IT’S all systems go for the 500 Years of Christianity (500 YOC) celebration in Cebu this April.
Catholic Church officials led by Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma announced they are closely coordinating with the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to ensure the safety of everyone as Cebu marks the 500th anniversary of the country’s First Baptism on April 14, 2021.
In a press conference on Tuesday, March 30, Fr. Mhar Balili, Secretary General of the 500 YoC, said everything has been set up and organizers are just waiting for the day to implement their plans.
He said aside from working closely with the IATF, they are also coordinating with the different local government units (LGU).
“We have submitted whatever decision they want us to do. All the details with regard to the pandemic are being addressed,” said Balili.
Organizers said they are not discounting the possibility that some activities in line with this year’s celebration could be canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hence, the 500 YoC has prepared contingencies in case the IATF will announce that physical presence will be prohibited and only the live streaming of activities will be encouraged, Balili said.
All the activities will be available through live streaming on the 500 YoC official Facebook page and webpage.
In a message, Palma called on the Cebuano faithful to show to other provinces that Cebu can control its Covid-19 cases through cooperation.
“These are situations that we can only pray for and cooperate in our own ways. Let’s be hopeful that our cases will be much controlled,” said Palma.
Thirteen bishops headed by Papal Nuncio Most Rev. Charles Brown will be arriving in Cebu to join the celebration.
Balili said President Rodrigo Duterte and local chief executives were also invited. Duterte has yet to respond to the Church’s invitation.
There has also been no announcement on whether April 14, the 500th anniversary of the First Baptism in the Philippines, will be declared a special non-working holiday.
The Cebu City Council passed a resolution in 2020 asking President Duterte to declare April 14, 2021 a special non-working holiday.
The 500 YoC celebration will start on April 4, with a simultaneous mass in all parishes at 4 p.m.
During mass, the parish priest and the team moderator will recite the Declaration of the Year of Jubilee Celebrations. The mass will end with the singing of the 500 YoC theme song entitled “Gifted to Give.”
On April 11, all parishes in Cebu will conduct a renewal of baptismal promises for those who will attend the Sunday mass.
A Triduum or a period of three days of prayer to celebrate the feast will be celebrated as part of the activities before April 14.
On the First day of the Triduum on April 11, 100 children will be baptized at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Cebu City, at 9:30 a.m.
On the second day on April 12, a Mass and the confirmation of 100 candidates will be held at the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City at 9 a.m.
On the third day on April 13, there will be an adult baptism of 100 candidates at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Rule in Lapu-Lapu City at 9 a.m.
In the afternoon of the Triduum, a motorcade of the image of Señor Sto. Niño will be held at 1 p.m. starting from the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño around Cebu City on April 11, around Talisay City on April 12, and around the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu on April 13.
At night, organizers prepared cultural events which can be attended by at most 100 people for the April 11 and 12 presentations and 200 guests for the April 13 event.
The cultural events will be held at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral grounds (April 11), Ayala Center Cebu (April 12), and the Liberty Shrine in Lapu-Lapu City (April 13), site of the historic 1521 Battle of Mactan.
The Liberty Shrine event will highlight 500 voices from different choirs in Cebu, organizers said.
On April 14, there will be a reenactment of the First Baptism at 2 p.m. to be held at the Magellan’s Cross at Plaza Sugbo in downtown Cebu City, to be followed by a pontifical mass at 4 p.m. with the new Papal Nuncio as celebrant.
The IATF and the Cebu City Government will close all roads within a 300-meter radius from Plaza Sugbu and strictly implement a “No Car Pass, No Entry” policy during the event.
Since the IATF allows only 50 percent of capacity for event attendance, only 700 people will be allowed in the venue. Of this number, 300 will be concelebrating priests.
The remaining 400 will be composed of lay ministers, police, ushers, technical group, media and emergency responders, among others.
Organizers said those who could not physically attend the activities may still join through live streaming of the 500 Years of Christianity-Archdiocese of Cebu official FB page or on their webpage, 500yoccebu.ph.