The government has declared April 14, Wednesday, a “special holiday” in the central Philippine city of Cebu to give Catholics the “full opportunity” to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the country.
“(It) is but fitting and proper that the people of the City of Cebu be given full opportunity to celebrate and participate in the occasion with appropriate ceremonies,” read the proclamation signed by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
The declaration said the celebrations should be “subject to community quarantine, social distancing, and other public health measures” in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu thanked the president for the declaration.
“It is a generous gesture that the president is allowing us in Cebu to feel this special moment in our history,” said Monsignor Joseph Tan, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Cebu.
The celebration of the Holy Eucharist that will be led by Archbishop Charles John Brown, papal nuncio to the Philippines, on Wednesday afternoon will be the highlight of the celebration.
“We convey our promise to remember the president’s intentions in our prayers on this day,” said Monsignor Tan.
Mayor Edgardo Labella of Cebu also expressed his gratitude to the president for the declaration even as he reminded the faithful of the limitations due to the pandemic.
A reenactment of the first baptism in Cebu is set to be held at the Plaza Sugbo at 3 p.m. before the celebration of the Holy Mass on Wednesday.
On April 11, Archbishop Palma led the baptism of 100 infants to mark the start of the quincentennial celebrations of the first baptism in the country.
On April 14, 1521, Cebu chieftain Datu Humabon, Queen Juana, and 800 of their followers were reported to have been baptized as Christians by Father Pedro de Valderrama.
The April 14 baptism came a week after the arrival of the Spanish expedition led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan.
On the day of the baptism, Magellan planted a cross in the middle of the plaza where the baptism ceremonies took place.
Cebu is considered the “cradle of Christianity” in the country. Spanish missionaries also gave the local population the icon of the Santo Niño or the child Jesus.