By Christina Hermoso
The local Church will mark Sunday the 498th anniversary of the First Christian Mass and the introduction and spread of Christianity in the country and in the Far East.
Commemorative rites are traditionally held in Southern Leyte, the venue of the Sinugdan (which means beginning) Festival in commemoration of the event, which will be highlighted by a holy mass, a re-enactment of the first mass, a cultural presentation, street pageants, and a sports fest called the “bancaton,” or boat race.
The first Holy Mass in the country was held on March 31, 1521 in Limasawa Island. It was celebrated by Spanish friar Pedro de Valderrama, who was part of the group of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Held on an Easter Sunday, the historic first Christian mass in the country marked the beginning of the spread of Christianity in Asia. It was attended by Rajahs Kolambu and Siagu, who later forged a blood compact of friendship with Magellan.
On April 14, 1521, Rajah Humabon, his wife, and around 400 Filipino natives were baptized into Christianity, in a ceremony administered by Fr. Valderrama.
The Philippines is set to celebrate 500 years of Christianity in the country in the year 2021. In 2012, the local Church began a nine-year journey towards the celebration. This year is observed as the Year of the Youth.