Mag­el­lan

Sun.Star Pampanga - - TOPSTORY! -

THE song is not meant to be taken se­ri­ously, but it has, at least for me, be­come some­thing of a date checker. When some­body asks me of the date of Fer­di­nand Mag­el­lan’s ar­rival in our ar­chi­pel­ago, I sing Yoyoy Vil­lame. “On Marts six­tin piptin han­drid twinti wan, wen Pilip­ins was disko­bird by Madzi­lan... “

Today is pre­cisely March 16, the same day al­most five cen­turies ago when a hardy band of Span­ish ex­plor­ers led by the Por­tuguese Mag­el­lan “saw a small Li­ma­sawa Is­land” af­ter “sail­ing day and night, across the big ocean.” That date is im­por­tant specif­i­cally for Ce­buanos not for what hap­pened on that day but for what hap­pened weeks later in Mac­tan Is­land. That mer­ited an en­try in world his­tory books.

His­tory, how­ever, is not writ­ten by the van­quished. Mag­el­lan’s de­feat in Mac­tan by na­tives led by La­pulapu paved the way for the con­quest of the ar­chi­pel­ago by the Spa­niards decades later. Col­o­niza­tion dis­torted our view of our own past. While there were ef­forts by the col­o­niz­ing power to piece to­gether out pre­colo­nial past, the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the big pic­ture was over­whelm­ingly pro-Span­ish.

In 2021, that lit­tle in­ci­dent in world his­tory will al­ready be 500 years old. The cel­e­bra­tion will cer­tainly be huge and the gov­ern­ments of the Philippines and Spain are al­ready pre­par­ing for it. That’s ex­pected. Cebu will be at the cen­ter of it all. And since it will be cel­e­bra­tory, the bru­tal col­o­niza­tion by Spain would be down­played and the ex­ploita­tive and op­pres­sive na­ture of its rule glossed over.

But that is not my main beef. The com­mem­o­ra­tion of the ar­rival of the Mag­el­lan ex­pe­di­tionary forces in the ar­chi­pel­ago will nec­es­sar­ily fo­cus again on a story that has been told and re­told al­ready: the ar­chi­pel­ago during the Span­ish rule. I thirst rather for the story of the ar­chi­pel­ago be­fore the Spa­niards, and later the Amer­i­cans, shaped us in their own im­age.

I re­al­ized this when I wrote the his­tory of the town where my fa­ther was born, Tudela, in the Camotes group of is­lands. Read­ing ma­te­ri­als that chron­i­cled life in the ar­chi­pel­ago be­fore the ar­rival of the Spa­niards led me to one the­ory: that what we are now is a re­sult of our fail­ure to em­brace our true iden­tity. The great­est irony is when we laugh at the prac­tices of the lumads: our im­pure selves mock­ing our old and pure selves.

We should cel­e­brate March 16 but not for the ar­rival of the Spa­niards. I say it pays if we take a closer look at what hap­pened prior to the first mass, or during the Spa­niards’first con­tact with the na­tives. It is just un­for­tu­nate that what we know about March 16 are seen in the prism of the glasses

worn by the west­erner Pi­gafetta. Even then, we can glean from him the level of civ­i­lized con­duct achieved by the na­tives of the ar­chi­pel­ago at that time.

We cel­e­brate March 16 not be­cause the “Philippines was dis­cov­ered by Mag­el­lan” but be­cause we dis­cov­ered our own selves based on how the na­tives in­ter­acted with the Spa­niards. March 16 should be seen, fi­nally, in the per­spec­tive of La­pulapu and Hum­abon and not of Mag­el­lan and Pi­gafetta.

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