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Battle of Mactan

The Battle of Mactan was fought in the Philippines on April 21, 1521. The troops of Lapu-Lapu, a chieftain of Mactan, defeated Spanish forces under Ferdinand Magellan. Magellan was killed in action.

Table of contents
1 Background
2 Arrival of the Spanish
3 Defeat of the Spanish


Before the Spanish colonial period, the archipelagos of Southeast Asia were under the influence of the traders of Hindu-Malayan culture, such as the Majapahit Empire, which was being supplanted by Islamic conquest by the Sultanates of Malacca, who had converted from Hinduism to Islam in 1414, and of Borneo. In the Majapahit Empire the last Hindu kings in about 1500 retreated to Bali in order to keep their culture. In the archipelago that was to become the Philippines, the idols of the Hindu gods were hidden to prevent their destruction by a religion which destroyed all idols. (One idol, a 4-pound gold statue of a Hindu-Malayan goddess was found in Mindanao in 1917, which now sits in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and is dated from the period 1200s to early 1300s. Another gold artifact of Garuda, the phoenix who is the mount of Vishnu was found on Palawan.)

During this time, the Portugese explorers had found a way around the Islamic kingdoms which were holding the trade routes overland to the spices of southeast Asia, which was to round the Cape of Good Hope of Africa, through the Indian Ocean, and thence to the Spice Islands.

During this time, the Portugese held maps to be state secrets, because geography was the key to power at that time.

Magellan was assigned to Portugese Goa in India for military training at age 20, and soon divined that geography was a key to the riches of Southeast Asia. After a voyage to the area, he indenturedd a Malay servant, Enrique, whom he would use as an interpreter during his voyage around the globe. Enrique was actually taken from his home islands (later to become named the Philippines), enslaved by Sumatran slavers, taken to Malacca, and later baptized.

Arrival of the Spanish

After Magellan landed on the island of Homonhon March 16, 1521 , he parleyed with Rajah Calambu of Limasawa, who guided him to Cebu, on April 7. Through Magellan's interpreter, Enrique, Rajah Humabon of Cebu became an ally. Suitably impressed by Magellan's 12 cannons and 50 cross-bows, Rajah Humabon suggested that Magellan project power to cow Lapu-Lapu of Mactan.

Defeat of the Spanish

Magellan deployed 48 armored men, less than half his crew, with cross-bows and guns, but could not land on Mactan. His crew had to wade through the surf to make landing. Eight crewmen were killed. Antonio Pigafetta, a supernumerary on the voyage who later returned to Seville, Spain, records that Lapu-Lapu had at least 1500 warriors in the battle.

Magellan was wounded in the leg, while still in the surf. As the crew were retreating, they record that Magellan was surrounded by warriors.

List of Philippine-related topics -- Southeast Asia -- History of Southeast Asia -- History -- Military history -- List of battles