Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage to Cebu led him to introduce Christianity to the Filipinos. Though his expedition was a success, he met his demise upon arriving at a nearby island on April 27, 1521. With improvised weapons, local chieftain Lapu-Lapu and his men defeated the invaders in what is now known as the famous Battle of Mactan.
THE BATTLE OF MACTAN
The battle occurred on the shores of present day Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City, particularly at the Mactan Shrine. Its history has made it a venue that commemorates Cebu’s new beginnings. It has summarized a long winding battle into one big tourist spot.
Magellan, with support from Spain, had persuaded the leader of Cebu, Rajah Humabon, to convert. When the king ordered nearby chieftains to support the Christians, Datu Lapu-Lapu of Mactan island refused. After a rejected negotiation, Magellan and soldiers battled over 1,500 warriors in Lapu-Lapu’s home turf.
Though the Christians were equipped with more firepower, the sheer number of soldiers under Lapu-Lapu’s command outnumbered them. After sustaining several serious injuries, including a poison arrow to the leg, Magellan died, forcing his men to retreat.
This made Lapu-Lapu the first Filipino hero to defeat foreign invaders. A bronze statue of the hero carrying a sword and shield is found at the center of the Mactan Shrine. Historians claim that his weapon choices are the earliest practice of Arnis, also known as Kali, the Philippines’ national sport and martial art.
Directly behind the statue is the Magellan Marker. This stone obelisk is said to be the exact spot where the explorer fell. It was built in 1886 to commemorate the man who brought Christianity to the island. Magellan is also widely known for offering the Señor Sto. Niño, an iconic image in every Sinulog Festival.
Magellan’s name is also preserved in the Magellan’s Cross, one of the most famous landmarks in Cebu. A street in downtown Cebu is also named “Magallanes,” in honor of the Portuguese traveler.
A mural depicting the Battle of Mactan is also found inside the shrine. The painting shows Lapu-Lapu and Magellan fighting in the middle while soldiers from both sides are battling each other along the shores of the Mactan island.
The Mactan Shrine is more than just a Cebu heritage site. With its wide space, fresh air, and location near the sea, many tourists and locals treat it as a hangout spot. The monuments create a great background for selfies and landscape shots, and you can also just relax.
Its place as a Cebu tourist spot is solidified during the Kadaugan sa Mactan that is celebrated every year. On the anniversary of the battle, a performance depicting the events of the fight between Magellan and Lapu-Lapu is presented at the park. Many tourists and locals visit the shrine to witness epic performances and other events.
The Mactan Shrine also has several shops selling souvenirs and memorabilia. These include bags, keychains, and clothing. You may even find the iconic Lapu-Lapu guitar. If you get hungry, there are also some cheap eateries nearby.
The shrine is pretty easy to go to if you are staying in one of Lapu-Lapu’s hotels. If you wish to commute, you can ride a jeepney going to Punta Engaño along the highway in Barangay Pusok. You can also find many taxis passing by.
If you are staying in Cebu City or Mandaue, you will have to take more trips. You can ride a van at the Ayala Center Cebu or SM City Cebu terminal. They will usually drop you off at Gaisano Island Mactan or Lapu-Lapu City Hall. Just walk a little further and you will find many jeepneys passing by.
The Mactan Shrine is only one of the many tourist spots in the area, however. They don’t call Lapu-Lapu the historic resort city for nothing. There is a long list of resorts and beach houses that you can visit to take a dip in the ocean. You can even go island hopping in Olango or buy a world class guitar in Alegre.
You can visit the park anytime of the day, but it would be best to leave before rush hour to prevent getting stuck in traffic at the Sergio Osmeña and Marcelo B. Fernan bridge.
Lapu-Lapu is one of the most historically rich cities in Cebu. Turning the Battle of Mactan monument into a tourist spot has helped in preserving the history of Cebuanos. Along with places like Fort San Pedro and Plaza Independencia, this park-museum hybrid is a spot for history buffs and park enthusiasts alike.