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All set for quincentennial events in Eastern Visayas

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FIRST MASS. An illustration of the First Mass in Limasawa, Southern Leyte on March 21, 1521, by the fleet of Ferdinand Magellan. The historic event introduced Christianity in the Philippines. (Photo by National Commission for Culture and the Arts)
The towns of Guiuan in Eastern Samar and Limasawa in Southern Leyte are now ready for the quincentennial commemoration of the Philippines this March.

With more than two weeks to go, the local government unit of Guiuan is now ready for hosting the opening of the celebration of the quincentennial events of the Philippines.

In a virtual press briefing Monday, Mayor Annaliz Gonzalez-Kwan said the celebration will start on March 14 until March 18.

“Guiuan is the host for the opening of the series of events for the commemoration of the quincentennial starting this March and will end in 2022 in Surigao,” she said.

Highlights of the events in Guiuan are the unveiling of three quincentennial markers located at Monay Beach, Calicoan Island on March 16, Suluan Island on March 17, and Magellan’s site in Pagbabangnan village, Homonhon Island on March 18.

Also part of the activities in Guiuan is the arrival of the Spanish Training Ship, Juan Sebastian Elcano, on March 16.

On March 17, activities will be held in Homonhon Island. These include thanksgiving mass at the Magellan’s Site in Pagbabangnan and St. John the Baptist Parish Church in Casuguran village. It will be followed by the quincentennial lecture in the afternoon with Dr. Ambeth Ocampo of Ateneo de Manila University in Homonhon Island on March 17.

Kwan said President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to lead the unveiling of the Quincentennial Historical Marker in Calicoan Island on March 16.

Invited guests and spectators will be limited and will be screened prior to entering the venue as part of the health protocols against coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

During the first circumnavigation of the globe, the fleet of Ferdinand Magellan after several months of crossing the Pacific Ocean first saw the landmass of Suluan Island but did not land there. They waited for the next morning and landed at Homonhon Island which was uninhabited at that time on March 16, 1521, which he named Las Islas de San Lázaro.

March 16 to 18 are significant dates in the history of the quincentennial celebration.

It was on March 16, 1521, when Magellan’s fleet, composed of the ships Concepcion, Trinidad, and Victoria, sighted the island of Suluan.

On March 17, Magellan’s fleet landed in Homonhon Island, and on the next day, March 18, they first met the residents of Suluan who provided them food and shared with them the names of the neighboring islands.

During their two weeks stay in Homonhon, they gathered fresh foods and water before leaving on March 27, and on the following day, he was seen by the boats of Rajah Culambo of Limasawa.

Meanwhile, the Papal Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Charles John Brown will grace the quincentennial celebration in Limasawa Island, according to Rey Martin Reoma, media officer of the Diocese of Maasin.

Brown will be the main celebrant for the Eucharist on the celebration of the First Easter Sunday Mass on March 31, 2021.

The alter-ego of Pope Francis and his entourage are expected to arrive on the early morning of March 31 at the Maasin Airport, the same time that the pilgrim image of the Sto. Niňo de Cebu will dock at the Maasin Port.

Brown will be joined by Manila-based and Cebu-based visitors on the vessel that will carry the Sto. Niňo to Limasawa Island.

Upon his arrival at the island, his first activity will be to enshrine the Sto. Niňo de Limasawa image at the Roman Catholic Church in Triana village.

After which, they will proceed to Magallanes village where he will celebrate a Mass and the launching of the 500 Years of Christianity that will run until next year.

“Supposed to be this is the peak of the celebration, but because of the pandemic, this was moved for a year. We will start celebrating on March 31 this year and will culminate on March 31 next year,” Reoma said.

Only 500 individuals are allowed to participate in the event in compliance with the health protocols set by the government to avoid the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

Reoma added that pilgrims who will be allowed to enter the island are reminded not to act as tourists and to stay in their designated areas.

Participants who are not residents of Limasawa will not be allowed to stay overnight in the island and must leave after the program around lunchtime.

Residents of Southern Leyte who will be allowed to enter the island will have to present barangay (village) certificates prior to their entry to Limasawa while those coming from outside the province must present a barangay certificate, health certificate, and letter of acceptance from Southern Leyte Governor Damian Mercado.

Almost eight months before the celebration of the Quincentennial Commemoration of the Philippines, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines has reaffirmed previous pronouncements that indeed the first Easter Sunday Mass was held in Limasawa.

This after pro-Limasawa proponents were able to present solid evidence that indeed the First Easter Sunday Mass was held on the island.

Among those who presented evidence to the panel was Eastern Visayas resident historian and University of the Philippines Professor Rolando Borrinaga.

The first documented Catholic Mass in the Philippines was held on March 31, 1521. It was celebrated by Father Pedro de Valderrama along the shores of what was referred to in the journals of Antonio Pigafetta as “Mazaua”. (Roel Amazona, PNA)

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