𝘗𝘳𝘪𝘮𝘢 𝘧𝘢𝘤𝘪𝘦, it is melancholic to see Filipinos celebrating the quincentennial of the Arrival of Christianity side-by-side with the quincentennial of the Victory of Lapulapu in Mactan. Isn’t it ironic that while we honor the “first Filipino hero” who “fought against Western colonizers,” we also celebrate the “medium that the Western colonizers used in oppressing and enslaving our ancestors”?
Looking at it from a bigoted perspective (bigotry that teaches us to brand the whole 300 years as oppression), it is melancholic. But looking at it from a truer perspective of history, it is fitting that we celebrate both side-by-side.
To brand the Propagation of the Faith to the Philippine islands (or the whole Spanish colonization) as oppression and dark event in our history is a fallacy of composition – disregarding efforts of several missionaries and Spanish officials who thought of the common good, particularly the baptism of the natives into the Body of Christ, and their welfare (government, education, healthcare). Even Gat Jose Rizal recognized righteous priests in his 𝘌𝘭 𝘍𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘣𝘶𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘴𝘮𝘰, which he portrayed through the character of Padre Florentino. We should not forget Fray Domingo de Salazar, the first bishop of Manila, who fought against the abuses by Spanish officials and 𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘰𝘴 towards the natives (e.g., raising the tributes paid by the natives, the confiscation of the properties of the natives, forcing the natives to labor, etc.), and reported them to the King of Spain, to contrast lies sent by the Spanish governor-general stating that the natives were in good condition. We should also not forget Governor-General Carlos Ma. De la Torre, who was the friendliest to the natives and was one of the figures that inspired the Reform Movement in the late years of the Spanish rule.
The Catholic faith was not imposed to the Filipinos by the Spaniards. Our ancestors fully embraced it by themselves. Rajah Humabon was not forced by Magellan to convert – it was his own will to receive Christian initiation. Doesn’t the fact that the Catholic faith was expressed in the Filipino way as evident in our local devotions (Sinulog, Obando dance, Fiestas, processions) support the premise that it was embraced by Filipinos? For if it were really imposed, then the expressions of the faith would be like puppets/replicas to Spanish expressions of the faith. Doesn’t the fact that even the Filipino revolutionaries looked upon priests (GomBurZa) as their inspiration for revolution, support the premise that despite issues surrounding Spanish rule, the Filipino whole-heartedly embraced the faith? For if not, then Filipino revolutionaries would want an atheistic society (or probably, they would want to revert to the gods of bygone times).
For the 𝐐𝐮𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐧𝐧𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐨𝐟 𝐂𝐡𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐢𝐭𝐲, this is what we celebrate: the salvation of Christ deeply rooted in Philippine soil and strongly embedded in the hearts of the Filipino, both then and now.
We do not celebrate abuses of clergymen such as the fictional Padre Damaso. Of course, we condemn those likes. We condemn abuses by certain clergymen who exploited our ancestors, as well as Spanish officials who enslaved our ancestors. But doing so cannot stop us from celebrating the real message of Christ being brought into our land through the Spanish missionaries: the salvation of all nations.
The issue here is not a single yes or no question (e.g., Was the Spanish colonization good or bad? Yes or No). Three centuries would give us several Yes’s and No’s. We celebrate the “Yes”, yet we continue to condemn the “No”.
The same attitude should go towards 𝐋𝐚𝐩𝐮𝐥𝐚𝐩𝐮.
First of all, Lapulapu did not defend the Philippines. Such a country/nation/race did not exist until Spanish rule came, not even the idea of being one. He fought (or ordered his men to fight) against Magellan not because he was against colonization or not because he was patriotic (at least in today’s definition). Unlike Chinese or Japanese rulers, Lapulapu fought against Magellan as a result of the status of his relationship with neighboring rulers.
Lapulapu may be viewed as an image of regionalism – that plague that continues to divide the Filipino society, and that same plague that posed difficulties during the Philippine Revolution. Isn’t Lapulapu’s response to Magellan a fruit of his rivalries with his neighboring rulers? (i.e. Humabon and Zula). Why then should we honor a person whose primary motives are rivalry and division? Honoring such a show of division would be an insult to our Filipino heroes who were victims of division. Honoring such a show of division encourages our countrymen to fight against each other (e.g., Luzon vs Visayas vs Mindanao).
But then again, the Victory of Lapulapu is not a single yes or no question. We should give a “no” to Lapulapu’s divisive attitude, but we should also give a “yes”, and never forget as Filipinos, Lapulapu’s courage to fight European artillery with their local weapons. We should not forget Lapulapu’s will to resist attempts of other persons (Magellan, Humabon, Zula, etc.) to control his own people. This show of courage we celebrate, and should be a lesson to be taught to all generations. This victory teaches us that no nation or race is completely superior over another. However, it is only this show of courage that we should teach. We should not teach motives of division and rivalry.
Therefore, the two main celebrations of the Filipino society may coexist with each other, each one celebrating their own importance. Each one imparting its own lesson. For the Arrival of Christianity, we celebrate the message of the Gospel being embraced by the Filipinos and has shaped our culture, society, and traditions. On the other hand, we celebrate Lapulapu’s courage to fight against external forces, no matter how strong they may be. The Arrival of Christianity and the Victory of Mactan were both parts of a single voyage, and they are currently a part of the voyage that we are currently taking towards a fuller understanding of our Filipino identity.
“𝘖𝘶𝘳 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘞𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘯 𝘤𝘶𝘭𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘩𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺, 𝘰𝘧 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘩𝘢𝘭𝘧 𝘪𝘴 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘢𝘤𝘤𝘦𝘱𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘤𝘶𝘭𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘦, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘸𝘦 𝘢𝘥𝘢𝘱𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘶𝘴𝘦𝘴, 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘸𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘥𝘪𝘧𝘪𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘸𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘥𝘪𝘧𝘪𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘺 𝘪𝘵.” – 𝐍𝐈𝐂𝐊 𝐉𝐎𝐀𝐐𝐔𝐈𝐍
ABOUT THE PHOTO:
First Mass in Limasawa painting by Dionisio Gayo
Battle of Mactan painting by Manuel Panares