Movie Review

1521: A Movie Review

1521 Movie Review

1521 Movie Review: The movie ‘1521’ premiered in Philippine cinemas last June 05. The first film of Ilonggo producer Francis Lara Ho, 1521 tells about the events that transpired during the year 1521 – the Battle of Mactan, a heated collision between Spaniards led by Portuguese explorer Magellan (played by Danny Trejo) and locals guided by Lapu Lapu (played by Michael Copon)

The film also highlights a fictional love story between a local babaylan (played by Bea Alonzo) and a Spaniard (played by Hector David Jr.)

‘1521’, first released in the US in 2023, gathered several accolades – Winner, Athens International Monthly Art Film Festival; Official Selection, Sweden Film Awards; Winner, London Independent Film Awards; and Official Selection, Montreal Independent Film Festival, among others.

Factual History

1521 was a critical year in Philippine history. Ferdinand Magellan landed in Philippine soil, specifically in Homonhon Island, in March 1521. The events that transpired during this time is attributed to scholar Antonio Pigafetta, among the 18 of 240 men who returned to Spain after the tragic Battle of Mactan.

How it started. Magellan left Spain in August 1591 in a bid to find a westward route to ‘Moluccas’, referred to as Spice Islands. In March 16, 1521, the explorer landed in Homonhon Island (an island in Eastern Samar), and befriended Rajah Kolambu and Rajah Siagu of Limasawa, and eventually Rajah Humabon of Cebu.

With Magellan’s push for Catholicism, a mass was held in Limasawa. It was held on an Easter Sunday, March 31st, and is regarded as the first mass in the country. It was also during this time when Rajah Humabon and his queen were baptized into the Catholic faith. Magellan then gifted the ‘Santo Niño’, an image of the Child Jesus, to commemorate the said event.

With Magellan’s influence on Rajah Humabon, nearby chief’s were ordered to convert to Christianity. However, Datu Lapu Lapu of Mactan refused, causing an impactful strain that led to the Battle of Mactan and, eventually, Magellan’s death.

The ‘Battle of Mactan’, according to historical accounts, have delayed Spanish colonization by 44 years. This made Lapu Lapu the ‘first national hero’ of the country.

In the Movie

The movie depicted Lapu Lapu as a strong leader, in built and character. Played by the movie’s own director and producer Michael Copon, Lapu Lapu shown immense skepticism of foreign visitors. He is a stark contrast to the pliable Datu Humabon, played by Floyd Tena. Datu Humabon, possibly to maintain good relations with Magellan, was persuadable and visibly trusting.

Ferdinand Magellan is played by Hollywood celebrity Danny Trejo. His motives as Magellan appear to be unclear, but is heavily influenced by Lorenzo, a definite antagonist. Lorenzo is played by Costas Mandylor.

In between the feud are the lovers Enrique, played by Hector David Jr, and Diwata, played by Bea Alonzo. Spanish translator Enrique worked as a mediator between the two parties. He eventually falls in love with local babaylan Diwata after immersing in the culture and ways of the locals.

What is a babaylan. A babaylan, according to the Center of Babaylan Studies, refers to an individual with an ability to mediate with the spirit world and is often gifted with healing, foretelling, and insight. The babaylan status is often inherited.

Diwata, in the movie, has a naive, almost childlike demeanor. Meanwhile Enrique, who experienced varying struggles in life, is mild mannered, but sometimes deep. Enrique has a good heart and, despite his personal struggles and current conflict, remained to be good.

The movie ended in the death of Magellan as well as protagonist Enrique, leaving Diwata and her tribe clear of Spanish rule. The movie then shifts to a present day, reincarnated Diwata and an alive Enrique, proving that love has no bounds.


The 1521 movie allows viewers to reflect on historical events that made the Philippines into what it is today. After the historic Battle of Mactan, the country was colonized by Spain (1565 to 1898), America (1898 to 1946), and Japan (1941 to 1945).


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