MANILA – As the country marks the 500th anniversary of the Spaniards’ first contact with Filipinos and the first circumnavigation of the world led by Ferdinand Magellan, President Rodrigo Duterte reminded Filipinos to see to it that the country’s sovereignty is never compromised again.
Duterte made the remark on Thursday as he led the commemoration of the Philippines’ part in the first circumnavigation of the world and unveiled the Quincentennial Marker in Guiuan, Eastern Samar.
He described the event as an “opportunity for our forebears to show their humanity, magnanimity, and sovereignty to foreign guests.”
“In Homonhon, our ancestors exemplified the unique generosity of the Filipino when they helped the Spaniards’ expedition’s depleted crew upon their arrival. A few days later in the battle of Mactan, Lapu-Lapu and his warriors, in an exemplary display of firm leadership and extraordinary courage, defeated and drove away the colonials,” Duterte said in his speech.
While acknowledging how the event also marks the beginning of the country’s colonization, he assured Filipinos that much has been done to “correct” injustices in the past.
He urged his countrymen “to take after the footsteps of our ancestors by staying committed in protecting the rights and freedoms they enjoy today.”
“While the events that we celebrate would therefore lead to the beginning of colonization, the Filipino people can find relief in the knowledge that we’ve gone far in our efforts to correct the mistakes of the past. As inheritors of this complicated yet glorious past, the duty now rests to the shoulders to continue the aspirations of our forebears,” Duterte said.
He also noted the importance of upholding the country’s sovereignty by learning from the country’s “rich history.”
“I therefore call on our kababayans to appreciate our rich history and learn from the experience 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.
The President expressed hope that the event would also “reinvigorate” the historical and social-civic consciousness of Filipinos, particularly the youth.
“Let us therefore all take part in this 2021 Quincentennial commemorations slated this year so that we may bring history, culture, and traditions closer to our hearts. Indeed, history should make us reflect on the past and look beyond our future. We should therefore honor those who have toiled so that we may become a nation we are today: modern, progressive, and ever-thriving,” he said.
Despite “differences” in historical interpretations, Duterte recognized the “contributions” brought that arose from the Filipinos’ first contact with the Spaniards.
“This is (a) historic event and though they may somehow we may differ in our interpretation but the fact is that we’re here and that contributed something that was good for our country,” he said.
He cited how it also brought the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines when Magellan planted the cross on the island of Cebu.
A predominantly Catholic country, the Philippines is known for being the bastion of Christianity in Asia.
“I don’t have anything about religion but what was really planted here was the sword and cross of Christianity. Hindi na bale yan, tutal dumaan na yan (Never mind, that’s part of history), that we may remember their kindness and their bravery to extol on their bravery to make this journey that completed the circumvention of the world,” Duterte said.
He also expressed hope that celebrating the event would strengthen ties between the Philippines and Spain.
“They conquered history and until now we are also celebrating because it was the first time that we saw foreigners in our native land. That alone speaks volume of stories but we are also conscious of the fact that it was the reality of the moment at that time. So, we thank everybody, the ancestors of the Spaniards who came here, and we hope that this event would further fortify our relations with the Spaniards,” he said.
Spearheaded by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and the National Quincentennial Committee (NQC), the event forms part of a series of commemorative events in the country’s history relative to the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the world led by Magellan and Juan Sebastian Elcano in 1521.
The Quincentennial Marker is among the 34 historical markers mounted along the route of the first circumnavigation that took place in the Philippines, including key sites in Palawan, the Visayas, and Mindanao.
On May 8, 2018, Duterte issued Executive Order 55 establishing the NQC to promote the nation’s rich cultural and religious heritage by launching a series of activities that commemorate various historical events in the country, including the quincentennial of the arrival of Magellan, the Battle of Mactan, and the celebration of the first Mass in the Philippines.
Aside from unveiling the Quincentennial Marker, the President also led the ceremonial switch-on for the electricity in Homonhon Island and received the “Murillo Velarde Map Circa 1734” commemorative stamp. (PNA)