Children Playing at Mactan Shrine

Cebu Mactan Shrine: What to See and Do

Mactan Island is a sprawling island paradise in Lapu Lapu City, Cebu that calls to mind vestiges of pre-colonial Philippine history. It was the site of the historic battle of Mactan, where the the island’s native chieftain, Lapu Lapu and Portuguese-Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan came head to head. Today, the island is now peppered with hotels and all sorts of establishments that cater to tourists stopping by via the Mactan International Airport, as well as neighboring islands.

Exploring Lapu Lapu Shrine

The island’s main tourism attraction is the eponymous Mactan Shrine park, where the Lapu Lapu monument towers over a park and fronts a dock for small boats and a mangrove area. It is located in the Punta Engano area, a few minutes walk away from Shangri-La Mactan and a quick ride away from the airport. There is no entrance fee as far as I remember.

I was granted a free tour by a local in the area, who provided me a bit of background about the Lapulapu monument, so I didn’t feel alone while wandering around. I also met another tourist, sir Ronald, who is a college history teacher and with whom I have a mutual friend. Apparently, he also knew the UST-alumni and esteemed historian who happened to be my thesis advisor back in college. Small world!

Let’s dive into a little bit of history, shall we?

Very little is actually known about the life of Lapu Lapu, but many Filipinos celebrate him as the first Filipino hero, back when the Philippines wasn’t called the Philippines yet. According to this Senate document, Lapu Lapu was a Muslim leader and a representative of the Sultan of Sulu. He was the first and reportedly the only leader in Southeast Asia who courageously stood up against Spanish colonial forces.

There was another ruler of Cebu, Rajah Humabon, who was present during the time of Lapu Lapu, that had aligned with the Spanish explorers and converted to Christianity. It was said in history books that he was responsible for the battle of Mactan, as Magellan fought with Lapu Lapu to earn the trust of Humabon, the latter’s rival.

Ferdinand Magellan Shrine

An arch that commemorates Ferdinand Magellan can also be found within the shrine’s premises, surrounded by a fence. According to the local tour guide, it was assumed that Magellan died right at the spot where the Magellan monument stood; however, he actually died a few yards away. There’s also a huge painting inspired by the battle.

Here’s a fun fact: Ferdinand Magellan was known to have achieved the first circumnavigation of the globe, but truth is, he wasn’t the first man to do so. Magellan set sail from Spain in 1519, but was not with the remaining ship (Victoria) from the expedition back to the country three years later. Apparently, a Filipino slave, Enrique, who was part of the crew as an interpreter, was the first man to circumnavigate the globe. Enrique was raised in Central Philippines before he was sold as a slave in Sumatra, and was eventually bought by Magellan in Malacca.

Magellan Shrine
Plaque commemorating Battle of Mactan
Plaque commemorating Lapu-Lapu’s heroism during the Battle of Mactan. It stands on the site where the famed battle is said to have taken place. PHOTOGRAPH BY SANDY MIGUEL.

Souvenirs and More

Over the years, the tourist spot has been more than just a stop-over to pay homage to the legendary chieftain, but also a place to buy trinkets and native products made from capiz and all sorts of sea shells. Towards a makeshift observation tower, it is also easy to notice a number of tiny, shore crabs (kolokoy in Tagalog) wandering about. Kids living in huts around the area are often seen swimming in the shallow water to cool off in the afternoon heat.

Other Things to Do in Lapu Lapu City

Lapu Lapu City has a lot of beaches, including the Maribago public beach and bayside area. From there, you can rent a boat to go snorkeling or to visit nearby islands of Cahoagan and Nalusuan. There’s also the Alegre Guitar Factory in Cebu City, from where I got my Ukelele.

Yearly, there is a festival held every April 27 called Kadaugan sa Mactan in honor of Lapu Lapu. This is a perfect time to take a vacation in Cebu if you’re coming from Manila.

Where to Stay in Lapu Lapu City, Cebu

Below are some of my recommended hotels and accommodations in Cebu:

  1. Bluewater Maribago (Check Price and Availability)
  2. Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa (Check Price and Availability)
  3. Cebu White Sands Resort and Spa (Check Price and Availability)
  4. Pacific Cebu Resort (Check Price and Availability)
  5. Plantation Bay Resort and Spa (Check Price and Availability)
  6. Dusit Thani Mactan Cebu (Check Price and Availability)
  7. Sheraton Cebu Mactan Resort (Check Price and Availability)
  8. The Reef Island Resort Mactan, Cebu (Check Price and Availability)
  9. Be Resort Mactan (Check Price and Availability)
  10. JPark Island Resort & Waterpark (Check Price and Availability)


Mangroves at Mactan Shrine
Seashell Lanterns and Chimes Mactan Shrine
Mactan Shrine Souvenir Stalls

SEE ALSO: Stroll along Cebu’s Colon Street, the Oldest Street in the Philippines

Lapu Lapu's Statue Mactan Shrine
Lapu Lapu’s bronze statue at the Mactan Shrine is 20 meters-high. Here, he is holding a wooden shield called kalasag, which is used by precolonial warriors. PHOTOGRAPH BY SANDY MIGUEL.

There you have it. Have you been to Mactan Shrine or Lapu Lapu City? Which spots have I missed that should be a must-visit for tourists? Let me know in the comments section below.

Sandy Miguel

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