I UNDERSTAND why President Rodrigo Duterte sees no need to celebrate 500 years of Christianity in the country, or at least, make such a big deal of it.
I think his problem may be with the word “celebrate.”
The Cambridge dictionary defines it as “to take part in special enjoyable activities in order to show that a particular occasion is important.”
Well, no doubt March 16, 2021 will be important to many millions of Filipinos who proudly adhere to the faith of Roman Catholicism, which makes the archipelago the only predominantly Christian country in Asia, although there’s Timor-Leste but it doesn’t count.
First of all, being Christian sets us apart from our neighbors, most of whom are either Muslims or Buddhists.
By the way, to those who don’t know, those religions are also not native to this neck of the woods. The former comes from the desert of Arabia while the other is from the subcontinent of India. I’m just not sure if Indonesia makes such a fuss to mark the arrival of Islam to its shores. Although before that, the majority “organized” religion was Hinduism. Again, it’s not endemic to this region as it also has its roots in India.
From what I learned in history, Roman Catholicism wasn’t forced on the natives when Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer sailing under the Spanish flag, arrived in Cebu. Although evangelization might have been one of their intentions, I truly think he and his men were just happy to be on dry land after so many months at sea. To be able to drink fresh water or eat unspoiled food must have been a treat.
If I remember correctly, Raja Humabon, his wives and his subjects willingly converted to Christianity. But there was a catch. They would accept this foreign God in exchange for assistance against Lapu-Lapu, Humabon’s rival across the Mactan Channel.
Or maybe Magellan just wanted to impress the new converts by showing them that being Christians had its perks. Maybe he wasn’t duped into fighting Lapu-Lapu. He might have even offered to do so to impress Humabon, who probably couldn’t believe his luck that these smelly foreigners would be so gullible.
Well, we all know what happened next, thanks in part to Yoyoy Villame’s song. But the man responsible for these accounts was Italian scholar Antonio Pigafetta, who survived the expedition.
By the way, we only have his word for it. Pigafetta could have made the whole thing up. Somehow, he had to come up with something to explain why they returned without their captain and basically emptyhanded.
I guess, the President could always look at it that way.