CEBU CITY, Philippines – Cebu on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, led the nationwide celebrations of the quincentenary of Christianity’s arrival in the Philippines as it commemorated the first baptism that took place in the country.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic raging on, local and national government officials allowed organizers from the Roman Catholic church here to proceed with the 500 Years of Christianity (500 YOC) celebrations but subject to restrictions.
This is why performers from the renowned San Diego Dance Company wore face shields throughout the play, spectators and guests had face masks on, and all roads leading to Plaza Sugbo were closed from the public.
Rajah Humabon, the most powerful ruler in the region, met Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan weeks after the latter first landed in the archipelago on Homonhon Island, which is now part of present-day Guiuan, Eastern Samar, in 1521.
The rajah and his wife, Hara Humamay, were baptized as Don Carlos and Queen Juana respectively on April 14, 1521. Their names were ‘in honor of King Charles I of Spain and his mother, Joanna of Castile’.
Also present throughout Wednesday’s reenactment was the actor portraying the Italian scholar and chronicler Antonio Pigafetta that joined the Magellan-Elcano expedition.
Pigafetta’s accounts of Magellan’s landing in the archipelago as well as his demise in Mactan on April 27, 1521 eventually became a primary source documenting the journey, which would turn out to be the first circumnavigation of the globe.
The reenactment last April 14 also included the part when Magellan gifted Queen Juana the image of Snr. Sto. Niño, the oldest religious relic in the Philippines.
The image of the Holy Child, and the church where it is enshrined – the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño – was declared as National Cultural Treasures on April 14.