Off the Beaten Path: The Bizarre Shrine by Ferdinand Magellan’s Death Spot
Trebek: What explorer, born in 1728, discovered Newfoundland?
It was almost always wrong, and yet it seemed so right. According to my responses to an uncountable number of Jeopardy questions, Magellan had discovered basically every place on earth, mostly because I couldn’t name any other explorers. I’d also stick Magellan into World Wars if I was clueless, or send him into space if I felt like it. Magellan, Magellan, Magellan. It’s fun to say. And on the rare occasion it was actually the correct answer, a wonderful feeling would come over me like I had caught the holy ghost or won a few bucks on a scratch off ticket.
All that is to say, I was pretty pumped when I realized I would be able to stand on the exact spot where Ferdinand Magellan, my most favorite explorer, died almost 500 years ago. Most people don’t know this, but Magellan – whose claim to fame is that he sailed around the world – didn’t in fact make it to the end of his voyage. Actually, of his crew of 270 men, only 18 made it from beginning to end. Magellan himself died during a battle in the Philippines, killed by a local tribal leader named Lapu Lapu. Why was he fighting Lapu Lapu? Imperialism, Christianity, and because Magellan had a lot of men and was a big show off.
About a twenty minute cab ride from Cebu Airport, one can easily swing by the “Mactan Shrine” and check out the mural painting of Lapu Lapu killing Magellan, as well as the goofy statue erected in honor of Lapu Lapu, where he looks poised to star in the next hit Hollywood blockbuster.
I have no idea what Magellan was thinking. Come on, look at that guy! Lapu Lapu’s a beast! The flippin’ Avengers would decide to steer clear of that dude. Magellan suffered from overconfidence, though, and as a result, he was struck with a spear and beaten to death. Lapu Lapu was supposed to return the body, but when he went to get it, it was gone. To this day, it is unknown what happened to Magellan. It seems that the body just somehow disappeared into the ocean.
And that’s pretty cool.
The real treat, though, when visiting the Mactan Shrine, is the incredibly weird…um…thing located a short walk from the statue. Right by the ocean, there is a bizarre semi-circle of totem poles and skulls on sticks. I have no idea what it is. It looks pretty recent, as though it was erected to ward off tourists or something. I don’t know what purpose it serves, nor do I know who made it. All I know is that it was damn scary.
Yes, that last picture features me mugging for the camera. The thing was pretty unnerving. My pose is the actualization of what I was feeling on the inside.
Whatever this second little ‘shrine’ on the island is, it was a gem and I was extremely excited to have stumbled upon it. I was also proud to say that I’d set foot on Magellan’s death spot. It seems so random to be able to say that. Despite being dead, the great Magellan continues to live on famously, having a strait and a GPS system and a spacecraft named after him. And, in addition to all that, he’s also sometimes the answer to Jeopardy questions, and when you’re the answer to a Jeopardy question, gosh dangit, that’s when you know you’ve made it.