Carlo Caacbay’s Lapu-Lapu illustration


Many of us grew up with photographs and drawings on our textbooks showing Lapu-Lapu as a chiseled young man.  

But the latest illustration of Bulacan artist Carlo Caacbay shows the Datu Chief, who is considered as the Philippines’ first hero, more accurately portrayed as an aged man. Lapu-Lapu was actually around 70 years old during the Battle of Mactan, a defining moment of early Philippine history between the warriors of Lapu-Lapu and Ferdinand Magellan that happened 500 years ago today.


Photo-realistic painting shows an aged Lapu-Lapu


New Lapu-Lapu illustration - Carlo Caacbay
Caacbay’s new painting of Lapu-Lapu
Image credit: National Quincentennial Committee Philippines 

Released in May 2020 by the National Quincentennial Committee Philippines under the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), Caacbay’s photo-realistic painting shows an aged Lapu-Lapu that’s far from the early depictions of the hero as a chiseled young man. 

The new painting also shows the hero-warrior’s body decorated with tattoos that indicate his seniority, experiences, achievements, and triumphs. He is also holding a kampilan or a Visayan bladed weapon, against the backdrop of the Mactan beach, where his Filipino warriors won against the Spaniards during the Battle of Mactan.

New Lapu-Lapu illustration - Lapu-Lapu statue
Statue of Lapu-Lapu in Lapu-Lapu, Cebu, showing him as a young man.
Image credit: Valeen Gonzalez

The latest findings about the hero’s age during Magellan’s arrival in the Philippines is courtesy of historian Danilo Gerona, who consulted various primary and early sources that traced the account of Magellan in the Philippines for his 2016 book Ferdinand Magellan: The Armada de Maluco and the European Discovery of the Philippines. 

New Lapu-Lapu illustration - Lapu-Lapu old drawings
Previous depiction of Lapu-Lapu as a young man
Image credit: Mandirigma 

The NHCP is following the historian’s recent findings, as Gerona consulted the 1563 book of Portuguese historian Gaspar Correa titled Lendas da India that had claimed that Lapu-Lapu was very old. According to NHCP, Gerona also found out that Correa had probably gotten the information from one of the survivors of the Magellan-Elcano expedition he interviewed.

Considering how Lapu-Lapu is a historical figure from several centuries ago, it’s amazing to see how these new discoveries have just been emerging in recent years.


Lapu-Lapu was most likely not directly present in the Battle of Mactan too


New Lapu-Lapu illustration - Death of Magellan
An illustration of the death of Magellan
Image credit: New York Public Library Digital Collections 

Due to his old age, Lapu-Lapu was also most likely not directly involved in the Battle of Mactan, according to Gerona

Owing to his advanced age, Lapu-Lapu was probably directing his men from a safer location which explains why all the accounts providing brief details on the battle were silent about his role. In fact, he was never mentioned at all,” the historian wrote. 


New illustration of Lapu-Lapu


Caacbay’s illustration of Lapu-Lapu gives a better light on who our hero was during the fateful Battle of Mactan hundreds of years ago. It also shows how history is a delicate subject that requires a passionate verification of valuable sources. 

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Cover image adapted from: Mandirigma, National Quincentennial Committee Philippines 

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