TACLOBAN CITY – A simple celebration was held Wednesday in the island town of Limasawa, Southern Leyte to mark the 500th anniversary of the First Easter Mass in the Philippines.
Hundreds of pre-selected pilgrims, government officials, and Roman Catholic priests flocked to the island town to attend the solemn mass and thanksgiving program amid limitations brought by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
The celebration started through a traditional Latin mass at the Magallanes Shrine, followed by the enshrinement of the Señor Santo Niño de Limasawa and the blessing of the newly-renovated Sanctuary at the Triana Church, and mass at the Magallanes Shrine.
One of the highlights is the fluvial procession of the pilgrim image of Señor Santo Niño de Cebu to Limasawa Island accompanied by Catholic bishops.
Diocese of Maasin Bishop Precioso Cantillas said in his homily they insisted to celebrate despite movement restriction to remind Filipino Christians of God’s love.
“I am so happy and grateful that even this time of pandemic that we are able to celebrate today this great gift,” Cantillas said.
Limasawa Mayor Melchor Petracrota thanked national government agencies and the Catholic Church for the successful celebration despite the absence of key national officials due to the pandemic.
The highest national official present was Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Assistant Secretary Jonjie Gonzales.
“We are so honored to have you on our island to remember those who have brought the faith in the Philippines despite rains. We should look back with gratitude and look forward with great hope,” Petracorta said.
Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines Charles John Brown was supposed to lead the mass, but he was not present due to an advisory limiting the travel of foreign dignitaries in the country.
The official issued a statement greeting the Diocese of Maasin for the celebration.
“Five hundred years after the first Mass was offered in the archipelago, the Church in the Philippines is invited anew to ‘go forth” and become a community of authentic missionary disciples. The love of Christ made present in every celebration of the Holy Mass, impels us to proclaim the Gospel we have received to all the world,” Brown said.
The earliest recorded mass in the Philippine territory was held in Limasawa on March 31, 1521. It was officiated by Fr. Pedro de Valderama, chaplain of the Magellan-Elcano expedition. That day in the Roman Catholic calendar was Easter Sunday.
Joining the Mass were 50 expedition crew, including Ferdinand Magellan. Also in attendance were siblings Rajah Colambu of Limasawa and Rajah Siaiu of Butuan-Calaghan.
After the mass, Magellan held a fencing exposition to amuse the rulers of Mazaua and Butuan. Afterward, a cross was planted at the highest peak in Limasawa. (PNA)