The Roman Catholic Church Diocese of Maasin in Southern Leyte has started on Sunday the 500 days countdown to the 500th anniversary of the First Mass in the Philippines.
Over six thousand pilgrims and visitors attended the Pontifical Mass and opening salvo on the symbolic first day of the countdown at the Sunken Garden, provincial capitol grounds here.
Maasin Bishop Rev. Precioso Cantillas, who just came from Europe to promote the 500th anniversary, hosted the Eucharistic celebration.
Limasawa commission head of education and promotion Jerome Paler said the celebration is significant as it remembers the start of Christianity in the Philippines.
He told reporters in an interview Sunday night that legacy monuments and structures would be erected on the island, settling the controversy on whether or not the first mass was held on the island of Limasawa, Southern Leyte.
“This issue is already closed. The Office of the President and the National Historical Commission has already confirmed that indeed the first mass was held in Limasawa and not in Butuan. However the new arising issue now is where exactly on the island it was first officiated,” he added.
Paler said historians have discovered new shreds of evidence revealing that the First Mass happened in the western part of the island, which is in Triana village and not in Magallanes village as believed by many.
Despite this issue, the shrine and pilgrimage center, one of the legacy structures unveiled during the official countdown, will still be constructed in Magallanes village since it is where the old shrine is located.
To rise at the proposed center include Tower of Light consist of seven floors with viewing decks and a museum where visitors can walk through to reflect the events during the First Mass.
Another structure that will be installed in strategic locations is the solar-powered lamp posts symbolizing the “Daub” or the bonfire that led Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet to the island.
The provincial government of Southern Leyte will finance the acquisition of land where these structures will rise.
A Gawad Kalinga village with 100-row houses will also be built on the island meant for those families who will be affected by the improvements.
The symbolic 500 days countdown is part of a Triennial Program launched this year, where several major activities are organized prior to the 500th-anniversary celebration of the First Mass in 2021.
Limasawa Island, the smallest town in the province of Southern Leyte is the site of the First Catholic Mass in Asia, officiated on Easter Sunday, March 31, 1521, by Father Pedro de Valderrama under the fleet of Ferdinand Magellan. (PNA)