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Our quincentennial celebration in 2021



E CARTOON Aug 18, 2019For 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.




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