TACLOBAN CITY – The island town of Limasawa in Southern Leyte commemorated the 503rd First Easter Mass in the Philippines on Sunday (March 31) in a simple but significant ceremony attended by hundreds of pilgrims from Southern Leyte province, along with local officials from both the municipality and the province.

The celebration commenced with the Easter Mass officiated by Bishop Precisio Cantillas of the Diocese of Maasin, followed by the commissioning of 500 Lay Eucharistic Ministers of the Diocese.

Approximately 3,000 youth pilgrims from various parishes of the diocese also participated in the event, having arrived in the island town on Holy Saturday to attend the Easter Vigil and Festival of Light.

Addressing the youth in his homily, Bishop Cantillas emphasized their pivotal role as the hope for both the future of the Church and the present time. He urged them to deepen their devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, by embodying it through becoming messengers of hope and proclaiming their love for the Lord.

“The youth should acknowledge Mary as the Mother of Jesus, our mother. Let us reflect on whether we truly know and accept her in our lives. We should also question ourselves about our devotion to her and if we make time to pray for her,” Bishop Cantillas said.

Following the Eucharistic celebration at the National Shrine of the First Mass, the local government unit organized a program graced by provincial government officials led by Southern Leyte Governor Damian Mercado, Vice Gov. Rosa Emilia Mercado, and the local government unit led by Mayor Melchor Petracorta.

In his address, Mayor Petracorta highlighted the significance of commemorating the first Easter Mass in Limasawa, emphasizing that it marked the beginning of the spread of Christianity in the country.

“This event symbolizes the introduction of faith, which profoundly influenced the culture, traditions, and religious practices of the Filipino people,” stated Mayor Petracorta. “This historic event brings us together to appreciate our roots and the genesis of our faith.”

He further emphasized that this celebration also signifies the convergence of the East and the West and the commencement of brotherhood among different races.

The celebration in Limasawa marked the 503rd year since Fr. Pedro Valderama officiated the first Easter Sunday mass recorded in history, held on March 31, 1521, after Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet reached the island while searching for a new route to Molucca.

Although this part of history has been contested for several years.

In 2020, a year before the 500-year commemoration of the quincentennial year of the first circumnavigation of the world, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines signed a resolution adopting the recommendations of historians, affirming that Limasawa Island was the real site for the 1521 First Easter Sunday Mass.