500-Day Countdown to Quincentennial Slated December 14

Posted on 23 April 2019
By NQC Admin


Main sites of the 500-day countdown this December (from left): Rizal Park in Manila, Liberty Shrine in Lapu-Lapu City, and Davao Clock Tower in Davao City. OFFICIAL GAZETTE, NQC, AND PARTTIMEDYOSA

The National Quincentennial Committee (NQC), in partnership with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), held the first focus group discussion (FGD) on Butuan as the site of the 1521 Easter Sunday Mass last 9 November 2018 at the Balanghai Hotel and Convention Center, Butuan City.  The said mass has been a ground of contention for decades as this was the earliest recorded Christian service in the Philippines.

Clamor to review previews decisions under the auspices of the National Historical Institute (NHI, forerunner of the NHCP) is high due to the upcoming quincentennial of the introduction of Christianity in the Philippines and the arrival in Philippine territory of the Magellan-Elcano expedition that first circumnavigated the world.  These decisions were the Samuel K. Tan Panel in 1980, the Emilio A. Gancayco Panel in 1995, and the Benito J. Legarda, Jr. Panel in 2008.  These panels all ruled out in favor of Limasawa, Southern Leyte as the site of the 1521 Easter Sunday Mass.

NQC Vice-Chairperson and concurrent NHCP Chairperson Rene R. Escalante decided to reopen the discussion on the issue.  In its statement released in October 2018, the NQC deemed the reopening “in the interest of fairness and to further enrich the historical literature about this controversial event.”  It is also a way of giving “everyone the opportunity to present their previous and latest findings about this topic.”

Instead of referring to the event as “The First Mass in the Philippines,” the NQC refers to it as the 1521 Easter Sunday Mass. Bothe the NHCP and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) concurred with the proposal of the NQC.

The rationale of the FGD is to gather new perspectives on the Butuan claim as a first step before presenting these to a panel of historians organized by the NQC to review the historical controversy.  Dubbed as the Mojares Panel, the panel is headed by historian and National Artist Resil Mojares.

Guidelines were previously sent for interested paper presenters.  Only two proponents submitted, Gabriel Atega, a known champion of the Magallanes, Agusan del Norte as the site of the controversial mass, and Dr. Potenciano Malvar, arts and culture patron who advocates that the mass happened somewhere in present-day Butuan and not in Magallanes.

The presentations were attended by Budget Undersecretary Agnes Joyce Bailen, member of the NQC; Fr. Marvin Mejia, Secretary-General of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines; and Fr. Milan Ted Torralba, representative of Bishop Lito Cortez who heads the historical research arm of the CBCP.

Historian Vic Torres, moderator of the FGD in Butuan and the secretary-general of the Mojares panel noted that absent from the proceedings was the antics of some presenters in previous panels which made the present FGD presentations clearer to understand.

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