Paper Money

Philippines celebrates role in Magellan’s voyage on bank note

The Philippine commemorative 5,000-piso note released Jan. 17 features 1521 Filipino chief Lapu-Lapu, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the “Victory at Mactan,” a facet of the country’s rich pre-colonial history.

Images courtesy of the Philippine central bank.

Lapu-Lapu, on the Philippine 1-centavo coin obverse from 1967 to 1993, is now also the subject of a commemorative 5,000-piso bank note (convertible to $104), becoming the central figure on both the country’s lowest denomination and its highest.

Piso is the Philippine name for peso.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Philippine central bank, in cooperation with the National Quincentennial Committee (NQC), launched the note and a medal on Jan. 17 to kick off the 99-day countdown to the 500th anniversary of the “Victory at Mactan.” Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan was killed in this battle, leaving the surviving crew to complete the world’s first circumnavigation without him.

The NQC said “The BSP and NCQ have collaborated on this commemorative banknote and medal to celebrate the heroism of Lapu-Lapu and his warriors, and to familiarize the present generation with the country’s rich pre-colonial history.” That includes, it added, “The special part the Philippines played in the world’s circumnavigation” by Magellan’s 1521 expedition.

The note’s face depicts a young Lapu-Lapu along with an image of the battle of Mactan, the QCP logo, and a karakoa, the large outrigger warship the Filipinos used.

The back shows a Philippine eagle, the manaol, symbol of clear vision, freedom, and strength, and of, the BSP says, the ancient regional belief that all living creatures originated from an eagle. A coconut tree represents food the islanders initially provided to Magellan and his crew; and Mount Apo is where Magellan’s crew finally found directional clues to their intended destination, the Spice Islands (Maluku).

In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan accidentally landed on Homonhon Island (now called Samar) during his voyage to the Spice Islands in Indonesia. He formed an allegiance with local rulers, especially Rajah Humabon of Cebu, whom he convinced to be baptized into Catholicism with his wife. This is said to be the introduction of Christianity to the Philippines.

Magellan tried to introduce the religion to nearby islands like Mactan, ruled by two rival chiefs. While one, Zula, welcomed him and submitted, Lapu-Lapu opposed, leading to the Battle of Mactan.

According to Antonio Pigafetta, a Venetian scholar who joined the expedition and kept a journal, Magellan and 50 of his crew faced Lapu-Lapu and 1,500 warriors. Magellan’s army had European armor, but it was no match for the forces of Lapu-Lapu with fire-hardened bamboo spears and poisoned arrows, aimed at the legs of the Europeans. Magellan was killed. The survivors ran back to their ship and fled.

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