Lapu Lapu

A King's Balisong by Pabu Knife Magellan and what remained of his Armada de Moluccas did find the passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans without going around Cape Horn which Magellan had promised, what we, today, call "The Strait of Magellan." Remarkably, they found their way through the Strait rather quickly. I say remarkably because the Strait of Magellan is anything but straight. It's not a nice, easy passage but a twisting labyrinth of passages and islands. When they reached the Pacific Ocean, the crew wanted to turn back for Spain to restock and return to finish the voyage. But Magellan was quite sure that the Spice Islands were only a few week's sail away. Magellan vastly under- estimated the size of the Pacific Ocean. Ninety-six days later, on March 6, 1521, the armada's official diarist, a man named Antonio Pigafetta who kept very detailed notes that survive to this day, recorded that the men were busy cutting the leather wrapping off of the masts to boil it and eat it. There was nothing else left to eat. Just as the men were making this last, desperate effort, the lookout spotted land. Magellan named this island Guam. Their reception on Guam was violent and they had to flea. But, they did get some food and water from other nearby islands. On March 16, 1521, the fleet arrived at the island of Homonhon in the Philippines where they met Rajah Kolambu of Limasawa. They stayed with the Rajah (another word for king) for several weeks recovering from the voyage. During those few weeks, the Rajah and all of his people pledged their allegiance to Spain and converted to Christianity at Magellan's urging. Somewhere along the way, Magellan sort of changed his goal from commercial, that of establishing Spanish ownership of the valuable Spice Islands and of finding a route to them, to religious and political, that of expanding the Spanish empire and spreading Christianity. At Rajah Kolambu's suggestion, the fleet continued to the nearby island of Cebu. Carrying an introduction from Rajah Kolambu, Magellan was warmly received by Rajah Humabon of Cebu. The Rajah and the people of Cebu quickly pledged their allegiance to Spain and also converted to Christianity. By this time, news of the foreigners was spreading through the Filipino Islands. Magellan heard that the kings on the nearby island of Mactan had decided that they would not acknowledge the King of Spain nor convert to Christianity. So, Magellan and a small army of warriors from Cebu, who had traditional rivalries with Mactan, headed to Mactan to teach the rebellious Mactans a lesson. In reality, Rajah Humabon was using this perceived conflict over Christianity to get Magellan with his superior weapons and well-trained sailor/soldiers to subdue the Mactans for him. But, things didn't go as planned. Filipino legend has it that Lapu Lapu personally killed Magellan. The account written by Antonio Pigafetta doesn't exactly support that. You see, I've abbreviated the story here. Magellan and Pigafetta had met Lapu Lapu before the battle. He was personally known to both of them. Pigafetta claims that he personally eye-witnessed Magellan's death. Had it been at Lapu Lapu's own hand, we assume that Pigafetta would have recorded that most-significant of facts. Yet, as detailed as his account of the event is, he does not specifically name the killer. Lapu Lapu, being the king, was probably not personally on the front lines of the battle. But, while he most likely didn't personally kill Magellan, it was one of his men under his command who did. In this respect, it is correct to say that Lapu Lapu killed Magellan. While Pigafetta didn't report who killed Magellan, he did report in detail how it was done. Magellan's legs were cut off at the knee and then he was beheaded. Pigafetta even recorded the weapon used: Magellan was killed with a Filipino warrior's sword called a Kampilan. A modern kampilan is a long, straight sword with a unique, split tip. It is traditionally a warrior's sword and also used for beheadings. The split tip makes it a poor sword for stabbing, but stabbing is not what it's used for. The split tip is used as a sort of fork to pick the victim's head up after cutting it off. Here is a picture of a modern reproduction kampilan from C.A.S. Iberia. Before we go on and look at the new Pabu balisong honoring Lapu Lapu, I should finish the story. Ferdinand Magellan was killed in battle with the army of Lapu Lapu on the Philippine island of Mactan on April 27, 1521 if not by Lapu Lapu's own hand then certainly by one under his direct command. Victoria alone finally did return to Spain with only 18 surviving crew. Their harrowing voyage, the first recorded circumnavigation of the earth, had taken three years. Their voyage also forever connected the names of Magellan and Lapu Lapu. Click on the finger icon to read more about this heroic Pabu balisong .