Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lapu-Lapu, Hu U?

I’M not looking forward to returning to Manila, beloved of rains, flood and traffic.

But aside from having to attend to unfinished business, I read about a fellow Bisdak who’s also stranded in the Bad City.

This is the 40-foot brass statue of Lapu-Lapu found in the Agripina Circle of Rizal Park along Roxas Boulevard.

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza wants the statue transferred outside the Hoops Dome in Barangay Gun-ob, reported Flornisa M. Gitgano in Sun.Star Cebu last July 14. In 2021, the city will celebrate 500 years of independence from Spain.

However, Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III prefers that the statue remains in Manila.

I don’t know about my fellow Oponganons but I’m sure I don’t want the government shouldering a hefty fee to ship a 40-foot brass statue.

Even if the statue could be levitated to Mactan without wasting taxes, I’m not in the proper frame of mind to contemplate this gigantic icon as I stew for at least an hour in the Vhire, crawling past the Hoops Dome, the alternate route serving the public while excruciatingly slow road repairs close most of the main thoroughfare in Barangay Basak.

Am I saying that Oponganons can’t appreciate the first Filipino to reject colonizers? I doubt transplanting a brass statue or erecting a two-hectare monument at Barangay Punta Engaño will make us understand better Lapu-Lapu, shrouded by myth more than facts.

His brass statue, donated by the Korea Freedom League to the Philippine Government in 2004 and erected at Rizal Park on the mandate of then tourism secretary Dick Gordon, says volumes about the hold of the first Filipino hero on Pinoy minds.

Called the “Motto Stella (Guiding Star),” the Rizal Monument is a mausoleum in granite, topped by a 42-foot bronze sculpture of the hero and set off by an obelisk in the background. There is continuous ritual guarding of the monument’s perimeter by the Philippine Marine Corps.

Rizal’s hold on public imagination is as formidable as his dominance of public space. Over the years and climaxing during his centennial in December 1996, we have not lacked for scholarly and popular articles, books, movies and other media about Rizal. Writer and academic Ambeth Ocampo contributed in making Rizal and Philippine history “familiar and approachable”.

In contrast, who is Lapu-Lapu?

We think the first nationalist is a long-haired he-man in “bahag (loincloth)” with no great fondness for foreigners.

We don’t even “know” Lapu-Lapu; we imagine him to be this way, based on visits to the Punta Engaño shrine, annual reenactments of the Battle of Mactan, and a controversial TV ad selling disposable diapers.

That’s a pitifully paltry pool for fanning hero worship. According to an “I-Witness” 2012 documentary of Lapu-Lapu, the hero may even have a different name. Kalipulako, Pula Pula or Cilapulapu? Historians don’t agree.

Can we worship a hero of indefinite name and visage? A 1933 statue of Lapu-Lapu showed him wielding bow and arrow. The same “I-Witness” documentary quoted residents recalling a rumor that this statue, with weapons pointed towards the old town hall, caused the death of three mayors. The mayor who replaced the bow and arrow with a bolo went on to live much longer.

In 2008, the Cebu Province commissioned 55 local histories for each town and city in what is known as the Cebu Provincial History Project. I would love to read the Lapu-Lapu City history researched and written by Ahmed Cuizon, now Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board-7 regional director.

But the publication of the local histories is, alas, also shrouded in mystery. Past thickets of myth and myth-making, the quest for the real Lapu-Lapu continues.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s July 20, 2014 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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