Briones: Quincentenary

Publio Briones

IN APRIL 2021, Roman Catholics will rejoice because that date signifies 500 years of Christianity in the Philippine archipelago.

Or maybe not.

Part of me, the non-practicing Catholic part who nevertheless professes faith, is excited.

Although I haven’t been to mass in, well, quite a long, long, long time—okay, maybe not that long—and I sometimes poke fun at members of the clergy—admit it, some of them deserve the ribbing—I am quick to defend the religion when someone attacks it. Because, despite knowing only two prayers by heart, I wear the Catholic badge with pride.

I often ask myself would I feel the same if I belonged to a minority religion. Would I strut around if I were a Jehovah’s Witness, a Mormon or even a pious member of the church of God’s appointed son on Earth, Pastor Quiboloy?

Okay, I’m not really sure about the last one, but hey, how different is it from asking our ancestors to believe in a savior who was born thousands of years ago in a land they’d never seen or even heard of before.

Then again, maybe Datu Lapulapu might have, if indeed he was a Muslim—and my friend Jobers can correct me on this one if I am wrong—because adherents of Islam acknowledge Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary, as one of the great prophets along with the other great prophets like Abraham, Moses and, well, you know whom I’m talking about?

It wasn’t like Rajah Humabon, who ruled then parts of Metro Cebu because I don’t think he had enough manpower to lord it over the whole island considering he couldn’t even take Mactan right across the channel, was coerced into converting along with his wives—apparently he had more than one—and his subjects.

No. The guy saw an opportunity to finally vanquish his rival and grabbed it when he saw what the Spanish expedition brought with them. And no, I’m not talking about sexually-transmitted diseases.

The fact that after Magellan was killed in a skirmish with Lapulapu’s men—and it had to be a skirmish because a battle would entail organized armies facing each other and mad queens on board fire-breathing dragons leveling entire cities—Humabon, by then christened Carlos after King Charles I of Spain although I doubt he ever called himself by that name, tried to poison members of the expedition.

Could you blame him, though? Talk about being disappointed. Heck, the guy must have been embarrassed. Totally.

Anyway, enough of history I gleaned from Wikipedia. The fact is, despite the Mactan and Cebu setbacks, the Spaniards were able to return several decades later and claim the islands for Spain.

How gullible could the natives be?