’ll be grateful too!

Moreover, not only was Magellan’s death unfortunate but also the killing of an invader by the only resisting group of islet-men anyhow rendered meaningless, no less historically.

After all, the rest of the native populations (maliciously dubbed as “indios”) took the bloodless struggle instead, ingesting into themselves the gloom and doom of being _nth class citizens of their own motherland. Political bullying, being looted of resources, slave labor, harassment, rape, man-slaughter had unfortunately become the accepted normalcy.

Was it sleight of magic, or miracle? No!

I don’t think Spaniards were of silver tongues mouthing upon their landings love of church and salvation from sins, thus earned overnight pious devotions from various natives around different islands of the archipelago.

Are you kidding me? Natives never understood a thing those smokes spewing bearded dragons were babbling loudly from sea.

On the contrary, Magellan’s navigation exploits of social misfits and hardened criminals were themselves explosive cannonballs to conquer them.

Most of these men, as matter of fact, were just pulled out from Spanish dungeons to be cast away to a colony far beyond point nemo not to see Spain ever again.

This was one among those of the package Portuguese navigator`s expedition agreed to deliver to the Spanish Crown.

Their hungers and thirsts, both spirit and flesh, in the months long journey to uncertainties — however suppressed for the thoughts of freedoms and promising wealth out of governing for themselves the lands, seas and people found thereof — could not wait to devour.

With all these urges and tensions also exploding, who would not of course shudder at mere sights of the wild demons personified, of their swords and of their fire powders?

Fear, the most effective instrument for oppression and control, was the primary reason why some of the natives gave in — baptized, taxed — and thus lost to assimilation!

Placing their women, their lands and themselves under the rule of these men for 300 years even left Magellan cussing all the way to his eternal rest.

Poor Magellan. He brought in Christianity but, ironically, never had a Christian burial himself!

Well, who cares? Spaniards got their fill.

Given their contempt following Spain-Portugal fight for the ownership of the world, to leave expedition leader off the Mactan coast no more than a carcass for crabs to feast on was no burden of guilt.

Besides, they didn’t know personally any Portuguese as their surrogate boss, except their respective former prison wardens per ship who, this time, were their little governors, or cabesas de los barrios, or jefes de los ejercitos.

By the way, I said “placing” because the Spanish conquestadores did not anymore shed blood taking the entire archipelago to themselves where violence would have been otherwise massively unfolded, told and retold. Let alone Mactan’s.

The fact everybody has been prostituting with any existing power (then and now), the Mactan incident was the first and the last skirmish between invaders and the resistance.

Regardless, the Spaniards were always up to hide their skins — typical of guilty thieves — from the natives by erecting town citadels and, no less, a colonial government their heirs have later inherited.

That same government, despite altered form, is still run today — by those who are bred for it or paid into by those who need to bleed — solely for the fortunes ordained to same particular social class, the true “civil order” or government’s rightful beneficiaries.

It is the same system that has nourished itself out of sheepled lapdogs, collaborators, balimbing or sipsip begging favors, the corrupt and cheats. It is also fond of treasonous leaders selling off their neighbors or countrymen for some goodies and kickbacks.

These ruling heirs (los mestizos) later called themselves Filipinos not only to show off paternalistic loyalty (or pasipsip) to their ancestors` king (Felipe Jr.) back home, but also to establish racial fortress defining their social class from encroaching native assimilation.

Such unfortunate twist of fate totally reshaped the lives of the rest of the natives who gave up instead their domains (talugan), thus drove deep to the forests their tribes, their cultural structures (bangkaso), customs and traditions. They`re still uphill till today watching over the rise and fall of a new society, amidst their own extinction somehow!

Whether or not this painful epoch of the nation’s history brought in common feeling among today’s Filipinos against that infamy, it has earned the people an international notoriety as a nation of tolerants.

This is because, for one, we let loose those who benefit from shame to live with it equally as normal people as those who do not.

Fair to the latter or otherwise, they don’t care unless, perhaps, such shame brings their own homes ablaze. Much less they partake of the loots!

Perhaps this is one among those that some people desired rewritten in favorable flavor — either to scrap it or strengthen it — and better yet to not to exist at all, in my case, before my Latin American confreres!

I was detailed temporarily to Punta Arenas, Chile`s southern city.

Never ask me what this Portuguese explorer has since been to the Chileans.

I don’t believe he had more wealth than God but they love the Filipino decapitated navigator hero so much that they named after him the strait where their city lies.

Heard the Strait of Magellan between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, yes? You got that right!

Chileans still miss him these days, can’t you believe it? We’re gonna deal with it in the succeeding issues.

To that effect, they even erected him a memorial monument that has become popular and iconic among Chile`s most southern cities.

You find it towering over the city square, Plaza de Armas.

The site was however one of the stops my colleagues led to during a 2 day round tour to introduce me to the city in one sunny December.

It was too hot then that you can fry an egg on the pavement, but the idea of confronting centuries old historical guilt made me feel it was North Pole out there, all of a sudden!

My nationality was of no secret among them and I presumed they have all information about me and my nation in place before then.

What happened to Lapulapu after killing Magellan? The elder monk asked over a sly smile.

The question was amusing thó.

However, he was so sincere bringing me into a moral dilemma whether or not to answer the question with Philippine barber`s story from the back of my head.

I did not have the correct answer that moment, to be honest. Do you?

If none, just hold on a while… I’ll see what I can do for you in the next issue. (36)

Cursin Måjellån is a Filipino religious missionary based in Falkland Islands.

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