The Badass of the Week.

Chief Lapu-Lapu

When you’re talking about badass, super hardcore martial arts practiced by people who have absolutely no fear of severe bodily harm, multiple broken bones or getting knocked in the face with a powerful instrument of blunted death you could do a lot worse than fucking Filipino Stick Fighting.  If you’ve never watched Eskrima or Kali practitioners go at it before, you are really missing out on some ultimate epic asskickings.  Basically, the sports involves two balls-out motherfuckers standing across from each other on a dojo floor, wailing on each other with unforgiving bamboo sticks until someone either dies or suffers so many hairline bone fractures that they can no longer physically stand up anymore.  The last dude standing is declared the winner.&nsbp; Or something like that.

Here in the West, the Filipino martial arts aren’t considered as “sexy” as some of the Chinese and Japanese fighting styles, and many people don’t realize that the Philippines has a rich history of bashing motherfuckers in the goddamned face with a matching set of hand-carved wooden bludgeons.  Even the almighty Bruce Lee himself trained under some of Eskrima’s Grand Masters, and incorporated aspects of their fighting style into Jeet Kune Do.  You know that scene in Enter the Dragon when Bruce is in that cave and he’s using those two sticks to beat the holy living fuckballs out like eight hundred dudes?  That’s fucking Eskrima, bitches - a time-honored tradition of bashing in skulls and dishing out asskickings that traces its roots all the way back to the 16th century and a native Visayan chieftain named Lapu-Lapu, a tribal leader who became the first Filipino to defend his homeland against foreign invasion.

There isn’t a written record of what Lapu-Lapu was up to prior to the year 1521, but by all accounts his life revolved around two things – kicking asses and taking names.  According to legend, Lapu-Lapu’s father was a big-time Level 15 Chieftain on Mactan Island who was pretty much an unstoppable killing machine, thanks in no small part to an awesome magical Amulet of Strength +5 that did double-damage against Goblins, Orcs, and Drow.  Well one day a pirate from the nearby island of Cebu asked the Chief if he could borrow the amulet, because some motherfuckers from the Underdark had kidnapped the pirate’s girlfriend and he needed to launch a serious raid to get her back.  The Chief, who was apparently oblivious to the fact that you can’t fucking trust anything that a goddamned pirate says, coughed up the amulet and (not surprisingly) never heard from the pirate again.  From that time on the Mactan tribe and the Cebu tribe spent most of their free time ballknocking the crap out of each other with bamboo rods and hurling insults at one another like a pair of mudslinging politicians rampaging along the campaign trail.  Lapu-Lapu rose to power amidst this heated rivalry, and like any good badass warlord he decided he was going to ratchet the Violence-o-Meter up to the next level.  He instituted a strict training regimen for his tribesmen, taught his warriors the art of Eskrima and Kali, and had his troops fight insane one-on-one Soulcalibur-style sparring duels with wooden sticks to help increase their fighting ability, pump up their strength and conditioning, and improve their ability to be bludgeoned about the head and neck in a furious manner without dying or having a seizure or some shit.

It was in the Year of Our Lord Fifteen Hundred and Twenty-One that Lapu-Lapu and his warriors would face their greatest test.  On 14 April a European explorer named Ferdinand Magellan landed his fleet on the shores of Cebu Island with the intention of wreaking havoc like the Tazmanian Devil at a Sotheby’s auction.  The Spanish and Portuguese sailors were well-received by the Cebu tribe, and in a short period of time Magellan was able to convert many of the natives over to Catholicism, convincing them that since the greatest Catholic ruler on Earth was the King of Spain, all native Filipinos should just bend over and submit to the will of the Spanish Crown.  The Cebu Chieftain was pronounced a “servant of God and Spain”, and anyone who didn’t want to accept all of the Roman Church in all of its Popey Goodness was declared a heathen infidel deserving only painful death and suffering.  The Cebu Chieftain, seeing an opportunity to take this ultra-modern army of hardcore Spanish soldiers and utilize them for his own nefarious purposes, immediately said something along the lines of, “well… speaking of heathen infidels, there’s this dude on Mactan Island named Lapu-Lapu, and he’s actually a Muslim…”

Magellan, eager to cement the Philippines’ subservience and loyalty to the Spanish King, did what every good Conquistador did to the indigenous populations of the islands and civilizations they visited – he mobilized his armies and prepared to burn some villages, plunder everything that wasn’t nailed down, slaughter anyone he could get his hands on, and either convert the survivors to Christianity or sell them into slavery.  On 27 April 1521, Magellan and his crew landed on Mactan Island, eager to show the savage barbarian natives what it was like to be fucked in the ass by a civilized European Superpower.

