PREPARATIONS for the 500th anniversary of the Christianization of the Philippines in 2021 have begun in Cebu.

Organizers of the event are planning to invite dignitaries to Cebu for the festivities, including Pope Francis and King Felipe VI of Spain.

Representatives of the Filipinas Quinta Centenario (FQC), the local organizers of the 2021 activity, met with officials of the Cebu Provincial Government to discuss the activities for the fifth centenary of Magellan’s arrival in the Philippines.

Joaquin Rodriguez, FQC president, said that while the main event is still three years away, they will be kicking off activities starting next year, during the anniversary of Ferdinand Magellan’s departure from Cadiz, Spain.

Magellan, a Portuguese explorer and conquistador under the employ of the Spanish court, left Spain for his historic trip around the world on Aug. 10, 1519.

It took at least three years before Magellan reached the shores of the Philippines.

Rodriguez said that Cebu, where Magellan first discovered the Philippines and his final resting place, will be the main venue for the 2021 event.

“The epicenter and focal point of all these events is Cebu,” Rodriguez told reporters yesterday.

Rodriguez was with Juan Manuel Montel Castro-Rial, executive director of the Sociedad Española de Beneficencia.

The Sociedad Española de Beneficencia is a Manila-based non-government organization that serves as representatives of the Spanish community in the country.

Rodriguez said that aside from the Pope and the King of Spain, they also plan to invite the presidents and prime ministers of “Magellanic countries” or countries where Magellan passed by during his voyage.

Countries like Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay and Malaysia are included in the list of Magellanic countries.

In a separate interview, Magpale said that an executive committee has been organized to help supervise the preparations.

The Sugbo Quincentenario, Magpale said, will be led by Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña.

Magpale said the 2021 event can help boost Cebu’s tourism, especially with its newfound focus on faith-based tourism. (JKV)