June 1, 2023 - In celebration of the first Lapulapu Day, wooden swords painted silver clacked and flew on April 29, at the Bayanihan Centre of the Victoria Filipino Canadian Association (VFCA) in Victoria, BC. Actors Arnel Bongcasan and Sean Benedict Penola leaped through the air, enacting through dance the fierce battle between Filipino hero Lapulapu and the conquistador, Ferdinand Magellan.
Two days earlier, members of the Filipino community in Victoria and Vancouver attended a special ceremony at the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia on Belleville Street declaring April 27 “Lapulapu Day” in the province of BC.
The proclamation was signed by the Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of BC, and BC Attorney General Niki Sharma at the event hosted by the first and lone BC MLA of Filipino ancestry, Mable Elmore, who also serves as Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives. Also present at the ceremony was Philippine Consul General Arlene Magno, who is based in Vancouver.
MLA Elmore also graced the April 29 celebration at the Bayanihan Centre, along with local dignitaries and guests. Filipino historian Michael Charleston "Xiao" Briones Chu gave the keynote address, expounding onlessons that can be drawn from the encounter between Magellan and Lapulapu in 1521.
Chua stressed that Lapulapu Day marks not only a significant victory over foreign domination and Lapulapu’s fierce assertion of the sovereignty of the Filipino people, but also Filipinos’ humanity, because Magellan and his men would all have perished if not for the hospitality shown by Filipino chiefs and their people. They were near death when they arrived in the Philippines, and Filipinos fed them and gave them provisions, before and after their leader’s fateful encounter with Lapulapu. He added that all Filipinos can learn from Lapulapu’s example to always defend and assert Philippine culture and independence, while being examples of caring and hospitality.
Jean and Geoffrey Penola choreographed the dance rendition of the Battle of Mactan, with Jean, Mary Kay Abellana and Clarissa Mijares dancing the roles of Lapulapu’s people. Francis Mattheu, a Filipino actor and director who is finishing his PhD in Theatre at the University of Victoria, directed a staged reading of “Lapulapu, ang Datu ng Mactan” - an opera originally staged at the Metropolitan Theatre of Manila in 2021 with a libretto written by award-winning poet and lawyer Nicolas Pichay and set to music by Krina Cayabyab. The VFCA was given special permission by the playwright to do the staged reading.
Melvin (Cobb) Carbonell, Agie Myhre, Leah Fermin, Nathy Orticio, Faith Rubino, Charisma Hawkins, Dominga Passmore, and Marilynn Quigley formed the cast of the play. The Himig Kabataan Choir from Vancouver performed Filipino folk songs, and emcee for the event was Lani Lopez. The event was livestreamed with the support of the technical staff that included Gina Pinangat, Irwin Leonardo, and Dan Ryan Velasquez. Photographing the event was Sharade Reyes.
The celebration highlighted the many talents of members of the Filipino community in British Columbia, from dance to music to theatre, and the way in which the community comes together to mark important dates and events in Philippine history and culture, strengthening connections with the homeland. Guests were treated to refreshments prepared by VFCA volunteers, showcasing Philippine cuisine. Congratulations to the VFCA and the Bayanihan Cultural and Housing Society on another successful endeavor.