For various reasons, the year 1521 is significant to Filipinos. Thus we are celebrating in 2021 the 500th anniversary of the historic events that took place in 1521 shaping our nation into what it is today.
In May, 2018, President Duterte issued Executive Order No. 55 creating the National Centennial Committee “to serve as the clearing house for all government initiatives for the Philippine Quincentennial Commemoration of the first circumnavigation of the globe and other events.” Our celebration will stress a “Filipino-centric” viewpoint on this historic event.
What happened in 1521 was that a Spanish expedition led by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan reached our islands after many months at sea. It had left Spain in 1519, sailed south and west across the Atlantic Ocean, around the southern tip of South America, then across the vast Pacific Ocean, landed on March 16, 1521, on Homonhon island in what later came to be known as the Philippine Islands. Magellan was killed on April 27 on Mactan island and Sebastian Elcano took over as chief of the expedition, which continued west across the Indian Ocean, around the southern tip of Africa, back into the Atlantic, finally returning to Spain in 1522.
This is the first circumnavigation of the globe that the world will celebrate in 2021. And we have a key part in it because its original leader Magellan was killed in Mactan where he rashly sought to help Rajah Humabon of Cebu in a local dispute with Datu Lapu-Lapu of Mactan.
We honor Lapu-Lapu as the first of our people to fight foreign invaders and win in battle. This is what our celebration in 2021 led by the National Centennial Committee created by President Duterte will stress — not the start of Spanish colonization that lasted the next 300 years.
The Catholic Church will be celebrating still another angle to the historic event of the Spaniards’ arrival in 1521. The church’s celebration for 2021 will focus on the start of 500 years of Christian evangelization. “What we are celebrating is not the colonization of our country but that, despite the dark times in history, the light of faith has come to our land,” Msgr. Joseph Tan of the Archdiocese of Cebu said last September 8 during the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary in Cebu City.
In 2021, the world will be stressing the first circumnavigation of the globe in 1521. The Church will be celebrating the start of the Christian faith in these islands, now known as the only Christian nation in Asia. And the Philippine government will focus on Lapu-Lapu , the first of our people to fight foreign invaders, inspiring our later heroes – Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini, Luna, Del Pilar, and Aguinaldo, and so many others – to fight for Philippine freedom in 1898 and later in World War II in 1942-45.
This should be an opportune time for us to reexamine our history books and the history lessons taught in our schools, so that they will cover the centuries before our colonization by the Spaniards and the Americans, when our people traded with Indians, Chinese, Japanese, and other Malays, and our people lived in self-governed communities with leaders like Lapu-Lapu of Mactan.
Tags: PAUL ROCA