GUIUAN, Eastern Samar – It was on March 16, 1521 when the fleet of Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese navigator working under Spanish flag, saw the island of Suluan, hungry and suffering from illnesses after three months of voyage.
None of them, however, did not set foot on this island and only stayed inside their ship.
But it was the residents of this small island who helped Magellan and his men by giving them food and provisions.
On Wednesday (March 17), the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) unveiled a marker to commemorate said historical event, a beautiful gesture of humility and compassion toward fellowmen.
The unveiling of the marker kicked off of the year-long celebration of the Quincentennial Celebration of the Philippines.
“Let the Quincentennial remind all Filipinos that we are triumphant and compassionate people just like our ancestors recorded in 1521,” Rene Escalate, NHCP chairman, said.
Escalante added that opening the quincentennial celebration in Suluan aims to lay the foundation for future studies and to ignite interest of young historians and scholars.
At least 34 historical markers in relation to the quincentennial celebration were erected by the NHCP in Palawan, Visayas and Mindanao along the historic route of the first circumnavigation.
“We want our countrymen to appreciate this achievement of humanity as part of the history of a Filipino, part of what they have been taught in school back then in the beginning of Philippine history, “Escalante added.
That simple act of kindness of the early residents of Suluan would later result to a legacy that every resident of the island, and of Guiuan town to always remember and be proud of, according to Mayor Annaliza Gonzales-Kwan.
“We need to remember this lessons from 500 years ago or else this monument of humanity will remain as cold as the stone it is made of,” Mayor Kwan said.
“Because we are kindhearted people, we show courage to meet the foreigners who arrived in our land. We are proud of being friendly, and because of this friendliness, the early residents of Suluan are able to save lives of Magellan’s fleet who were able to tell and prove that the globe is round,”she added.
The marker in Suluan is one of the three markers erected by the NHCP in Guiuan for the Quincentennial commemoration.
Another marker is located in Homonhon Island where Magellan and his men stayed for several weeks, and in Calicoan Island that represents the enter island of Samar.
Spanish Ambassador to the Philippines Jorge Sanchez in his message said that this event 500 years ago should always be remembered by all as it provided not only knowledge useful to navigation but also the paved way for a forging of friendship of two nations.
“That spirit of humanity, generosity, and kindness that define the people of the Philippines, especially Eastern Samar, this region. So with the same spirit, I would like to look forward and to look for the future and try to inspire us for the next 500 years,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez added that the present generation should know why this commemoration is being celebrated as it help shape the beginning of the common history between Spain and the Philippines.
“This should be known by the youth because it is the beginning of the interconnection in many fields, humanistic fields, spiritual, trade, navigation,” he said
“Everything that is happening now is interconnected to what had happened 500 years ago,”he added.
A certificate of transfer was signed between the NHCP to the local government unit of Guiuan and village of Suluan was held after the unveiling.
Coinciding with the unveiling of the marker and the event that happened 500 years ago was the arrival of Spanish Navy Training Ship Juan Sebastian Elcano that reenacted the first circumnavigation of the globe.
The ship arrived in the coast of Suluan from Guam around 10:00 on Wednesday (March 17).
In its arrival, an event was dubbed as “Encuentro” where Elcano was welcomed while anchoring by fishermen residents of Suluan with their fishing boat.
The event signified the welcoming gesture of Suluan people who were first to meet the Magellan’s fleet. (ROEL T. AMAZONA)