LIMASAWA, Southern Leyte -- This island town celebrated the 495th First Mass on Thursday with thousands of pilgrims who flocked to remember how Spaniards introduced Christianity in the Philippines.
The island town, the smallest in Southern Leyte province, is considered the cradle of Christianity, the site of the first Mass in the country on March 31, 1521.
In his message, Bishop Precioso Cantillas of the Roman Catholic Church diocese of Maasin echoed Pope Francis’ teaching on mercy and compassion.
“As we celebrate at the door of the shrine of the First Holy Mass, we open the door of compassion that whoever will have faith and repent will receive forgiveness,” Cantillas said.
Southern Leyte Governor Roger Mercado said the celebration renews their commitment to continue the promotion of the island as tourist destination.
“We continue to promote unity for our people and take the challenge to continue the promotion of our island through Republic Act 7822, declaring Limasawa as a tourist zone,” Mercado said.
The law was signed on November 18, 1994.
The Sto. Niño de Cebu pilgrim image arrived in Magallanes village through a fluvial parade from Maasin City to Limasawa early Thursday morning, March 31, on board a Philippine Navy ship.
The icon was brought to the village plaza for the Holy Mass. The town’s six villages displayed their best products to visitors.
The island of Limasawa was the site of the first Mass in the Philippines when Portuguese world explorer Ferdinand Magellan ended in the beautiful island looking for spices.
On Easter Sunday of March 31, 1521, Magellan ordered the expedition’s chaplain Fray Pedro de Valderrama to say the mass.
In the afternoon of the same day, Magellan instructed his comrades to plant a large wooden cross on the top of the hill overlooking the sea.
The original cross has been drawing thousands of tourists and pilgrims every year through a 450 steps trek going to the landmark. (PNA)