If there’s one thing that President Duterte wants to ensure at the tail end of his term, it’s for Philippine hero Lapulapu to be the more revered figure locally especially when compared to Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.
Duterte, in his pre-recorded “Talk to the People” public briefing Tuesday, Jan. 18, asked Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles to contact the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) so it may “look into the situation”.
Prior to this, Nograles gave a general presentation about the NHCP’s accomplishments during the Duterte administration, which will end on June 30, 2022.
Right after the presentation, Duterte remembered seeing something in Cebu during his own presidential campaign that made him “uncomfortable”– adjacent statues of Lapulapu and Magellan wherein the latter towered over the former.
“Yung statue ni Magellan, mas malaki doon sa statue ni Lapulapu (Magellan’s statue was bigger than that of Lapulapu’s). I respect whoever whose opinion or decision was that. But I am very uncomfortable to see a statue of Lapulapu smaller than the statue of Magellan,” recalled the then-Davao City Mayor.
“There was a crowd. And I told them, if I make it to the presidency, I will see to it that the statue of Lapulapu will be bigger than the statue of Magellan,” added Duterte.
“I was campaigning. Sabi ko, ‘Look, I do not like what I see…Ang hero ko (My hero) is Lapulapu, not Magellan. Although nirerespeto ko ang pagkatao niya…Bakit ganun? (Although I respect him…why is it this way?) He was an intruder into our country,” the Chief Executive said, bewildered.
He told Nograles to instruct the NHCP to “go there and try to look at the situation, without offending the inhabitants there”.
“Tignan doon, ilang buwan na lang, pero mabigyan natin ng istatwa ni Lapulapu, mas malaki or tabla kay Magellan (They should look into it, there’s only a few months left, but we should give Lapulapu a bigger statue or the same size as that of Magellan)…but it should always be mas malaki ang kay Lapulapu (Lapulapu’s should be bigger),” he explained.
“Let me be very clear on this. I am not belittling Magellan because he has our respect, yung statue niya (he has a statue). I do not mean to offend the sensibility of some Cebuanos. I’m just also a citizen of this country expressing my opinion,” Duterte said.
Magellan led the historic 1519 Spanish expedition, which resulted in the first recorded circumnavigation of the Earth three years later. It is also called the Magellan-Elcano expedition.
Lapulapu and Magellan crossed paths in the Battle of Mactan on April 27, 1521 where the latter was killed. It’s a clash that the Filipino warriors won despite not being as heavily armed as the foreigners.
“Bilib naman ako kay (I admire) Magellan…for his feat. It was no means a walk in the park at that time, barko (on the boat). Pero (But) it’s high time to, para sa akin (for me), the visual of those two statues, hindi ako kumportable (I’m not comfortable). Hindi naman malaki ang gastusin natin dyan. Semento lang yan ata (We won’t be spending much there. Only on cement, maybe),” Duterte further said.
Later in the briefing, Nograles and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea told the President that a larger statue of Lapulapu was unveiled last year in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu.
“Noong Quincentennial celebration po, nag-unveil na tayo ng statue ni Lapulapu (We unveil a Lapulapu statue during the Quincentennial celebrations),” Nograles said, referring to the 2021 Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines or 2021 QCP.
“Ang nag-represent po sa inyo that time was si ES Medialdea, ako, at si Senator Bong Go. Nagpunta kami doon…Mas malaki na po (Those who represented you at that time was ES Medialdea, myself, and Senator Bong Go. We went there…it’s a bigger statue),” the acting presidential spokesperson said.
But Duterte didn’t seemed satisfied with this and still wanted the NHCP to give Lapulapu a “higher honor”.
“As a matter of principle, I do not want na yung ating (that our) national hero number one, who fought the invaders–Magellan, whose statue now is higher than the statue of Lapulapu. The thing is, I want Lapulapu bigger and higher than Magellan. What matters is the reverence that we should be giving to [Lapulapu].”
Duterte told Nograles and Medialdea: “Pero tawagan mo yung historical commission. Gusto ko, maski hindi matapos, maumpisahan lang (Call the historical commission. Even if we don’t finish it, we just need to start it). We can reserve a specific sum for the purpose of giving our national hero a higher–honor.”
Medialdea replied: “We are on track with respect to that. As a matter of fact one of the most popular award right now is the Lapulapu award given sa mga (to the) war heroes, sa mga (to those) wounded in action. And we have given a lot during your administration.”
The Palace official also said that a commemorative P5,000 bill and P100 coin were also issued by the Bangko Sentral of the Philippines (BSP) in honor of Lapulapu.
“At least yung pera na magamit ng tao para maalala niya si Lapulapu. Bili siya ng Lapu-Lapu dyan sa palengke, prituhin niya yun bukas (At least there’s money that would remind people of Lapulapu. They can buy Lapu-Lapu from the market and fry it tomorrow),” Duterte said, this time referring to fish named after the Philippine hero.