AFTER making a fuss two years ago about celebrating the 500th anniversary of the landing of the Magellan-Elcano-led Spanish expedition in the Philippines, President Duterte yesterday led the commemoration of the event in Samar province where he urged Filipinos to “never again allow any other tribe to compromise our sovereignty” and to honor those who have toiled to make the country “modern, progressive and ever-thriving.”
During the event, Duterte led the unveiling of a marker in Guiuan town to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the voyage of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan whose ship landed in the Philippines on March 16, 1521, in the first circumnavigation of the world.
Yesterday’s rites in Samar formally started the quincentennial commemorations in the Philippines.
In 2019, the President in an event in Cebu City asked why he should hold a celebration for the arrival of Spaniards in the country, who contributed to the discovery of and introduced Christianity to the Philippines but also caused the deaths of some of the national heroes such as Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio.
He said he was not keen on celebrating the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the country because there is nothing special about the “subjugation” of the country by Spanish colonizers.
Yesterday, Duterte said what happened is already in the past. He said the county should now “remember their (Spaniards’) kindness and their bravery.”
“So we thank everybody, the ancestors of the Spaniards who came here. And we hope that this event goes further — fortify our relations with the Spaniards,” he said.
He urged Filipinos to reflect on the past and sustain the fruits of the sacrifices of the country’s heroes.
“As inheritors of this complicated yet glorious past, the duty now rests on our shoulders to continue the aspirations of our forebears. I therefore call on all our kababayans to appreciate our rich history and learn from the experiences of those that came before us so that we may never again allow any other tribe to compromise our sovereignty — invaders who would come and who would stay here and contribute to the richness of our culture and of course in the way how we live,” he added.
A priest based in Homonhon Island in Guiuan denounced the continued destruction and desecration of the place where Magellan landed.
In a report of CBCP News, Fr. Christian Ofilan, parish priest of St. John the Baptist, said continued mining operations has already led to the island’s destruction.
“What have we done? We have desecrated it. We destroyed this island,” Ofilan said. “500 years of Christianity started here on the island. We lost its sacredness because of our irresponsibilities.”
He said their ancestors had treated the 26,000-acre island as a sacred place but since the early 1990s, he said the island known for its vast deposits of nickel and chromite, has been grappling with open-pit mining activities.
Ofilan asked the national and local governments to take action and save what is left of Homonhon.
He said there is no better time to save the island than during the celebration of the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.
Ofilan’s statement came after last Wednesday’s Holy Mass presided by Borongan Bishop Crispin Varquez at the St. John the Baptist Parish to mark the 500 Years of Christianity in the Philippines. The occasion was also attended by some local government leaders as well as visitors from Spain and Portugal.
Last Sunday, Pope Francis celebrated mass for the 500th anniversary and asked Filipinos to continue to evangelize others. — With Gerard Naval