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This Is How Lapu-Lapu Actually Looked

Lapu-Lapu is depicted as a very old and chubby chieftain.
ILLUSTRATOR Carlo Caacbay, NHCP
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A new portrait of Lapu-Lapu was unveiled by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). The painting was made by artist Carlo Caacbay from Bulacan.

The painting is part of a series commissioned by the NHCP in preparation for the 2021 Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines.

The portrait is strikingly different from traditional depictions of the hero, which show Lapu-Lapu as a muscular middle-aged warrior. In this historically accurate portrait, Lapu-Lapu is depicted as an elderly chieftain with sagging skin.

According to the NHCP, it subscribed to the recent findings of historian Danilo Gerona about the possible age of Lapu-Lapu.

In his book, Ferdinand Magellan: The Armada de Maluco and the European Discovery of the Philippines (2016), Gerona cited the 1563 book of Portuguese historian Gaspar Correa titled Lendas da India. The 1563 publication describes Lapu-Lapu as “very old” based on first-hand accounts of the survivors of the Battle of Mactan on April 21, 1521.

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Caacbay’s portrait shows Lapu-Lapu covered in Visayan tattoos similar to those donned by the pintados.

“The tattoos indicate the bearer’s experiences, achievements, and triumphs in battles and sea encounters,” said Eufemio O. Agbayani III of the NHCP.

“To signify his dignity as a warrior-leader, Lapulapu is shown holding a kampilan (a noted Visayan bladed weapon) and wearing a regal red vest and pants. He is also adorned with gold ornaments, also patterned after those illustrated in the Boxer Codex and excavated in various parts of the Philippines in the collections of the Ayala Museum and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Museum.”

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Photo by Carlo Caacbay. NHCP.
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About The Author
Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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