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Value sovereignty, history’s lessons

In Homonhon, our ancestors exemplified the unique generosity of the Filipino when they helped the Spaniards’ expedition’s depleted crew upon their arrival.



President Rodrigo Duterte has urged Filipinos to learn from history and to preserve the country’s sovereignty by preventing “any tribe” from occupying the country as he commemorated yesterday the Philippines’ part in the 500th year of the world’s first circumnavigation.

He described Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s arrival in the country as an “opportunity for our forebears to show their humanity, magnanimity, and sovereignty to foreign guests.”

“In Homonhon, our ancestors exemplified the unique generosity of the Filipino when they helped the Spaniards’ expedition’s depleted crew upon their arrival. A few days later in the battle of Mactan, Lapu-Lapu and his warriors, in an exemplary display of firm leadership and extraordinary courage, defeated and drove away the colonials,” Duterte said in his speech.

Mr. Duterte on Thursday led the launch of the quincentennial marker in Guiuan, Eastern Samar and the ceremonial switch-on for electricity supply in Homonhon Island, in honor of Magellan’s historic arrival on 16 March 1521.

“While the events that we celebrate would lead to the beginning of colonization, the Filipino people can find relief in the knowledge that we’ve gone far in our efforts to correct the mistakes of the past,” he said.

“I therefore call on our fellow citizens to appreciate our rich history and learn from the experiences of those that came before us, so that we may never again allow any other tribe to compromise our sovereignty,” the president added.

“I don’t have anything about religion but what was really planted here was the sword and cross of Christianity. Never mind, that’s part of history so that we may remember their kindness and their bravery to extol on their bravery to make this journey that completed the circumvention of the world,” Mr. Duterte noted.

He also expressed hope that celebrating the event would strengthen ties between the Philippines and Spain.


Something good

Mr. Duterte added the Spanish colonization of the Philippines for over 300 years contributed something “good” to the country, which went against his previous remark that the foreigners’ rule only meant abuse against Filipinos.

He added that “history should make us reflect on the past and look beyond our future.”

“We thank everybody, the ancestors of the Spaniards who came here. And we hope that this event goes further — fortify our relations with the Spaniards,” Duterte said during the event attended by the Spanish envoy.

“As inheritors of this complicated yet glorious past, the duty now rests on our shoulders to continue the aspirations of our forebears,” he added.

His tune was in stark contrast against his speech in September 2019 in Naga City, where he said there was no reason to be festive about the start of the country’s subjugation.

“I was asked (to hold) a commemoration for the 500 years since they arrived here. I answered, ‘Why would I celebrate the arrival of the Spanish here? Why would I?” Duterte had asked.


Rody’s hero

Magellan first arrived on the islands of Homonhon, according to historians.

He died on the shores of Mactan, Cebu, in a battle with chieftain Lapu-Lapu, which Duterte called “an exemplary display of firm leadership and extraordinary courage defeated and drove away the colonials.”

The expedition was completed by Spanish navigator Juan Sebastian Elcano in 1522, along with 18 other men, the first to circumnavigate the globe in a single expedition.

Decades after the West’s discovery of the Philippines through Magellan’s voyage, the first permanent Spanish settlement in the country was established by Miguel López de Legazpi in Cebu in 1565.

The Spaniards eventually converted most of the country to Roman Catholicism, making the Philippines the biggest Catholic country in Asia.

Over the weekend, Pope Francis led a mass celebrating 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.

Spearheaded by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and the National Quincentennial Committee (NQC), the event formed part of a series of commemorative events in the country’s history relative to the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the world.

The Quincentennial Marker is among the 34 historical markers mounted along the route of the first circumnavigation that took place in the Philippines, including key sites in Palawan, the Visayas, and Mindanao.