MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday claimed pre-colonial hero Lapulapu, leader of Mactan island, Cebu in the Visayas, was from a Mindanao tribe—a claim for which one of his allies recently apologized.
"I raised Lapulapu to the level and dignity of a true warrior. And he was Tausug. The settlement is Tausug," Duterte claimed in a speech before leaders of the Bangsamoro region in the southern province of Maguindanao.
The Philippines recently marked the 500th anniversary of Lapulapu and his warrior's defeat of Western firepower led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in the shores of Mactan on April 27, 1521.
"Itong mga pilosopo, they are contesting Lapulapu. Sabi ko and'yan na 'yan, he killed the first invader of our country," said Duterte, the first President from Mindanao.
"I am very proud of him, talagang napagyayabang ko," he added.
(These smartasses are contesting Lapulapu. I said it is already there, he killed the first invader of our country. I am very proud of him, I can really boast of him.)
Duterte's former longtime aide Sen. Christopher Go also recently claimed that Lapulapu was from Mindanao. He cited a study by Abraham Ibarani-Idjirani, spokesperson of the defunct Sultanate of Sulu.
"Ako po ay taus-pusong humihingi ng paumanhin kung iba ang dating ng aking naikwento," Go said in a Facebook post.
"Nais kong klaruhin na buo ang aking respeto sa ating kasaysayan at wala akong intensyong baguhin ang paghanga at paniniwala natin sa buhay ng ating mga bayani. Handa po akong makinig at matuto base sa kaalaman ng mga eksperto sa larangan ng kasaysayan."
(I sincerely apologize if my story came off wrong. I want to clarify that I have full respect for history, and I have no intention to change our admiration and belief in the lives of our heroes. I am ready to listen and learn based on the knowledge of experts on history.)
Dr. Jobers Bersales, director of the University of San Carlos Museum, said Magellan and his men would have been massacred the minute they set foot on the island if Lapulapu was Tausug.
"Lapulapu would have killed everyone if he was a Tausug. He would have brought with him cannons, which were already being used in Jolo and in Brunei," he said in an interview on ANC.
"The moment they (Magellan and his crew) started on shore, there would have been a massacre. There would have been no (Antonio) Pigafetta. We would have not known anything about the expedition because I am sure if Lapulapu was Tausug, he would have maybe 20 lantakas, 20 cannons there prepared to welcome Magellan and the 50 others."
"He didn't. So that means he was not Tausug," he added.
Bersales maintained there was no other evidence that would show that the native chieftain was from anywhere else but Mactan.
"The fact that he was mentioned in Pigafetta's chronicle as paramount chief of Mactan, that's already an indication that he was living there," he said.
"Because of that, we assumed that where you are a chief that is where you came from and where you grew up because you will not be chief there if you came from somewhere [else]," he added.
Bersales said Pigafetta, who chronicled the Spanish expedition in 1521, would have also mentioned if Lapulapu was Tausug or from Mindanao after having traveled there and becoming familiar with Muslim practices.
He noted though that historical information about Lapulapu was limited to the latter being a datu and his role in the Battle of Mactan.