An international conference and the opening of a 20-hectare park in Cebu are expected to be the main highlights of the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the country’s first contact with Spaniards in 2021.
In a press briefing, National Quincentennial Committee (NQC) Vice-Chairman and National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) Chairman Rene R. Escalante said they will be organizing an international conference, which will be tentatively held in Manila, on the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan.
He said the event will feature scholars, who have extensively studied Magellan’s successful Spanish-funded circumnavigation of the world, which happened from 1519 to 1522.
“Our plan is to invite the current King of Spain as the keynote speaker because this is an international event. Therefore the message of honor should be an international figure,” Escalante said.
During the conference, Escalante said the NQC will promote discussions on Enrique de Malacca, a slave who accompanied Magellan in his voyage to serve as his interpreter.
He said this will provide a Filipino and Asian-centric perspective of the Magellan expedition.
The conference will be the contribution of the Philippines to the international celebration of the circumnavigation, which he described as an “extra ordinary achievement of humankind” at that time.
Magellan’s expedition, which led him in the Philippines in 1521, is considered one of the most important events in local history since it signalled the the introduction of Christianity in the country.
Magellan’s stay in the country was short-lived after he was killed by forces of a local leader, Lapu-Lapu, at the Battle of Mactan to oppose the colonization initiated by the Portuguese explorer.
Last May, President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued Executive Order No. 55 creating the NQC specifically to prepare for the commemoration of the three milestones, which will be turning 500-year old by 2021.
Members of the NQC include representatives from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
One of the main tasks of NQC, which is being chaired by Sec. Salvador C. Medialdea, is to make Lapu-Lapu relevant.
Escalante said Lapu-Lapu is considered unique among the country’s heroes since he was first to have successfully repelled Spanish forces without any foreign aid and surviving the ordeal.
What made the feat even more significant, NHCP resident historian Xiao Chua said, is the feat was unmatched at that time.
“According to some accounts, he was the very first Asian to claim victory against European colonialism in Asia. So that makes his act a important part of history in Asia and in the world,” Chua said.
Despite this achievement, NHCP said Lapu-Lapu still does not enjoy as much recognition as other local heroes.
To popularize the Cebu-based hero, NQC will be recommending to the Office of the President to rename the Mactan-Cebu International airport after him; bring back the use of P2,000 bill with his image; and to to declare 27, April 2021, the anniversary of the Battle of Mactan, as a national non-working holiday.
NQC is also pushing for the construction of a new park in Cebu, which will be roughly the same size as the Rizal Park in Manila.
Escalante said the park will have a monuments of Lapu-Lapu and Enrique de Malacca, a underground museum, and a grandstand.
Chua said they will be depicting Lapu-Lapu based on new available historical data that he was already old when the Battle of Mactan happened.
“Our image of Lapu-Lapu of being macho and young should be replaced. He should also be portrayed with tattoos,” Chua said.
NHCP said it will be engaging with DepEd so this appropriate image of Lapu-Lapu can be taught to students.
As for the celebration of the introduction in the country, Escalante said it will be CBCP which will take the lead.
“They have their own committee and I understand the CBCP will have its plenary session in the middle of Jan. and this commemoration is one of the agenda of this discussion,” Escalante said.
Earlier this year, Church officials said they will be inviting Pope Francis and the King of Spain for the momentous event.
Escalante said the government will only play a supporting role for the celebration of the first Easter Mass and Christian Baptism in the country.
He said the venue for the commemoration of Easter Mass is still dispute as historians continue to debate where it was held. Some scholars claimed it happened in Southern Leyte, while others claimed it is in Butuan.
The NQF already created a committee to determine the exact location of the mass in time for the Philippine Quincentennial Commemorations in 2021.
Escalante said they hope Duterte will approve their recommendations once they finally present it to him during the first quarter of 2019.
“Once they are approved we will upload this in the (NQF) website and will do the preparations proper,” Escalante said.
By March 2019, he said they are targeting to finalize the budget they will be requesting from the DBM.
Aside from government budget, he said they also considering tapping the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and other private firms to get additional funding in the form of donations.
“We can start the ball rolling by the latter part of 2019,” Escalante said.
On Friday, NQC officially launched its commemorative activities for the 2021 celebrations with the media presentation of the reigning Miss Universe Catriona Gray’s national costume.
The 50-kilo costume,which contains Philippine cultural icons such as the parol (star-shaped lanterns) from Luzon, tribal tatoos of the pintados in Visayas, and ethnic headdress from Mindanao.
NHCP praised the costume serves as the centerpiece since it was able to successfully able to meld various aspect of the Philippine culture.
The costume is currently being loaned to NHCP so it could be displayed in the its museums. Its first public viewing is schedule on Dec. 31, 2018 at the NHCP main office in Manila.
During the launch, NQC also revealed the official logo, theme and website of the Philippine Quincentennial Commemorations.