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CULTURAL POTPOURRI | The Quincentennial Celebration of the Hispanization of the Philippines



The logo and theme for the celebration of 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines

FIRST ALLOW me to define Hispanization according to Wikipedia: “Hizpanization, also known as Castillianization refers to the process by which a place or person becomes influenced by Hispanic culture or a process of cultural and/or linguistic change in which something non-Hispanic becomes Hispanic.

Hispanization is illustrated by spoken Spanish, production, and consumption of Hispanic food, music, and participation in Hispanic festivals and holidays.” Wikipedia fails to mention religion though which, through Hispanization, has made the Philippines the only Christian nation in Asia; and the world’s third largest Catholic country after Brazil and Mexico.

More than 86% of the Philippine population is Roman Catholic; while some 60% of Asian Catholics are Filipinos. Not to fail to mention that the Philippines Islands were claimed in the name of Spain in 1521 by the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, and Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez de

Consul Honoraria de Espana en Davao Natividad Rodriguez Fortich
Spanish Ambassador Jorge Moragas Sanchez

Villalobos named the islands Las Islas Felipinas in honor of King Philip II of Spain in 1543.

It was sometime last week when Consul Honoraria de Espana en Davao, Natividad Rodriguez Fortich, called me up to remind me of the Quincentennial Anniversary which immediately brought to my mind Yoyoy Villame’s Magellan song. Owing to this Covid pandemic, you tend to forget a lot of things you normally do not.

“2021 is a historic year for the Philippines and Spain. Both countries are celebrating the Quincentennial of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines as well as of Spain commemorating the first ever circumnavigation of the globe by an expedition headed by Ferdinand Magellan.

The intertwined history of both countries cannot be overemphasized as both share a common bond in culture, trade, and commerce which remains strong to this very date. To mark this momentous year, the Spanish government has sent the Spanish flagship Juan Sebastian Elcano to dock in Suluan, Guiuan (East Samar) on March 16.

The Juan Sebastian de Elcano is a training ship of the Spanish Navy. It is a four-masted topsail, steel-hulled schooner barque, and is 113 meters long. It is the third largest tall ship in the world which was launched on March 5, 1927. The ship will then head for Cebu City (March 20-22) to retrace the route that Magellan took 500 years ago,” revealed the good Honorable Consul of Spain, Natividad Rodriguez Fortich.

Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Jorge Moragas Sanchez takes part in various official events scheduled from March to June for this historical occasion including the unveiling of the historical marker in Barangay Pagbabangan, Homonhon, Eastern Samar last March 18. Yes, the exact landing site of Magellan and reputed to be the place where the first mass was celebrated.

Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (c. 1480-1521)
Juan Sebastian de Elcano ship for the Quincentennial Anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the world

The 16th century chronicler of the expedition (which was considered the first voyage around the world) named Antonio Pigafetta wrote that Magellan and his crew stayed in Homonhon for eight days where they set up huts to nurse their sick, rest, and revive themselves after the long perilous journey in which Magellan faced numerous hardships.

On the other hand, Pope Francis marked the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines with a Holy Mass celebrated last March 14 at the St. Peter’s Basilica which was streamed live worldwide. Due to the pandemic, only a limited number of the faithful, which included members of the Filipino community in Rome wearing Filipiniana, were allowed to attend the Mass.

Pope Francis and Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle delivering their message to Filipinos

I even spotted the participation of our relative, Fr. Gregory Ramon D. Gaston, the rector of the Pontificio Collegio Filippino and coordinator for the pastoral care of overseas Filipino workers in Italy. Pope Francis thanked the Filipinos “for the joy that you bring to the whole world and to our Christian communities. The Pope also urged Filipino Catholics “to persevere in the work of evangelization; and to walk courageously along the path of missionary discipleship.”

In his message of gratitude to Pope Francis, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle said, “The coming of the Christian faith to our land is God’s gift. That the Christian faith was received by a majority of our people and given by them a Filipino character is God’s gift.

Now the Philippines has the third-largest number of Catholics in the world. This is truly God’s gift. We attribute the enduring faith of the Filipino people only to God’s love, mercy, and fidelity, not to any merit of our own.” Cardinal Tagle also praised the Catholic Church for the gift of faith, “one of the sources of hope in facing poverty, economic inequality, political upheavals, typhoons, volcanic eruptions and even the current pandemic.”
God bless the Philippines and Spain.

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