The statue of Lapu-Lapu in Punta Engano, Cebu province is a 20-meter-high bronze sculpture of the Philippines’ first recognized national hero depicted in full battle gear.
It is part of the Mactan Shrine, a park that commemorates the Battle of Mactan in 1521 between the Spanish armada led by Ferdinand Magellan and the local tribes led by Lapu-Lapu who resisted the invasion. In fact, it would take 4 more decades for Spain to establish its colony in the Philippines after this historic battle.
Lapu-Lapu’s memorial statue boasts remarkable realism. His detailed torso, arms, and legs are dirtied from battle, and his indigenous loin cloth seems to flap in the wind as he looks out to the sea.
Commissioned by the town council in the early 1930s, the statue originally held a bow and arrow pointing in the direction of the municipal hall. After its completion, however, three consecutive mayors died within months in office, leading residents to believe that the statue might have carried a curse. In 1938, the new mayor Mariano Dimataga asked to remove Lapu-Lapu’s bow and arrow and replace it with a wooden shield. Dimataga stayed on for 30 years until he retired in 1968.
Lapu-Lapu is regarded as the first Filipino hero who asserted freedom and independence from foreign rule. In 2017, April 27 was declared as Lapu-Lapu Day for this very reason. Lapu-Lapu’s image also appears on the official seals of the Philippine National Police and Bureau of Fire Protection.
Mactan Shrine annually hosts the “Kadaugan sa Mactan” festival, which depicts the Battle of Mactan with great pageantry. The Spanish ships are represented by canoes and paraded on a river towards the beach. This then culminates in a grand reenactment of the melee: Lapu-Lapu leading his army to charge, Lapu-Lapu and Magellan sword-fighting, and finally Magellan getting killed on the shore.