The Tale of Lapu-Lapu

Hosted+by+Filipinos+in+Alliance+at+the+University+of+Illinois-Chicago%2C+the+competition+had+participants+from+high+schools+and+colleges+all+over+the+Midwest.

Photo by (courtesy of ) Jimmy Chen

Hosted by Filipinos in Alliance at the University of Illinois-Chicago, the competition had participants from high schools and colleges all over the Midwest.

When a Spanish force fighting under the command of Ferdinand Magellan tried to colonize the island of Mactan and convert its people to Christianity, Datu Lapu-Lapu, known as the “the first Filipino hero,” was the only chief who refused to accept the authority.

War broke out April 27, 1521 between the Spanish force and Filipino warriors, led by Lapu-Lapu. The Filipino warriors used arrows, irontipped throwing spears and fire-hardened sticks to overpower and defeat Magellan’s men in what is called The Battle of Mactan.

Now imagine all of this demonstrated on the stage at the University of Illinois-Chicago when the Bayanihan Student Organization’s sister organization, Kultura, told ‘The Tale of Lapu-Lapu’ at Battle of the Bamboo April 16 and won first place. 

Battle of the Bamboo is a cultural dance competition that tells stories that have been passed down through generations of Filipino history through traditional Filipino folk dance.

“The importance of the competition is being able to share Filipino history. It’s about being able to celebrate the culture and show people in the Midwest that there’s a big Filipino presence here as well,” Jacob Brandon Directo, treasurer of Kultura and a senior in the College of Business Administration, said

Hosted by Filipinos in Alliance at the University of Illinois-Chicago, the competition had participants from high schools and colleges all over the Midwest.

This year, the competing groups were from Loyola University Chicago, Niles North High School, Northside College Preparatory High School and Marquette University. Marquette’s Kultura placed first for the first time in the university’s history. 

“Winning the competition was surreal. My older brother led us to second place and being able to place first with his mentorship and the guidance of previous Battle Coords was honestly the greatest experience,” Ina Ramos, cultural show coordinator for Bayanihan Student Organization and a senior in the College of Health Sciences, said.

Through storytelling and dancing to the sound of the guitar, the drums and a Filipino gong set, the Kulintan, 25 dancers, three musicians and five prop and costume designers worked together to create a performance that allowed the members of Kultura to pay tribute to their history. 

Charlene Soltes, vice president of Kultura and a senior in the College of Health Sciences, said it was challenging to create choreography, props and costumes that enhanced the story.

“There were many historical considerations we accounted for and wanted to display. We were always careful to stay true to the story and respectful since the history of colonization is still a touchy subject for some,” Soltes said.

The Bayanihan Student Organization has been competing at Battle of the Bamboo since 2018, but this year is Kultura’s first time competing. 

“The most challenging part of the competition was essentially getting past our own self-doubts and comparisons to other schools,” Ramos said. “Marquette has never placed number one before, where other schools notoriously won first and second continuously. Once we got past this aspect and began believing in ourselves, our capabilities and our team’s capabilities, that’s truly what allowed us to win.” 

Seniors Directo, Ramos and Soltes were the battle coordinators for this year’s competition, meaning they choreographed the entire performance. 

“These past four years, I’ve had a lot of great memories with the organization but this was actually the highlight of my whole BSO college experience,” Directo said.

Soltes said she hopes the underclassmen will continue the legacy and passion showcased this year.

“Although we may be the first battle coordinators to bring the first place trophy home, we certainly will not be the last,” Soltes said.

This story was written by Bailey Striepling. She can be reached at bailey.striepling@marquette.edu.