Lapulapu’s cage

Have you heard of the plans to put Lapulapu in a cage? I may be imagining things after being under “house arrest” for more than a hundred days, but that is how it looks to me. The proposed Lapulapu memorial which will be inaugurated next year, during the Quincentennial is a pretentious edifice that looks like a cage, an elegant one, but still a cage.

According to a recent news report, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and a local government in Cebu are planning to honor Lapulapu with a monument-museum complex in Barangay Mactan on the eponymous island. Quite shamelessly, the report described it as a “version” of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington,D.C. Oh, no! I cannot imagine how that 19 th century style, called “classical revival” and in vogue during the Age of Enlightenment” could ever be transplanted to tropical Mactan.

From the picture that came with the report, it will have a cathedral-like dome supported by a wrap -around colonnade, perhaps Ionic or Doric. Apparently, Lapulapu Mayor Junard Chan and NHCP Chairman Rene Escalante have had group meetings about this proposed memorial, the last one was held in Malacanan, no less. Could this be a sign that Mayor Chan has the right connections to make his dream project come true? That is a frightful thought.

At this point, no one knows what the budget is like and if it includes a 19-foot statue of Lapulapu cast in bronze exactly like Jefferson’s effigy. If that were made locally, the cost could be prohibitive; real bronze is not easy to find, much less a foundry with that capacity. Perhaps President Duterte and Mayor Chan, know someone in China who can do the job for much less, with the price of transport thrown in. If they don’t, I suggest they look up that sculptor from China who made the statue of Cardinal Sin, the one sandwiched between the twin shrines of the Ninoy and Cory and the Legazpi-Urdaneta monument.

Whatever the dimensions, Lapulapu’s statue will be placed on a pedestal of marble, of course, easily available in Romblon. It will be situated directly under the dome. Lapulapu will probably be gazing at the sea from behind that prison of columns.

My objection to this plan is that it is an imitation of something else. Why must we Filipinos be the eternal copycats? Why do we feel insecure when we are not copying iconic works from the West, quite alien from our native pre-colonial culture? There are Filipino architects who are creative and original and who are inspired by what is local, by what our cultural communities offer. Why do we have to copy and imitate all the time? The news report did not mention the name of the architect or engineer; if it is someone working for the NHCP, I am all the more shocked that he/she should conjure the Jefferson Memorial for our own Lapulapi. Mayor Chan is certain that it will be a must-see tourist destination. I beg to disagree. Not only foreign visitors but local tourists will find the planned memorial out of character.

Since we have no documentary evidence of what Lapulapu looked like, shouldn’t sculptors think of another way of portraying him? The late Solomon Saprid, a multi-awarded sculptor ( I think he is a National Artist) once made a fascinating study of a Lapulapu monument which captures the potent energy of two inveterate enemies locked in ferocious combat for survival. It was executed in true Brutalist style. Neither the face of Magellan nor of Lapulapu are seen but those who know our history will fell the energy and know, at first glance, what the sculpture is all about.