By Ryan Sorote

Sen. Bong Go (OPAV)

After being criticized for his erroneous claim on Mactan chieftain Lapulapu, Sen. Bong Go apologized for his speech at the 500th anniversary celebration of the Victory at Mactan.

“I sincerely apologize if what I shared appeared to be different,” said Go in a statement posted on his official Facebook page Wednesday.

The senator said that his earlier statement that Lapulapu was a Tausug from Sulu came from historian Abraham Ibarani-Idjirani, as researched by his staff.

He said the same account was mentioned multiple times by President Rodrigo Duterte in his previous speeches, citing the most recent one on Sept. 7, 2019, delivered at Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. (Watch video:

Go said he had high respect for history and had no intention of changing how heroes were admired.

“I am willing to listen and learn from history experts,” he said in Filipino.

However, the senator said there was no “clear historical record” to ascertain the true origins of Lapulapu, citing the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

“There is no clear historical record that can prove the true origin of Lapulapu and the various versions of his biography as part of our tradition and culture,” he said.

“Let’s leave the debate about facts of history to historians. As Filipinos, let us take to heart the lessons of history that remain relevant in our lives today,” he concluded.

Cebuano archaeologist Jose Eleazar Bersales, reacting to Go’s recent statement, said that all other descriptions of Lapulapu were “hearsay” and would not stand the scrutiny of history.  

“Any and all other descriptions of Lapulapu beyond the eyewitness testimonies of Antonio Pigafetta and the other survivors of the expedition (of Ferdinand Magellan) are not to be trusted as they are products of imagination,” Bersales told PressOne.PH.

“They should therefore be expunged from the historical record. For they only cause confusion and do not enrich our understanding of the past. Those products of the imagination should be clearly treated as literary or artistic works and not historical documents.”

Sen. Bong Go’s Mactan speech ‘fiction,’ says expert

By Ryan Sorote 

During the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Victory at Mactan (Kadaugan sa Mactan) Tuesday, Sen. Bong Go drew flak for his “wrong” account of the historic battle.

Quoting a study from a certain Abraham Ijirani, Go said Lapulapu, the Mactan chieftain, was of Tausug descent and came from the Sultanate of Sulu in Mindanao.

“It was the former East Kingdom of Sulu, that guarded the 707 islands of the Philippines, that ordered Lapulapu to find out why there are foreigners landing in the islands, including Mactan,” Go said.

“This is why there’s no doubt that our beloved President Duterte is sincerely honoring Lapulapu,” he said. “[The] President also does not want us to continue to be oppressed just because we are not recognizing the heroism of the whole Visayan community (Visayas and Mindanao).”

The senator’s speech quickly drew the ire of Cebuanos online, with some experts describing his statement “inaccurate,” “wrong,” and even “fiction.”

Lapulapu is regarded as the first Filipino hero for warding off Spanish explorers led by the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan in the Victory of Mactan five centuries ago, on April 27, 1521.

Jobers Reynes Bersales, a professor of anthropology, sociology and history at the University of San Carlos in Cebu, said Go was “sorely misinformed.”

“I am sad that he (Go) chose this occasion and this day to forward a recent, modern fiction about Lapulapu,” Bersales told PressOne.PH.

Journalist and academic Max Limpag also shared the same sentiment: “On a historic day, at a historic site, Sen. Bong Go shares wrong information about Lapulapu, that he was a Tausog sent to check presence of foreigners and was met by forces of Magellan and thus the Battle of Mactan happened.”

Limpag said Magellan’s chronicler, Antonio Pigafetta, mentioned Cilapulapu (Lapulapu) as a “leader of nearby Matan (old name of Mactan).”

“The name of its village was Matan, and its chiefs were Zula and Cilapulapu,” wrote Pigafetta in his book “First Voyage Around the World,” as quoted by Limpag.

He said Go as a high public official should have ensured that he got the “historical details right” as Lapulapu is a source of pride among Cebuanos, especially Mactan residents.

Bersales however said Go could be forgiven with his “claims.”

“After all, he is not a historian. He is, first and foremost, a politician,” he said.

A few hours later, the National Quincentennial Committee’s Facebook page shared Bersales 2020 article debunking the myths and misconceptions about Lapulapu.

Bersales said the article, titled “Lapulapu, the Bornean Baloney, and the vacuum of history,” also serves as his official statement on Go’s claims.