Tacloban City Vice Mayor Jerry “Sambo” Yaokasin continues to provide relief assistance to typhoon victims as shown picture above. (LITO A. BAGUNAS)
Tacloban City Vice Mayor Jerry “Sambo” Yaokasin continues to provide relief assistance to typhoon victims as shown picture above. (LITO A. BAGUNAS)

MAASIN CITY– A simple commemorative program will be staged on March 31 this year for the 493 anniversary of the First Mass held in the historic island-town of Limawasa, Southern Leyte.
A fluvial parade to start from this city to Limawasa will serve as a highlight of the celebration with the arrival of the image of Sr. Sto. Niño and guests led by Bishop Precioso Cantillas of the diocese of Maasin, Southern Leyte Governor Roger Mercado, Representative Damian Mercado, Maasin Mayor Maloney Samaco and other guests, according to Nedgar Garvez, Southern Leyte tourism officer.
The image and delegation is expected to arrive at 7:00 A.M. in the island municipality.
Limasawa Mayor Melchor Petracorta and local officials will welcome the guests at Triana pier as “Sinugdan” dancers of Limasawa will offer a dance ritual in welcoming the Holy Image.
Foot procession follows from Triana port to Magallanes village, a 2-kilometer distance. A 6-gun salute will signal for the start of the Holy Mass to be officiated by Bishop Cantillas.
The officers of the National Commission of Culture and the Arts will launch the Declaration of the Opening of the TAOID Heritage Program in Limasawa.
The Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan planted the Holy Cross at the Magallanes village where the Friar Pedro Valderrama officiated the First Catholic Mass that saw the birth of Christianity in the Philippines.
In historical accounts, the indigenous natives of the island welcomed their guests and showed them their hospitality. The natives were never converted to Catholicism, which may account that until 493 years after the First Mass, the Limasawa island residents of 6,000 remained a mixed of different religions.
After the anniversary mass, a dance that recreates the beginning of the Christianity in the country will be showcased in the Sinugdan Festival (the beginning) followed by the ceremonial tree planting.
The Holy Image of Sr. Sto. Niño is expected to arrive in Maasin City around 5:00 P.M. A foot procession of the faithful around the city follows upon arrival and a welcome Mass will be officiated by Rev. Fr. Jonas M. Mejares, OSA, Rector of the Basilica Del Sto. Niño, Cebu City.
Every year, the people of Limasawa and Southern Leyte celebrate the first Christian Mass in the country. This year, the theme revolves on “Unang Misa sa Pilipinas ug Asia ug ang Sto. Niño: Maoy Naglig-on sa pagtuo ug paglaum sa katawhan taliwala sa katalagman ug kalisdanan,” Garvez said. (VICKY C. ARNAIZ)