Why we should celebrate April 21: An invitation from Kidlat Tahimik

Kidlat Tahimik
Why we should celebrate April 21: An invitation from Kidlat Tahimik
Through Balikbayan#1, which will be shown for a week starting April 21, filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik introduces Enrique de Malacca, the 'favorite valet or chef' of Ferdinand Magellan

April 14, Good Friday, was the nationwide annual commemoration of a cruel martyrdom. This week will be Better Friday (in my calendar) – a day to celebrate that April 21, 1521, fete: the first circumnavigation around the globe. Palibhasa, this was achieved by a fellow islander from our archipelago. Enrique de Malacca was his official name (i.e., yes, his colonially christened name).

Si Enrique (kilalahanin nating si Ikeng) ang interpreter ni Magellan who spoke in Cebuano – nakapag-chika-chika noong unang tagpo with the natives of Cebu on April 21, 1521! Translator ni Magellan si Ikeng sa pagsasalita kay Rajah Humabon.

This fact was recorded in Antonio Pigafetta’s chronicles of the historic expedition. Palibhasa sa unang stop nila, sa Isla ng Limasawa, isinulat ni Pigafetta na si Ikeng could not understand the Waray-waray-speaking natives. (Linguists show that every island had developed their own katutubong wika!) Pero sa next Island ng Cebu, wow, patok sa pag-unawa!

This linguistic encounter (published in 1523) opens the possibility that Ikeng, after circling the globe – at matapos matawid ang super-lawak na the Pacific Ocean – returned to an island where he had first learned the local language. Stefan Zweig, an Austrian who wrote a biographic novel about Ferdinand Magellan, acknowledges how the slave had beat the master for the honor of the first circumnavigator: “For the first time in the history of our planet, a person, however lowly his status (palibhasa alipin ni Master Magellan) had circled the planet and returned to an island where he spoke the local language.”

MAGELLAN'S SLAVE. Enrique de Malacca, wood carving by Kidlat Tahimik. Photo by Frank Cimatu/Rappler

A quick backgrounder on the master/slave relationship: Before the big voyage, Magellan sailed regularly to Malacca (in today’s Malaysia) to load his ships with spices to be sold profitably in Europe. On one trip he bought a slave and Christened him “Enrique” (after Prince Henry the Navigator), plus a surname, “de Malacca,” to remind him where the slave was acquired. (Kung sa Baguio ukay-ukay nabili si Ikeng, he would have been baptized Enrique de Baguio. Getz?)

Laging kasama ni Magellan sa Europa itong si Ikeng (probably his favorite valet or chef.) Until may kutob siya to look for a western route patungo sa Spice Islands. Si King Carlos I ng Spain, naging patron ng expedition and he built 5 ships, which Magellan sailed across the Atlantic to South America. Kinapa-kapa nila ang shorelines ng Brazil, hanggang nakahanap ng butas, today known as Strait of Magellan. Dito sila nakalusot, at naabot nila ang Pacific Ocean.

Akala nila malaking lake lang – ‘yun pala, da largest ocean in da world! Westward Ho! 99-days-walang Land Ho! Pero tuloy ang sugod. Ayon sa kanta ni Yoyoy Villame, “Dey were sailing day and night/ across da big Ocean/ until dey reached Limasawa Island…”

Pero sa gitna ng dagat, maraming nag-mutiny sa crew. Say nila, “Da world is flat…like a pancake…” One ship deserted and turned back to Spain. Another boat, na-shipwreck. Bakit hindi nag turn-around si Magellan? Tigas-ulo lang ba?

Baka naman, Ikeng’s tribal wisdom was armed with some indigenous GPS that energized the Master to go one more day… one more lubog ng araw… isa pa… isa pa! Para makabalik-bayan si Ikeng.

Might Ikeng have been some sort of inner guide or spiritual master, feeding his Bathala Na optimism to the logistics master Magellan, allowing the ships to sail to their destiny?

TWO WORLDS. Kidlat Tahimik stands between the Ifugao goddess of wind and the Hollywood goddess at the entrance of the new theater, 'Balanghai ni Ikeng,' named after Enrique de Malacca. Photo by Frank Cimatu/Rappler

Most historians will accuse me, Kidlat, of being revisionist. Why not? Palibhasa most history was written by them, the colonizers. Kaya laging bida sa libro ni Pigafetta si Magellan – “Gone is our guiding light, our master” ang sulat ni Pigafetta noong na-tepok si Magellan. Cut short ang pag-ikot ni Ferdie. Palpak ang dreams niya noong pinatulan si Lapu-Lapu, ang rajah ng Maktan. Biglang “a thousand arrows of outrageous misfortune” rained on the invaders. Maraming armor nga, pero may arrow nakalusot sa leeg (or fantasize this… during the battle of Maktan, napaihi si Magellan, isang arrow naka lusot sa open pee-trap na nasa lower armor, during a piss-break.)

Forget such details that would fascinate a forensics expert. Basta mas importante, da fact na napaslang ang captain ball ng Team España. Deadball. Magellan’s circumnavigation still lacked 800 km to Malacca to complete the circle. Kulang ng 1%. Por da record, 99% lang ang natupad ng Portuguese admiral. Kaya na-“mission abort.”

BALIKBAYAN#1. The film about Enrique de Malacca will run for a week starting April 21, at Balanghai ni Enrique, Baguio City.

On da other hand, si Ikeng sumakay sa 99% voyage – from Malacca to Sevilla, across da Atlantic to Magellan’s Strait, then tawid-Pacifico to Limasawa, island-hopping to Cebu then Maktan. Kung OK ang tawid-Maktan to Malacca, patok na sana ang circumcision – oops, correction, ang circumnavigation – ni Master FM.

Balik tayo kay Ikeng, who accompanied his master on the voyage. Binili ni FM si Ikeng sa slave market ng Malacca. Malaki ang slave trade galing sa neighboring archipelagos. (Sulu slave raiders are well known to researchers.) Baka nakidnap si Ikeng sa Cebu waters and was sold to Magellan, who took Ikeng on da 99% cruise around da world. So, in epek, pirates brought Ikeng on the first 1% leg – from his Cebuano speaking-island to the Master with access to the technology and resources of an Empire that would carry the slave over 99% of earth’s surface.

So the voyage equation might now read: 99% + 1% + ‘Bathala Na’ Native Cosmology = 1st Circumnavigation = Balikbayan#1

QED (Quod Erat Demonstratum)!

So why not celebrate April 21, 2017, at Ili Likha, a multi-purpose hall for indie films and IP powows, for da launching of Balanghai ni Ikeng? Baki rituals in da morning; tapuy and kamote will be served. Screening of my BalikBayan#1 at 7 pm. Come circumnavigate and ikot-ikot with Ikeng. – Rappler.com 

Balikbayan#1 will run for one week after April 21.