Arabs & Muslims knew of the Philippines before the Europeans and called it Mihraj islands as was stated in the book "morooj al-Dahab" (The book of golden meadows ca. 940 CE) written by Abul Hasan Ali Al-Masu'di (Masoudi) (ca. 895-957 CE). Subsequently, Islam was spread over parts of the island through Arab merchants and missionaries coming from China and Sumatra during the 1380s.

Islam has arrived to the borders of Manila before the arrival of Christianity through the Spaniards. And due to the nature of Philippine archipelago consisting of some 7107 islands, some Islands embraced Islam and some did not. Today, the highest concentration of the Muslim minority can be found in the south of the archipelago.

In 1521, two centuries after the propagation of Islam in the island, the Spaniards arrived under the leadership of Ferdinand Magellan. A diplomatic agreement was established between Magellan and the King of Cibu Island, Rajah Humabon.

The contract promised the king of Cibu to gain control of neighboring islands and extend his sphere of influence. He would serve as a puppet under the Spanish crown in exchange that the king assists in Christianizing his people. After this agreement the Spaniards moved into a small island a few kilometers away called Mactan which was ruled by the Muslim Lapu Lapu (Caliph Pulaka) (c.1491 – 1547)

It is generally assumed that Humabon and Lapu Lapu held grudges towards each other and were relentlessly fighting for control of land. Humabon, impressed by Magellan's armament consisting of guns, swords, body armor, 12 cannons, and 50 crossbows, persuaded Magellan to go to the nearby island of Mactan and kill his rival Lapu Lapu. The battle of Macatan occurred in April 27, 1521.

According to the accounts of the Italian navigator Antonio Pigafetta, "When morning came, forty-nine of us leaped into the water up to our thighs, and walked through water for more than two cross-bow flights before we could reach the shore. The boats could not approach nearer because of certain rocks in the water. The other eleven men remained behind to guard the boats. When we reached land, the natives had formed in three divisions to the number of more than one thousand five hundred persons. When they saw us, they charged down upon us with exceeding loud cries... The musketeers and crossbow-men shot from a distance for about a half-hour, but uselessly..."

According to Pigafetta accounts of the house burnings and Magellan command to retreat, "Seeing that, the captain-general sent some men to burn their houses in order to terrify them. When they saw their houses burning, they were roused to greater fury. Two of our men were killed near the houses, while we burned twenty or thirty houses. So many of them charged down upon us that they shot the captain through the right leg with a poisoned arrow. On that account, he ordered us to retire slowly, but the men took to flight, except six or eight of us who remained with the captain. The natives shot only at our legs, for the latter were bare; and so many were the spears and stones that they hurled at us, that we could offer no resistance. The mortars in the boats could not aid us as they were too far away."

Pigafetta writes about Magellan's death, "Recognizing the captain, so many turned upon him that they knocked his helmet off his head twice... An Indian hurled a bamboo spear into the captain's face, but the latter immediately killed him with his lance, which he left in the Indian's body. Then, trying to lay hand on sword, he could draw it out but halfway, because he had been wounded in the arm with a bamboo spear. When the natives saw that, they all hurled themselves upon him. One of them wounded him on the left leg with a large cutlass, which resembles a scimitar, only being larger. That caused the captain to fall face downward, when immediately they rushed upon him with iron and bamboo spears and with their cutlasses, until they killed our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide. When they wounded him, he turned back many times to see whether we were all in the boats. Thereupon, beholding him dead, we, wounded, retreated, as best we could, to the boats, which were already pulling off."

Today in the Philippines, nationals under all ethnic groups and religions consider Lapu Lapu as the first national hero to resist foreign occupation. There is a statue monument commemorating him in Mactan, in addition to a city bearing his name.


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