Pre-Spanish Philippines consisted of various principalities and petty kingdoms. Cebu was one such, founded by a Chola Prince from Sumatra by name Sri Lumay according to local lore. It is located in the centre of Philippines and is centred around the island of Cebu, generally controlling the Visaya Islands. The kingdom was formed just before the Spanish conquest and led a very violent life.

In 1950s, a book by name Aginid Bayok Sa Atong Tawarik was published. The author Jovito S. Abellana who wrote that claimed that the book was a transcription of the oral story his grandmother recounted. It is well known that oral transmission is a common way to transfer hereditary knowledge all over history and it is assumed that the story has a historic core around which the narrative is woven.

The story of Aginid goes thus.

Sri Lumay(or Hari Lumay, Hari being the word for king) or Raja Muda Lumaya is a Sumatran Prince of Chola lineage who was sent as a governor to Cebu area where he carved his own kingdom ruling over Negros, Cebu and the surrounding islands. He named his capital city, Singhapala, in the village of Mabolo in modern Cebu. Europeans called it Cinghapola.

Sri Lumay is known to be strict, merciless and brave but benevolent. He faced frequent incursions from the Magalos(Moros) who came from Southern Mindanao for plunder and slaves. Possibly, that may be the reason why people supported a foreigner who carved a kingdom amidst their territories – he provided them protection from these depradations. He ordered Singhapala’s coastal town to be burnt to ground as scorched earth and erect defences so that the raiders will go back empty handed. This town became Kang Sri Lumayng Sugbo, or Sri Lumay’s scorched town – in short, Sugbo. Being a part of the main trade networks connecting China from Indic Sphere, Cebu flourished immensely during his rule.

Sri Lumay was killed in one of those Magalo wars and was succeeded by his youngest son Sri Bantug in Singhapala. He is considered to be an effective ruler but died in an epidemic which ravaged the lands. As his son Sri Humabon(cover image) was not yet of age, his uncle Sri Parang held the regency and handed him the power. During his tenure, Either Sugbo or Singhapala was renamed as Sibo(meaning barter – a place where trade happens). This can be a later invention – Sugbo itself would have been Hispanized as Cebu.

At this time, a Bornean prospecteer Lapulapu Dimantag arrived in Cebu and asked Sri Humabon to give a piece of land to settle. First, he was given the island of Opong but because it was rocky and unproductive, he was given the island of Mandawili(Manduae). But, powerful he is, it’s a matter of time the relationship between the both turned bitter to the extent that Lapulapu became a pirate and raided ships passing by Opong which increased the tensions. Opong became derided as Mangatang which in due course of time, became Mactan.

It so happened that at the same time, the Spanish under Ferdinand Magellan came to the area and tried to endear Sri Humabon by trying to tame Lapulapu. He was sent to Sri Humabon by some minor kings whom he visited before. Sri Humabon was baptized under the name Carlos and his queen, Juana. The account says that Magellan proposed baptism to cure Sri Humabon’s brother who was deathly sick. Magellan seems to have given Juana an image of infant Jesus, the Santo Nino, which is venerated even today In the famous Battle of Macatan which happened on 27 April 1521, Magellan was killed and seeing no use of them, Sri Humabon poisoned the survivors of the battle during a banquet arranged in honour of them. Though the Spanish narrative claims otherwise, clearly, this is an indication that, if the conversions happened, it’s only as a political ploy to tame Lapulapu and nothing more. Those who survived fled the islands and this incident delayed the conquest of the islands by four decades.

It seems Rajah Humabon was made aware of the Spanish/Portuguese threat by some traders.
“Have good care, O king, what you do, for these men are those who have con-quered Calicut, Malacca, and all India the Greater. If you give them good reception and treat them well, it will be well for you, but if you treat them ill, so much the worse it will be for you, as they have done at Calicut and at Malacca.”

The Spanish came again in 1565 for conquest and in the fight, Cebu was bombed leading to destruction of 1500 houses and death of at least 500. The Spanish claimed to have found the idol of Santo Nino which was gifted to Sri Humabon and projected to the world that the idol has miraculous powers – though the reality may be more realistic – Sri Humabon reverted back to Hinduism and threw the idols away.

What happened to Lapulapu after the battle is not known. One legend tells that he never died but turned into a stone and another one tells that he left Mactan and lived on a mountain – a clear hint that he fled Macatan after the war.

Sri Tupas, Sri Parang’s son and Sri Humabon’s son-in-law seems to have succeeded Sri Humabon and was the ruler who faced the 1565 invasion. Some names are known but the history of the ruling line of Singhapala disappeared into history. Sri Tupas was converted to Christianity forcefully on his deathbed in 1568. Cebu was the capital of Spanish Colony of Philippines till 1571 and the capital was shifted first to Panay and then to Manila.