Being a devout Muslim, Lapu-Lapu wasn’t in the mood to hear about any Jeebuses, and he certainly wasn’t going to sit back and let a bunch of smallpox-carrying non-M41 Pulse Rifle-toting Colonial Marines stamp his balls into dust and carry of the women of his sizeable harem, so he mobilized a large force of the most badassed warriors he could find and prepared to give the Conquistadors a wooden-plank asskicking that would make them wish they were back in Catholic school getting their knuckles bloodied by angry nuns.  His men got their best bamboo spears, fighting sticks, stones, arrows, and swords and prepared to turn back the invaders.

The only surviving account of the Battle of Mactan comes from one of the dudes who was in the Spanish raiding party (and this guy had a total stiffy for Magellan so his account is probably pretty biased in favor of his countrymen), but it’s better than nothing.  According to the tale, Magellan had originally planned to make a landing and use his ships’ cannons to serve as artillery backup in the battle, but when the fleet got close to the island they learned that there was a large reef that was preventing the Spanish ships from getting close enough to the shore for any kind of coastal bombardment.  Magellan didn’t bother to find a new point of attack, and instead took somewhere between 50-60 men and marched through thigh-deep waters towards the shore, where he met up with a large force of several hundred pissed off Filipino martial artists.  The Conquistadors didn’t give a shit though, and immediately opened fire on the natives with their muskets and crossbows and started yelling insults about their enemies’ virility.

Often times, much is made of the bravery of a small group of soldiers battling against a much larger force of savages, and how noble these men are for standing up against impossible odds, but consider this battle from the perspective of the Filipino warriors and Lapu-Lapu.  First off, you’re standing on the beach, facing white-skinned men that don’t look like any people you’ve ever seen before.  You’ve a fucking bamboo stick and a flimsy wooden shield, while the enemy is wearing heavy steel breastplates and helmets that are strong enough to deflect any arrows or rocks that you or any of your companions launch at them.  Oh, and they also have fucking firearms and crossbows that are much more advanced and powerful than anything you’d ever thought possible.  Your orders are to charge across a beach and fight these guys in hand-to-hand combat, which had to be the fucking 16th Century equivalent of fistfighting a company of goddamned ray-gun toting space aliens or some shit, but these guys didn’t even give a crap.

At first, Magellan’s men used their muskets and crossbows to keep Lapu-Lapu’s warriors at bay, but when he saw that the natives weren’t breaking ranks and running screaming into the jungle like a bunch of pussies just because the Spanish set off some black powder, Magellan decided he needed to step up his display of technological superiority and consummate dickheaditude.  He had a couple of his men set fire to a nearby village, burning it to the ground with torches and flamethrowers.  As you can imagine, this really only succeeded in making the Filipinos even more totally ripshit pissed off, and Lapu-Lapu ordered a full-scale balls-to-the-wall charge on the Conquistadors’ position.  As the horde of screaming warriors was closing in on the Spanish invaders, Lapu-Lapu ordered his archers to launch one final volley of arrows at the Europeans – only this time he instructed his men to aim not for the heavily armored torsos and heads of their enemy, but at their unarmored legs.  Several Spanish soldiers were hit in the thighs and calves, and the crippled men were quickly pummeled to death by Lapu-Lapu’s rampaging stick fighters.  Lapu-Lapu himself is credited with delivering the kill shot on Ferdinand Magellan, as the chieftain cut the Explorer down with a single blow of his giant-ass two-handed scimitar.  The Spanish invasion force was completely over-run by the tribal warriors, who beat the fucking crap out of anyone they could find, and the surviving troops ran off as quickly as their sails would carry them.  A few days later the Spanish fleet asked Lapu-Lapu to return the remains of their fallen commander, but none could be found.  The conquering invader had been beaten into a bloody smear that was carried away by the tides.

Lapu-Lapu is the national hero of the Philippines, and he stands today as one of the few tribal leaders who stood up to the European explorers and Conquistadors and emerged victorious.  He trained his men in badass martial arts, he didn’t back down from a technologically superior force, and he didn’t take crap from anyone.  Today, there’s a city named in his honor, countless statues of him exist across Mactan Island, and the Polynesian Resort at Disney has a drink named after him – it’s one shot of dark rum, one shot of Bacardi 151, and one shot of sour mix with ice, orange juice and pineapple juice – guaranteed to kick your ass, just like the man it’s named after.

Magellan:  OH SHIT WTF


Battle of Mactan

Mactan History and Myth

Magellan's Demise


The Complete List

About the Author

Miscellaneous Articles