Rites for 500th anniversary of PH’s first Catholic baptism all set
CEBU CITY—It’s all systems go for the 500th anniversary of the first Catholic baptism in the Philippines on Wednesday (April 14).
Fr. Mhar Balili, secretary general of the 500 Years of Christianity campaign, said Pope Francis is sending Archbishop Charles Brown, who would lead the eucharistic celebration at 4 p.m. at Plaza Sugbo, site of the Magellan’s Cross kiosk.
At least 10 bishops were expected to attend the event.
Before Mass, a reenactment of the first baptism on Philippine soil will be held in the same venue.
The Plaza Sugbo can accommodate 3,000 people but only 700 guests will be allowed to ensure physical distancing.
Among the guests are Rene Escalante, National Historical Commission of the Philippines chair, and Lloyd Dino, presidential assistant for the Visayas who would stand in for President Rodrigo Duterte.
After Mass, the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu Church and the image of Sto. Niño will be declared national cultural treasures.
Organizers said only 10 bishops will be at the celebration due to travel restrictions imposed to stop the spread of SARS Cov2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in different parts of the country.
Among those who won’t be able to come are Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), and Archbishop Pablo David, the group’s vice president.
CBCP will be represented by Msgr Bernie Pantin.
The public was advised not to go to the event and to instead watch the activities online via the 500 Years of Christianity-Archdiocese of Cebu Facebook page and My TV Cebu.
Accounts by Antonio Pigafetta, chronicler of the Magellan expedition, said the first baptism in the Philippines was performed by Fr. Pedro Valderama, chaplain of the expedition, on April 14, 1521.
At least 800 natives, including Cebu chieftain Rajah Humabon and his wife Hara Humamay, were baptized as Catholics that day.
Humabon and Humamay, who were given the Christian names Carlos and Juana were the first to embrace Christianity in the Philippines.
Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan gave Juana an image of the Sto. Niño. Accounts said this drove Juana to contrition and baptism while in tears.
Juana asked Magellan and his Spanish companions to give her the image of the child Jesus to keep in place of her idols.
The 500-year-old image of the Sto. Niño remained intact to date and has been venerated inside the basilica in downtown Cebu City.
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