What Are We Commemorating this Quincentennial

Posted on 18 March 2021
By Rene R. Escalante, Ph.D.

The last four days made me realize how we love using the word ‘ancestors.’

The good thing about commemoration is it animates one’s spirit and heart to think great and do good things. Thanks to the Presidential Communications Operations Office and the Radio-Television Malacañang for bringing almost all the quincentennial commemorative events closer to the Filipino people worldwide by maximizing the power of social media. If only this pandemic did not happen, Eastern Samar, especially Guiuan, would have witnessed one of, if not, the greatest celebrations of our lifetime.

Derrick Macutay’s Strangers (2021). Courtesy of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

Through commemoration, we are in communion with those who have gone before us—even as far as 1521. Not only that—we even traced the route of the first circumnavigation of the world through the unveiling of the historical markers in Suluan, Homonhon, and Calicoan, all part of Guiuan. Mayor Annaliza Kwan, you have a wonderful town. Guiuan is gifted with proud moments and amazing character. The challenge now is how will this inspire greatness among your people to be a better Filipino and a human being. It is not enough that we only feel history. It should ennoble us. It should drive us to spark change in society and the world in general. It should produce civic-minded people worthy of the memories of their ancestors. It should also ignite creativity and at the same time make one a responsible human being.

The last four days made me realize how we love using the word ‘ancestors.’ I pointed this out because it reflects how effective the communication plan of the National Quincentennial Committee is. When we refer to the people of Suluan who exhibited kindness to the dying Magellan-Elcano expedition on this very same day, 500 years ago, we acknowledge that they are part of our being. For obvious reasons, they were not Filipino, and that there was no Philippines yet. But the National Quincentennial Committee opts to remember them because we descended from them. We include them in the global commemoration of the first circumnavigation of the world. We desire to enter their world least explored. We are ever curious who were they. Nobody will understand them better than us. No one in this world will ever appreciate them more than us, modern-day Filipinos. They are not just part of our being—they determined who are we today. Through our ancestors, we will have a better appreciation of who we are and be conscious of the things we often take for granted.

I suddenly remember the last moment of the genius Fr. Jose Burgos the eve before he was executed in 1872. He told his students, ‘be a Filipino always, but an educated Filipino.’ But how? Fr. Burgos continued, ‘Get educated… Learn from our older men what they know… See in the museums of other land what the ancient Filipinos really were.’ The quincentennial commemorations teach us not only facts of history; these enable us to rekindle the Filipino in us, who knows his or her responsibility of enriching one’s knowledge of his or her paradise in this world, our beloved Philippines.

To our Spanish friends headed by the Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines, His Excellency Jorge Moragas, I offer a toast on behalf of the Filipino people. May the bond of our nations last. Amistad duradera.

On behalf of the National Quincentennial Committee (NQC), please accept my utmost gratitude to the entire people of the Eastern Visayas, especially the town of Guiuan, the star of the nation for the past four days. We are also equally grateful to the very presence of no less than His Excellency Jorge Moragas and his Spanish delegation in almost all the activities. To all the government units and agencies, as well as the private institutions, which became part of the almost three-year preparation for this moment to happen, thank you very much.

May we all be worthy to bear the name ‘Filipino.’


Dr. Rene R. Escalante is the Chairperson of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines and the concurrent Executive Director of the National Quincentennial Committee. His message was delivered on his behalf by Executive Director Al Ryan Alejandre of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts during the 500th anniversary of the Philippine-Spanish contact, 18 March 2021, Guiuan Church Grounds, Guiuan, Eastern Samar.

Share this: