Off the Beaten Path: The Bizarre Shrine by Ferdinand Magellan’s Death Spot


Ferdinand Magellan and I go way back. For years, whenever I watched Jeopardy and Alex Trebek asked an impossibly difficult question, “Magellan” was always my default answer.

Trebek:  What explorer, born in 1728, discovered Newfoundland?

Me: Um…Magellan?

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.



17 thoughts on “Off the Beaten Path: The Bizarre Shrine by Ferdinand Magellan’s Death Spot

  1. good2begone

    This reminds me of my Trivial Pursuit quandary. Every and any basketball question that comes up my answer is always Wilt Chamberlain. Great post and pics!

    • Wilt is an excellent default answer. Yeah, if I ever get a hockey question in Trivial Pursuit, I’ll go with Gordie Howe. He’s Mr. Hockey. Wasn’t Wilt Chamberlain the guy who said he slept with like a million women? Not that it would effect the amount of times he’s the subject of a Trivial Pursuit question…

  2. Wow! Mactan Shrine.. It’s more fun in the Philippines. Wahehe…

    Aaahhh…history hehe… That name was often asked and written on test papers when I was in high school and college. We even have a corny joke.. “Who killed Magellan?” “Lapu-lapu” “And who killed Lapu-lapu?” “A certain chef.” (We have a certain type of fish named Lapu-lapu.)

    • Oh man! I should’ve tried to eat some lapu-lapu! I could’ve made a whole day out of it. Yeah, I had no idea regarding any of this until I was reading Lonely Planet about two hours before flying to Manila. Cool how you stumble on seemingly random stuff when you go someplace.

      Always nice to hear from you, Jep!

  3. Alex Trebeck would have to agree that putting a question mark after “Umm…Magellan” does not constitute answering in the form of a question. Then again, who am I to split hairs? Perhaps Mr. Trebeck asked you that question at a cocktail party and not on Jeopardy!

    • Very good point. Clever how they flipped it with the questions and the answers. It was always a great moment when someone answered correctly but lost points for not phrasing it in the form of a question. The look of frustration on the person’s face would be priceless, especially considering the evil smirk of the guy who’d taken advantage and answered it himself in the form of the question to vulture the points. That bastard! Oh, I miss Jeopardy. Hope Trebek is okay.

      Peace, 1 Point! Get back to work on that novel!

    • Haha – if you’re getting your history from me, that’s not good. I originally wrote that Magellan swam off to sea and became a merman after losing the battle, but then took that out. Good decision. I wouldn’t want you relaying that information at any cocktail parties, I Run I Breathe. : )

  4. It’s unfair to have a douchy name like ‘Lapu-Lapu’ and expect to be taken seriously….even when you look like that! Poor Magellan dude and his bloated ego! But you are right, he’s quite something. You have convinced me to read up more about him.

    • Very true – how can you take someone named Lapu Lapu seriously? Although it’s not that much better than Barrack or especially Mitt. In fact, maybe he should consider making the switch – Lapu Lapu Romney! I wouldn’t vote for him, but it’d make him slightly less hateable.

      Always good to hear from you, Aparna. : )

    • He was a clever guy. Although I’ve read he was brutally beaten to death and his body was ripped to shreds, perhaps it was all an act. Maybe he escaped and swam to Korea, where he invented kimchi. Probable? No. Possible? I think so.

  5. AFBsax

    While we’re talking about history, since I actually enjoyed history this year I’ll share some little factoids with you: Christopher Columbus thought that he was in India when he “discovered” America, and even after I think the fourth time he returned to America he died believing that he had found a western route to India, which is why we call the Native Americans American Indians, although it is completely inaccurate. While on the subject of Native Americans and Christopher Columbus, did you know that during the Columbian Exchange, which was when an exchange of plants and goods from Europe and America was undertaken the diseases that were also exchanged caused a decline of the Native Americans in the millions. I think it’s around 90% of them that died. And did you know that when the black plague was spreading Genghis Khan and his army, who had the disease and were rather nasty fellows, were besieging the port city of Kaffa they resorted to catapulting the dead infected bodies over the city walls. When the people tried to rid the pestilence by throwing the bodies into the water, the disease spread to the ships that eventually took the disease to Europe, killing alotta people.

    And that’s some random stuff that I remember from History class.


    • Okay! It’s a history explosion today. There really isn’t enough catapulting of bodies in today’s military strategies. Sure, we have smart bombs…I think a nice mangly diseased body might be more threatening. Just an opinion. Also, on Columbus, had he of been successful, maybe Magellan never sets sail, as he was basically trying to accomplish what Columbus, silly guy, failed to do. Oh, I could go on about Magellan all day. Somebody stop me!

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