By Marcelo M. Pedalino
MAASIN CITY, Nov. 18 (PIA) — The countdown towards 500 years’ anniversary of the First Mass ever held on land conducted by foreigners that happened at Limasawa on March 31, 1521, was off to a rousing start at the sprawling capitol sunken garden grounds here Sunday afternoon, Nov. 17.
Attended by an estimated crowd of over 5,000 religious pilgrims coming from all over the Diocese of Maasin comprising the whole of Southern Leyte and the six towns of Leyte province — Matalom, Bato, Hilongos, Hindang, Inopacan, and Baybay, including pilgrims from Cebu — the historic event was widely seen as the introduction of Christianity not only in the Philippines but also in the far east.
Functionaries from the regional office of the Department of Tourism and some local chief executives from Leyte municipalities and the home province were also around.
A grand parade starting at the Maasin Cathedral in the central park of the city to the capitol area, a distance of about three kilometers, featured a float shaped like a ship, and the revered Sto. Niño icon that arrived earlier from Cebu.
This was followed by a Holy Mass officiated by Msgr. Precioso Cantillas, the diocesan bishop and a short commemorative program.
Other highlights to usher the upcoming event 500 days from now, on March 31, 2021, was the lighting of a torch that signified the formal preparation of the provincial government in support of the Church-led rites, and a Sinugdan festival dance depicting the Spaniards’ arrival and holding of the Mass.
By dusk, fireworks lasting about five minutes illuminating the clear night sky capped the ceremonies.
In an ambush interview with local media, Gov. Damian Mercado disclosed that the provincial government has set aside a budget of P4 million for the 500th First Mass commemoration.
The governor also said that an appropriation of P400 million to further improve Maasin’s airport is already available next year, 2020, hoping that before the big event, a Maasin-Manila-Maasin flight will then be operational to accommodate the expected influx of visitors. (LDL/MMP/PIA-8, Southern Leyte)