In full, the relevant section from Aginid of the narrative reads thus

Sri Lumay of Sumatra settled in Sugbo with his son, Sri Alho, ruling the south known as Sialo which included Valladolid, Carcar, up to Santander. His other son, Sri Ukob, ruled the north known as Nahalin which includes the present towns of Consolacion, Liloan, Compostela, Danao, Carmen, and Bantayan. As a ruler, Sri Lumay was known to be strict, merciless, and brave. He assigned magalamags to teach his people to read and write ancient letterings. He ordered routinary patrol by boats from Nahalin to Sialo by his mangubats (warriors). A strict ruler, Sri Lumay was a loving person that not a single slave ran away from him. During his reign, the Magalos (literally destroyers of peace) who came from Southern Mindanao from time to time invaded the island to loot and hunt for slaves. Sri Lumay commanded to burn the town each time the southerners came to drive them away empty handed. Later, they fought these Magalos (Moro raiders) so that they leave the town for good. The town was thus permanently called Kang Sri Lumayng Sugbo, or Sri Lumay’s scorched town. Trading was vibrantly carried on by Sri Lumay’s people with merchants from China, Japan, India, and Burma in Parian, located at the northeastern part of the city. The archipelago was strategically positioned in southeast Asia that it naturally became part of the trade route of the ancient world. Agricultural products were bartered for Chinese silk cloths, bells, porcelain wares, iron tools, oil lamps, and medicinal herbs. From Japan, perfume and glass utensils were usually traded with native goods. Ivory products, leather, precious and semi-precious stones, and sarkara (sugar) mostly came from the Burmese and Indian traders. Sri Lumay was killed in one of the battles against the magalos and was succeeded by his youngest son Sri Bantug who ruled Singhapala (Mabolo district today). Bantug carried on his father’s rules throughout his reign. He organized umalahukans (reporters) to urge people in Nahalin and Sialo to obey his orders, especially on agricultural production and defense. During Sri Bantug’s time, Sugbo, Nahalin, and Sialo thrived on subsistence, sel-sufficient economy. He died in an epidemic which spread in the island and was succeeded by his youngest son Sri Humabon. Under Humabon, the sibo or sibu in Parian became more progressive. Here, the “sinibuayng hingpit” (meaning a place for full trade) was carried on. The word Cebu is thus coined from the old word sibo, an old word for barter, trade, swap. At this time, Lapulapu Dimantag arrived from Borneo and asked Humabon for a place to settle. Being an orang laut (man of the sea), Humabon offered the Opong island but Lapulapu was later convinced to settle in Mandawili (now Mandaue) and make the land productive because it was impossible to cultivate food crops in Opong because of its rocky terrain. Under Lapulapu’s leadership, trading in Parian further flourished because of the goods which he brought from the land and sea in northern Cebu. It did not take long though that his relationship with Humabon turned hostile. Lapulapu eventually became a mangatang (pirate) who ordered his men to loot ships that pass by Opong island. This had lowered the trading transactions in Parian, thus creating tension between Humabon and Lapulapu. Opong island thus earned the ill-reputed name mangatang which later evolved into the word Mactan. In 1521, the Spanish conquistadors came to the Visayan shore. Humabon thought that they came to Cebu to establish ties with his kingdom as did the other traders from Asia. The blood compact between him and the Spaniards and later, a mass baptismal, all meant to signify goodwill as far as Humabon was concerned. But the Spaniards did not see it that way. For them, it was the start of the colonization of the island, signified by the planting of the cross. It was only a little later that Humabon realized this. With the baptismal, Humabon’s subjects embraced a religion which they vaguely understood and without knowing that they had been converted at all, or so the Aginid said. Known to be a wily man, Humabon encouraged the Spaniards to fight Lapulapu, his enemy. Thus the battle of Mactan. Lapulapu proved to be a true warrior in that battle. He instructed his men not to waste their spears and bolos on the Spaniards. Instead, he taught them to strike with pestle or with a club so that when the armor coat of the ugis (white man) is dented, the man inside can never move. It was when they should hit hard with their keen tools for warfare. Humabon’s men merely observed the battle but helped in putting back the wounded white men in their boats. Lapulapu, who was also wounded, lost 29 men. The Aginid narrated that while the battle of Mactan raged on, the Spaniards who remained in Sugbo raped the women. This angered Humabon but he remained outwardly polite as he carefully planned his revenge. The chief prepared a feast for the Spaniards by the beach. When the white men were drunk enough, the natives began to slaughter them. A few managed to escape and return to the three ships, the Concepcion, the Trinidad and the Victoria. Since the Spaniards were considerably reduced in number, those in the Concepcion transferred to the other two ships. Later, the natives set the Concepcion on fire off the sea of Bu-ol (Bohol). After the Spaniards left, the natives uprooted the cross which Magellan had planted annd returned to their animistic religious practices. It was replanted later, upon the plea of Humabon’s wife Juana who, according to the poem, acted on her constant dream of a boy child who asked her to put up the cross again. When Humabon’s wife found out that the boy in her dreams had the same image of the infant Jesus Christ the Spaniards gave her during baptismal, Humabon obliged to replant the cross. Thereafter, the dream no longer recurred. In the succeeding years, Humabon and Lapulapu rekindled their friendship. Lapulapu decided to return to Borneo with three of his wives, 11 of his children and 17 of his men. Humabon thus ruled a much larger area than before. After Humabon, Sri Tupas reigned. He was the son of Sri Parang, Humabons’ elder brother who could not rule because he was limp. During the time of Tupas, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi came to Cebu, and another era of fierce battle ensued. With Legazpi at the helm, Cebu and the entire archipelago were subdued by the Spanish crown for more than three hundred years, in the name of Christianity.

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