Çilapulapu as First Filipino Hero: Symbolic Transformation from Colonial History to Post-Colonial Commemoration During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Authors: Christina Alexandra Guzman Morales (University of Asia and the Pacific)
Speakers: Christina Alexandra Guzman Morales
Strand: Anthropological Linguistics
Session Type: General Session


On May 7, 2020, during the first few months of the COVID-19 Pandemic, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines released online a so-called “historically accurate” portrait of Çilapulapu—a Cebuano datu (chief) whose leadership in the Battle of Mactan in 1521 significantly delayed Spanish occupation in the Philippines. Throughout history, Çilapulapu’s symbolic depiction has changed in its interpretation of his physical features, as well as its symbolic medium. By marrying Maurice Halbwachs’ thought on collective memory expressed in commemorative symbolism with Clifford Geertz’s analysis of symbol in interpretative anthropology, this paper will provide insight on the following: The transformation of Çilapulapu from First Filipino Hero to a symbol for a post-colonial Filipino identity. Ultimately, it aims to address the question of how dissemination of Filipino symbols online can transform our offline engagement in global dialogue.


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Keywords: Çilapulapu, Philippine history, collective memory, interpretative anthropology, online and offline spaces