By MARK ANTHONY N. MANUEL
June 2, 2010, 5:32pm MACABEBE, Pampanga – Lapu-Lapu was probably the first known Filipino hero, but it was Tarik Soliman from this town whom noted historians acknowledge as the country’s first Filipino martyr.
Tarik Soliman (not his real name) often mistaken for Rajah Soliman of Manila, is mentioned in ancient Spanish chronicles as “the brave youth from Macabebe” who gave up his life in the Battle of Bangkusay on June 3, 1571.
The people of Pampanga, led by the Holy Angel University Center for Kapampangan Studies (K-Center), will commemorate the 439th death anniversary of the first Filipino martyr for freedom Thursday in this town.
The K-Center has partnered with the Provincial Government of Pampanga, the Municipality of Macabebe, the San Nicolas Tolentino Parish of Macabebe and the Heritage Committee of San Nicolas Parish to make the celebration more meaningful.
Tarik Soliman, a Kapampangan datu, organized a fleet of 40 caracoas (warships) bearing more than 2,000 warriors from Macabebe, Hagonoy and other villages and sailed to Tondo to persuade Lakandula to join his fight against the invading Spaniards led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi.
When Legazpi sent emissaries to Tondo to talk peace, Tarik Soliman drew his sword and cried, “May the sun cut my body in two and may I be disgraced in the eyes of women if I ever became a friend to these Spaniards!"
He then jumped out of the window, went to his caracoa and told the emissaries that he and his fleet would be expecting the Spaniards at the mouth of Bangkusay channel in Tondo.
The K-Center narrated that Legazpi sent 80 Spanish soldiers and an unspecified number of Visayan warriors led by Martin de Goiti to what is now known as the Battle of Bangkusay.
Unfortunately, Tarik Soliman was killed by a bullet and his soldiers either fled or were taken prisoners. On June 24, Legazpi founded the City of Manila and shortly thereafter, the Province of Pampanga.
“Tarik Soliman should be declared a national hero,” said Robby Tantingco, Director of the Center for Kapampangan Studies. “It was he, and not Lapu-Lapu, who first gave up his life to defend the freedom of this country. The Battle of Bangkusay has more historical significance than the Battle of Mactan.”
Macabebe outgoing Mayor Leonardo Flores and incoming Mayor Annette Balgan and their respective councilors are expected to grace the occasion. Officials from the Municipality of Masantol and the Municipality of Hagonoy are also expected to come.
According to Tantingco, the martyrdom of Tarik Soliman in 1571 “inspired generations of Kapampangan freedom fighters, from Francisco Maniago who led the Kapampangan Revolt of 1660 to Luis Taruc who led the Huk movement in the 1950s.”
“Tarik Soliman chided the Tagalog chieftains of Manila for allowing the Spaniards to enter Luzon,” Tantingco added.
“It was Tarik alone who refused to kowtow to white men, who was smart enough to discern the foreigners’ real motives, and who was brave enough to resist them. He was actually the first Filipino to show that freedom was worth dying for."