Many Filipinos were educated that Philippine history began with the now politically incorrect phrase “discovery of the Philippines” by Ferdinand Magellan in March 1521. For centuries, it created an impression that prior to Magellan’s arrival, our ancestors were nothing but savage, uncivilized peoples. While the world is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the realization of Magellan’s feat as an achievement of humankind (i.e., circumnavigating the world for the first time), the Filipinos are trying their best to find their place in the milestone that is respectful of their own history.
Thus, the Philippine government created the National Quincentennial Committee (NQC) to communicate the country’s commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Philippine part in the first circumnavigation of the world (1521-2021). The milestone is seen by the Philippine Government as an opportunity to dispel the myths and misconceptions about the Filipinos through history; and as a platform to let the world know that the Filipino people are one with the world in fostering unity and magnanimity.
The Committee advocates a more Filipino-centric point of view of the first circumnavigation of the world, by underscoring the magnanimity, compassion, and humanity of our ancestors in helping the impoverished and sickly crew of the Magellan-Elcano expedition that traversed, for almost four months, the deadly Pacific—characteristics of us as a people that is recurrent in Philippine history, such as in the Siege of Baler in 1899, in the Open Door policy of President Manuel L. Quezon to the Jews in 1939, and in sheltering of President Elpidio Quirino to the homeless White Russians in 1949, to name a few.
Along with the said milestone is the 500 years of the victory of Lapulapu and his warriors in the Battle of Mactan, an event that served as among the inspirations for our heroes and martyrs during the Philippine Revolution of 1896 and of the subsequent events that led to the formation of the Filipino nation, the first democracy in Asia.
In line with this, the NQC is spearheading the Philippine International Quincentennial Conference on the Victory at Mactan, the Introduction of Christianity in the Philippines, and the Philippine Part of the First Circumnavigation of the World with the theme “Situating the Filipino and the Philippines in 1521” form 20 October-17 December 2021.
Papers may focus on the following:
- Unity. Highlighting the involvement of our country in maintaining international comity. The inspiration behind this is the international nature of the Magellan-Elcano expedition, which first circumnavigated the world, and its achievement of connecting various cultures, as well as its message of pushing human boundaries forward. This theme encompasses science, natural heritage, maritime concepts, diplomacy, military, peace, and commerce.
- Magnanimity. Highlighting our people’s innate character of being compassionate to other nations, citing as a prime example the episode when our ancestors saved the hungry and sickly crew of the Magellan-Elcano expedition when the latter landed on the shores of Homonhon, Guiuan, Eastern Samar on 17 March 1521. This theme celebrates Filipinos’ contribution to the world, e.g., food security, cultural heritage protection, overseas Filipino workers helping in the world’s development.
- Freedom. Highlighting the significance of freedom and independence to control our own destiny and history. The inspiration behind this is the defiance of Lapulapu against foreign influence, which led to the Battle of Mactan on 27 April 1521. The said event was also among the driving forces that animated the Philippine Revolution, which gave birth to Asia’s first democracy in 1899. This theme encompasses nation-building activities.
- Identity. Highlighting our cognizance and pride for the civilization of our ancestors prior to the arrival of the Spaniards in 1521. This theme aims to counteract prejudiced perspectives and unfair portrayals of our ancestors as exotics, and wild savages, through the use of pre-Hispanic sources as well as the principal vestiges of our ancestors’ lifestyle and world view, which we have inherited and embedded in our religious beliefs, customs, folklore, expressions, languages, values, art forms, and other cultural outlooks. This theme encompasses the efforts, initiatives, and activities celebrating our intangible heritage, tourism, and dealings with historical and archival research, folkloric/anthropological/ethnographic documentation, and archeological studies.