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Filipino Catholics mark country's first-ever baptism

Cebu Archdiocese celebrates 500th anniversary of Christianity by re-enacting Spanish baptism of local chieftains

Filipino Catholics mark country's first-ever baptism

A priest re-enacts the baptism of Cebu chieftain Datu Humabon and Queen Juana during a special 500th anniversary event in Cebu City on April 14. (Photo: Cebu Archdiocese)

Cebu Archdiocese has continued its commemoration of 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines with a re-enactment of the first-ever baptism in the Catholic-majority country.

The April 14 re-enactment took place at the Basilica del Santo Nino in Cebu City, which is believed to be the spot where Spanish missionaries gave an image of the Child Jesus (Santo Nino) to the wife of the island’s local chieftain.

On April 14, 1521, Cebu chieftain Datu Humabon and Queen Juana were baptized together with 800 locals by Spanish missionary Father Pedro Valderama.

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That same day, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan planted a cross in the middle of what is now the plaza to mark the island’s consecration to Christianity.

“Cebu, our island, is considered the cradle of Christianity in the entire Philippines. Spanish missionaries gave the local population the icon of the Santo Nino or the Child Jesus as a gift and as a reminder of the consecration of our people,” Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu said in a speech at the event.

Archbishop Charles Brown, apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, celebrated the Mass and baptism attended by hundreds of Catholics.

Just like the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us behold how God in his goodness has done great things for us

In his homily, Archbishop Brown said the Philippines ranked third in the world for baptized Catholics and first for baptisms of young children.

He also said that the Catholic faith was first brought by Europeans to Asia 500 years ago but now Asians were spreading the faith throughout the world.

“The faith that began in Asia was transported to this part of Asia, the Philippines, by Europeans and is now being re-transported back to Europe and across around the world by Filipinos,” he added.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, also sent a message for the event.

“Just like the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us behold how God in his goodness has done great things for us, not because we are the greatest among nations and people but because God loves us. God has shown his love and mercy to us,” the Filipino cardinal said in his message from the Vatican.

Bishops’ conference president Archbishop Romulo Valles said the Filipino people are gifted to give and must spread the faith to all nations.

“Truly, our theme in this quincentennial celebration, ‘Gifted to give’, describes well our thanksgiving and joy these days. We know that in our many difficulties and problems in the Philippines, including this pandemic that we are facing today, we still take pride in knowing that we are truly a gifted people,” he said.

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