VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Defending Sen. Bong Go, actor Robin Padilla insists on unproven claim on Lapulapu’s ethnicity

Taking up the cudgels for Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, actor Robin Padilla asserted “there is historical fact” to the senator’s claim that Lapulapu, regarded as the Philippines’ first pre-colonial hero in recorded history, was a Muslim-Tausug leader from the defunct Sultanate of Sulu.


Padilla, a Muslim convert and vocal supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte, argued that the “Islamic version” of Lapulapu’s ethnicity may be different from the “western version,” but that all narratives about the first Filipino hero must be entertained in the absence of any actual video recording of the historic events as those unfolded. He said:

Walang pwedeng magsabi na may mali dahil wala namang … meron bang video? Wala namang video, eh, di ba? Ang tanging makakapagpatunay niyan kung merong isang time traveller dun, na-video niya at na-interview niya ‘yung mga tao.

(Nobody can say one that there’s something wrong because there was no … was there a video [recording]? There was no video, isn’t it? This can only be proven if there was a time traveller there who recorded it on video and interviewed the people there.)

Source: Robin Padilla official Facebook page, Lapu lapu, April 29, 2021, watch from 49:44 to 50:00

The actor said it was unfortunate that Go was heavily criticized over his speech at the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Lapulapu’s victory in 1521 against Portugese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and the Spanish-serving crew that the hero of the Battle of Mactan was a Tausug warrior from a certain “East Kingdom of Sulu.” Following the backlash, Go apologizedkung iba ang dating ng aking naikwento (if my narrative came off differently)” but did not take back his story.

Duterte, in previous speeches since 2018, also made similar claims that Lapulapu was a Tausug, but he did not dwell on other details.

Speaking virtually on April 29 for more than one hour in a video streamed live on his Facebook account, Padilla said people should stop criticizing Go because:

“…meron pong historical fact ‘yung sinasabi ng aking kaibigan, at iyan po ay iyong point of view ng mga Muslim. Tandaan po natin, dumating dito ang mga Espanyol early 16th century … early 16th century. Ang mga Muslim po nandito na nung middle of 14th century.”

(“…there is historical fact to what my friend was saying, and that is the point of view of the Muslims. Let’s remember, the Spaniards came here in the early 16th century … early 16th century. The Muslims were here already in the middle of the 14th century.)

Source: Robin Padilla official Facebook page, Lapu lapu, April 29, 2021, watch from 1:01:04 to 1:01:35

In his long discourse, Padilla said the Muslim version of the event goes this way:

“…Iyong kasaysayan na sinulat naman ng Sultanate of Sulu nasunog na iyon. Pero sa kanila namang narrative na si Lapulapu … noong malaman ng Datu Lapulapu, ng Sultanate of Sulu, na may lumanding na foreigner doon … Aba inutusan nila si Datu Lapulapu na sumakay pa ng balanghay (pre-colonial watercraft) na mag-travel papunta ng Visayas. At doon hinarap niya si Magellan. Doon nagkaroon ng labanan.

(The history written by the Sultanate of Sulu was already destroyed in a fire. But in their narrative, when … the Sultanate of Sulu learned that foreigners had landed, they instructed Datu Lapulapu to get on a balanghay and travel to Visayas. And that’s where he confronted Magellan. That’s where the battle occured.)

Source: Robin Padilla official Facebook page, Lapu lapu, April 29, 2021, watch from 50:57 to 52:28

Further, he said:

At, alam niyo, paano niyo po sasabihin na hindi rin naman totoo iyong narrative ng Sultanate of Sulu? Dahil after ng labanan, wala nang records si Lapulapu! … Kung si Lapulapu po ay taga-doon, dapat after ng labanan may records si Lapulapu … Ibig sabihin saan nagpunta si Lapulapu? Hindi po kaya pagkatapos ng labanan ay umuwi na siya ng Sulu?

(And, you know, how can you say that the narrative of the Sultanate of Sulu is untrue? Because after the battle, there were no records about Lapulapu! … If Lapulapu lived there, there must be records after the battle about Lapulapu … That means, where did Lapulapu go? Could it be possible that after the battle, he went home to Sulu?

Source: Robin Padilla official Facebook page, Lapu lapu, April 29, 2021, watch from 52:30 to 53:58

The Spaniards, he argued, wouldn’t accept that their hero, Magellan, was killed by a Muslim like Lapulapu owing to their history of having been occupied by the Muslims or Moors for 800 years in the Iberian Peninsula, where the modern-day Spain is located.


Details about Lapulapu’s personal life and origin, including his ethnicity as a Tausug warrior from a Sulu kingdom, remain a mystery due to lack of “any credible eyewitness account or any form of document” to identify even his birthplace and parents, according to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP).

The NHCP said the information about Lapulapu’s position as a chieftain in a pre-colonial community on Mactan Island (which has since been divided into the municipality of Cordova and Lapu-Lapu City) in Cebu province is based only on the accounts of some survivors, including Italian chronicler Antonio Pigafetta, among the crew members of the Magellan-Elcano expedition that ended in 1522. Magellan, the captain of the crew, was killed by a poisoned arrow during a battle with Lapulapu’s soldiers on Mactan Island on April 27, 1521.

