One of the first things we learn in our Philippine history classes was how Lapu-Lapu became our first hero. He was the chieftain who killed Portugese explorer Ferdinand Magellan during the Battle of Mactan.
Filipinos know that, which is why many were furious when it was announced that Spanish animated film “Elcano y Magallanes: La Primera Vuelta al Mundo” (“Elcano & Magallenes: The First Voyage Around the World”) will premiere in the PH in 2020.
Based on the poster and trailer, it tells the story of how Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastián Elcano traveled the world to search for a maritime path to East Asia the 14th century. This voyage brought them to the Philippines where they encountered Lapu-Lapu’s tribe. It also portrays the two explorers as heroes and Lapu-Lapu as the antagonist.
The synopsis published on Rotten Tomatoes read: “One of the most complete adventures ever told. A voyage to the unknown that started with Magellan in command and was concluded by Juan Sebastián Elcano. Storms, hunger, hostile tribes…. Five ships sailed off from Seville. Three years later, only one of them managed to return, bringing their adventure full circle and finally proving that planet Earth is round.”
“Hostile tribes”? Nice word choice. Let’s completely forget the fact Elcano and Magellan were unwanted visitors and that native people were simply protecting their home.
But I digress—that’s not the only thing grinding my gears. The movie also introduces a native woman named Samar who is apparently Elcano’s love interest. The trailer shows her kissing him on the lips, you guys.
This is very similar to Disney’s “Pocahontas,” which also portrays a love story between the titular character (a Native American) and John Smith (a White man). Anyone who saw it the first time probably thought it’s a touching story about love and peace between two rival groups. But as Bitch Flicks notes, Smith is portrayed as a killer of indigenous people from the start because that’s his idea of civilization as an English man. The only time he stops and reconsiders is when he meets Pocahontas.
“He doesn’t stop because she’s a woman; he stops because she is stunning. Her body is worth more to him alive than dead,” the site notes. “Part of the problem with ‘Pocahontas’ is how it teaches young Indigenous girls that their worth is dependent on the men in their lives. To be seen as a princess, as royalty, they must be willing to risk their lives to defend white men and turn away from their own culture.”
The sight of Samar cozying up to Elcano is troubling because it shows an indigenous woman becoming enamored by a White man. Again, similar to “Pocahontas,” the fictional love story could become an attempt to romanticize the situation, plus further villainize Lapu-Lapu for driving away the foreign explorers from the island. How dare anyone get in the middle of love and peace, am I right?
Also, in case anyone forgot, pre-colonial Filipino women were respected leaders, healers, and some were warriors. The movie can be seen as a slap in the face because they were later reduced to housekeeping and childbearing roles and also expected to be submissive when the Spaniards colonized the Philippines four decades after Magellan arrived.
Not only is the film historically inaccurate and puts indigenous Filipinos in a bad light, it also devalues the lead female character. It’s revising history to make the foreign explorers look like heroes, pre-colonial Filipinos as savages, and Samar as the mere love interest of the White male lead.
Obviously the Spanish point of view is different from what we Filipinos know from our history lessons. We were colonized by Spain for 333 years, the negative reactions are valid.There’s even an ongoing Change.org petition to cancel the premiere due to its historical inaccuracy. It currently has over 9,000 signatures out of 10,000.
The backlash of “Elcano y Magallanes'” Philippine premiere prompted local film distributor CrystalSky Multimedia to release a statement last Nov. 8. “After careful thought and consideration, we have decided to reevaluate the movie.”
As Filipino citizens, we should also help educate each other. We should fight against historical revisionism—be it about Lapu-Lapu and Magellan or even the Marcos regime.We don’t know what CrystalSky’s final decision will be just yet. Hopefully it overturns the decision because “Elcano y Magallanes” isn’t a film that respects Filipinos. It’s self-serving art that only benefits our former colonizers.
Screengrabbed from YouTube
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