A professor friend, Alex Fabros, corrupted my way of thinking by telling me this joke "Magellan was the first Western Tourist to get mugged in the Philippines".

Magellan was Mugged

The impression I was given of Lapu-lapu when I was a kid was that of a savage barbarian jumping up and down on the beach chanting “I’m going to cut your head off!” I remember being told that pre-Hispanic Filipinos were a bunch of uncivilized headhunters.

Did I really come from a primitive culture? So, of the curious mind I had to find out how they evolved as a people. Hoping for the best and apprehensive of the worse I had to find out for myself.

Since most documented history was written through the eyes of the colonizers, I often wondered what first contact was really like between the Spanish and the indigenous people of the Philippines. The Spanish encountered the Visayans first.

Rajah Humabon, the chief of a nearby island Limasawa welcomed the Spanish with hospitality and was easily converted to Christianity without bloodshed. He pledged allegiance to the king of Spain, but his real motive was to gain a powerful ally to help overthrow a rival chieftain, Lapu Lapu of Mactan Island. Magellan became close friends with Rajah Humabon and another Datu on Mactan island that resented Lapu Lapu as well, Datu Zula, and honored allegiance to the Spanish king. I like to think that Magellan was being played and setup by Humabon and Zula.

Magellan's Arrogance
Father Pigafetta who was on the expedition with Magellan documented the events that led up to the confrontation with Lapu Lapu. As it turns out it was Datu Zula who instigated the fight. On April 26th, 1521 Zula was going to send his son to deliver a couple of goats and some gifts he promised but told Magellan that Lapu Lapu was in the way and refused allegiance to the king of Spain. This was like an open challenge to Magellan and in his arrogance felt that Lapu Lapu's warriors were inferior to the Spanish soldiers. He wanted to show off the Spaniards military superiority to his newfound friends, Humabon and Zula, so before dawn on the morning of April 27th, 1521 Magellan and 49 of his crew squared off with what Fryer Antonio Pigafetta had counted as 1500 native warriors. How he arrived at that number is questionable.

As Magellan and his soldiers went ashore, they observed three groups of warriors, one on the right flank, one on the left flank, and one in the middle. As the warriors saw the Spanish soldiers, they raised their battle cries and rushed towards them in a frenzy as the soldiers prepared and aimed their muskets. Although Pigafetta went into detail in describing how the battle took place the Spanish were simply overwhelmed. There muskets were rendered useless after the first shots against the speed, agility, and number of attacking warriors as it took too long to reload and fire. To put it simply, they got mugged.

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Off the Record
If you research the battle of Mactan you'll probably run across stories being told that there were 1500 warriors against Magellan and his 49 soldiers. Remember the event of the battle was documented by the Spanish and I'm sure the numbers were exaggerated.

For the Record
There really isn't enough evidence that Datu Lapu Lapu actually killed Magellan, it could have been any of the warriors. Magellan's head was indeed decapitated as it is custom for the conquering warriors to keep a war trophy and since Lapu Lapu was chief then it may have been bestowed upon him to do the honors. The remains of Ferdinand Magellan to this day has never been found.

Lapu Lapu rejected colonial rule and decided to fight against the Spanish. He was Muslim by faith, and we all know that the Muslims were never conquered by the Spanish.