On March 31, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan anchored his ships at the foot of the island of Limawasa, in the center of the Philippine archipelago. On the same day, the chaplain accompanying the explorer celebrated the first Mass in an unknown country that was to become one of the most Catholic in the world.
It is almost half a millennium since Magellan and his men landed early in the morning of March 31, 1521 in Limawasa. It was Easter Sunday. So Fr. Pedro de Valderrama celebrated the Mass of the Resurrection: a symbol for the archipelago which, through this Mass, passed from the darkness of paganism to the light of the true life in Christ.
To commemorate the event, 3,000 young people, on March 31, 2019, took a boat in order to assist at a Mass celebrated on the island by the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Monsignor Gabriele Giordano Caccia.
“At that time, who knew that someone on a distant Pacific island was celebrating Mass? We did not even know, then, that there were lands and islands here,” said the nuncio, before adding to the address of Magellan and his companions: “We are grateful to them. They left as they came, but the Faith, it remained.”
According to 2014 statistics from the Paris Foreign Missions (MEP), in the Philippines, Catholics are 85% of a population of 107 million.
The Ucanews agency says that in 2019, in Limawasa—as elsewhere in the archipelago—the situation of Catholicism has nevertheless deteriorated. More than a dozen sects have appeared in the post-conciliar period, manifesting the pernicious effect of a false ecumenism.
The Same Mass as 500 Years Ago
For its part, it was in 1992 that the Society of Saint Pius X established itself in the Philippines, which is now part of the Asian District, which opened in 1996. In 2019, a dozen priests exercise their apostolate in this vast archipelago. The Society maintains Mass in its unchanged and grace-imparting rite, the same one that was celebrated 500 years ago.
And every year since 2007, the Rosa Mystica association, which brings together nurses, doctors and volunteer health workers, has been working in the most remote regions of the country to help the poorest people.