A King's Balisong
by Pabu Knife
Magellan and what remained of his Armada de
Moluccas did find the passage between the
Atlantic and Pacific oceans without going
around Cape Horn which Magellan had promised,
what we, today, call "The Strait of Magellan."
Remarkably, they found their way through the
Strait rather quickly. I say remarkably because
the Strait of Magellan is anything but straight.
It's not a nice, easy passage but a twisting
labyrinth of passages and islands.
When they reached the Pacific Ocean, the crew
wanted to turn back for Spain to restock and
return to finish the voyage. But Magellan was
quite sure that the Spice Islands were only a
few week's sail away. Magellan vastly under-
estimated the size of the Pacific Ocean.
Ninety-six days later, on March 6, 1521, the
armada's official diarist, a man named Antonio
Pigafetta who kept very detailed notes that
survive to this day, recorded that the men
were busy cutting the leather wrapping off
of the masts to boil it and eat it. There was
nothing else left to eat. Just as the men
were making this last, desperate effort,
the lookout spotted land.
Magellan named this island Guam. Their
reception on Guam was violent and they had
to flea. But, they did get some food and water
from other nearby islands.
On March 16, 1521, the fleet arrived at the
island of Homonhon in the Philippines where
they met Rajah Kolambu of Limasawa. They
stayed with the Rajah (another word for king)
for several weeks recovering from the voyage.
During those few weeks, the Rajah and all of
his people pledged their allegiance to Spain
and converted to Christianity at
Somewhere along the way, Magellan sort of
changed his goal from commercial, that of
establishing Spanish ownership of the valuable
Spice Islands and of finding a route to them,
to religious and political, that of expanding
the Spanish empire and spreading Christianity.
At Rajah Kolambu's suggestion, the fleet
continued to the nearby island of Cebu.
Carrying an introduction from Rajah Kolambu,
Magellan was warmly received by Rajah
Humabon of Cebu. The Rajah and the
people of Cebu quickly pledged their
allegiance to Spain and also
converted to Christianity.
By this time, news of the foreigners was
spreading through the Filipino Islands.
Magellan heard that the kings on the nearby
island of Mactan had decided that they would
not acknowledge the King of Spain nor
convert to Christianity. So, Magellan and
a small army of warriors from Cebu, who
had traditional rivalries with Mactan, headed
to Mactan to teach the rebellious Mactans
In reality, Rajah Humabon was using this
perceived conflict over Christianity to get
Magellan with his superior weapons and
well-trained sailor/soldiers to subdue the
Mactans for him.
But, things didn't go as planned.
Filipino legend has it that Lapu Lapu personally
killed Magellan. The account written by Antonio
Pigafetta doesn't exactly support that. You see,
I've abbreviated the story here. Magellan and
Pigafetta had met Lapu Lapu before the battle.
He was personally known to both of them.
Pigafetta claims that he personally eye-witnessed
Magellan's death. Had it been at Lapu Lapu's own
hand, we assume that Pigafetta would have
recorded that most-significant of facts. Yet, as
detailed as his account of the event is, he
does not specifically name the killer.
Lapu Lapu, being the king, was probably not
personally on the front lines of the battle. But,
while he most likely didn't personally kill
Magellan, it was one of his men under his
command who did. In this respect, it is correct
to say that Lapu Lapu killed Magellan.
While Pigafetta didn't report who killed
Magellan, he did report in detail how it was
done. Magellan's legs were cut off at the
knee and then he was beheaded.
Pigafetta even recorded the weapon used:
Magellan was killed with a Filipino warrior's
sword called a Kampilan.
A modern kampilan is a long, straight sword with
a unique, split tip. It is traditionally a warrior's
sword and also used for beheadings. The split
tip makes it a poor sword for stabbing, but
stabbing is not what it's used for. The split tip
is used as a sort of fork to pick the victim's head
up after cutting it off.
Here is a picture of a modern reproduction
kampilan from C.A.S. Iberia.
Before we go on and look at the new Pabu
balisong honoring Lapu Lapu, I should finish
Ferdinand Magellan was killed in battle with the
army of Lapu Lapu on the Philippine island of
Mactan on April 27, 1521 if not by Lapu Lapu's
own hand then certainly by one under his
Victoria alone finally did return to Spain with only
18 surviving crew. Their harrowing voyage, the
first recorded circumnavigation of the earth, had
taken three years. Their voyage also forever
connected the names of Magellan and Lapu Lapu.
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