The agency said it “considers all popular accounts and stories outside of these historical sources as speculative and folkloric and should not be regarded as established facts of history.”

Some academic experts and historians, however, contested that Lapulapu was neither a Muslim nor a Tausug from Sulu, noting the non-Islam practices of some pre-colonial Visayan people, such as those in Cebu and nearby islands visited by the Magellan crew, which were documented by Pigafetta.

Citing Pigafetta’s chronicles, History professor Michael “Xiao” Chua from the De La Salle University said in an interview with that the pre-colonial Visayan people were “animists,” referring to people who worship spiritual beings. He also said that pork was part of the natives’ food diet, one of the types of meat considered “haram” or prohibited for consumption in Islam religion.

The chronicles of Pigafetta didn’t say anything about Lapulapu being a non-native of Mactan Island. In his accounts leading up to the Battle of Mactan, Lapulapu’s camp never accepted the offer of Magellan to “obey” the King of Spain, “recognize” Rajah Humabon of Cebu (who was baptized and given a Christian name of Carlos) as their king, and pay tribute, which led to the battle during which the Portugese captain was killed.

On the other hand, Norodin Alonto Lucman, a Marawi City-based Muslim who has written books about Muslim history, came in support of Padilla. In his Facebook post entitled “Ignorance and Dangerous” on April 29, he said Lapulapu was among the tax collectors of the Sultanate of Sulu, based on their salsila or genealogical documents. Lucman added that Lapulapu was known for his skills as a navigator and warrior, and was also called “Kaliph Pulaka or Maas Illiji Rajiki,” who lived from 1491 to 1547.

According to the NHCP, the Sultanate of Sulu was the first centralized government established by a Muslim community in Sulu around 1450 when Tausug natives converted to Islam around the 13th century.

Further, Padilla’s other claim that DLSU and the Ateneo De Manila University were founded by Spaniards is misleading and lacks substantial details.

He again asserted in another video dated May 5 that DLSU is considered founded by the Spaniards due to the Spanish roots of the founder, Saint John Baptist De La Salle (born in Reins, France), of the Catholic congregation Brothers of Christian Schools (also known as the De La Salle Brothers) that founded the university in the country. He said even the congregation’s De La Salle Philippines branch, a network of 16 Lasallian schools in the country, uses the coat of arms of Saint de La Salle’s ancestors from Catalonia, Spain.

While ADMU was indeed established by Spanish Jesuit priests during Spanish colonial rule in 1859, Padilla was wrong in claiming that DLSU is a Spanish-built school. Although Saint La Salle, who died in 1719 in France, was of Spanish descent, the nationality of the nine De La Salle Brothers who came to establish DLSU-Manila in the country in 1911 were French (five), Irish (three), and American (one) based on the DLSU Manila’s graduate studies student handbook.

The nine De La Salle Brothers came during the American occupation (1898-1912) at the request of Manila Archbishop James Harty, an American priest who was a De La Salle school student himself in the United States, to counter the spread of Protestantism brought by American teachers (also known as Thomasites).



Robin Padilla official Facebook page, Lapu lapu, April 29, 2021

Robin Padilla official Facebook page, Bismillah, May 3, 2021

Norodin Alonto Lucman

Bangsamoro Commission on the Preservation of Culture Heritage, Meranao, Accessed May 5, 2021

Presidential Communications Operations Office, 500th Anniversary of the Victory at Mactan Lapu-Lapu Shrine, Lapu-Lapu City April 27, 2021, April 27, 2021


Presidential Communications Operations Office, Speech of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte during his visit to Jolo, Sulu – Presidential Communications Operations Office, Aug. 31, 2020

Presidential Communications Operations Office, DURING HIS VISIT TO FIRE VICTIMS, July 27, 2018

National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Statement of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines on the Origin of Lapulapu and Other Details of His Personal Life, April 30, 2021

National Quincentennial Committee, About Us, Accessed April 30, 2021

National Quincentennial Committee, Accounts of the Philippine voyage of the first circumnavigation of the planet by the Magellan-Elcano expedition …, May 26, 2020

Antonio Pigafetta’s chronicles

Michael “Xiao” Chua

Historians debunk claims Lapulapu a Tausug

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Agrarian Reform – BARMM, HALAL INFO | Haram na Pagkain, Accessed May 3, 2021


Christopher “Bong” Go official Facebook Page, Idol namin ni Pangulong Duterte si Lapu-Lapu., April 29, 2021

National Museum, The Philippine Colonial Tradition of Sacred Art: Treasures of Philippine Art from the Collections of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, 2020

National Commission for the Cultural and the Arts, The History of the Muslim in the Philippines, Accessed May 5, 2021

Robin Padilla,, Accessed May 5, 2021

DLSU history


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)