Nalzaro: Celebrating 500 years of Christianity

Bobby Nalzaro
·3 min read

THE country is observing the quincentennial celebration of the arrival of the Spaniards in our country. But the question is: Do we need to celebrate this “historical event” when the Spaniards made the lives of the natives miserable under their oppressive regime? For three centuries, from 15th to the later part of the 18th century, the natives suffered a lot under the colonization. The Spaniards introduced Christianity in the guise of using the Bible and its doctrines and by coercing our forefathers to accept their faith, Roman Catholicism. Cebu, in particular, was the cradle of Christianity.

The history of the Philippines from 1565 to 1898, also known as the Spanish colonial period, was when the Philippines was ruled as the Captaincy General of the Philippines within the Spanish East Indies under the New Spain until Mexican Independence in 1821, which gave Madrid direct control over the area.

Forty-four years after Ferdinand Magellan landed in our lands and died in the Battle of Mactan in a Spanish expedition to circumnavigate the globe, the Spaniards successfully annexed and colonized the islands during the reign of King Philip II of Spain, whose name remained attached to the country. The Spanish colonial period ended with the Philippine revolution in 1898, which marked the beginning of the American colonial era of the Philippines.

The Spaniards abused our natives. Our forefathers were made slaves in their own native land under dark years of colonialization. They tortured and killed our people, especially those who fought against them. They raped our women. The abuses committed by the Spaniards and their friars (Spanish priests), were enumerated by our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, in his fictional books “Noli Me Tangere” and “El Filibusterismo.” But there were brave natives who secretly fought against the “conquistadores.” That is why we have known heroes.

Spain introduced Christianity in the Philippines in 1565 with the arrival of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi. While Islam was contained in the southern island, now called Mindanao. Spain conquered and converted the remainder of the island to Hispanic Christianity. The Spaniards introduced Christianity (the Roman Catholic faith) and succeeded in converting the overwhelming majority of Filipinos. At least, 83 percent of the total population belongs to the Roman Catholic faith. I, too, embrace this religion.

What if the country was not colonized by Spain? We would have been part of either China, Indonesia or Brunei or even Kingdom of Sulu. The people of Indonesia, Brunei, China and the sultanate were in the Philippines long before the Spanish invaded this island.

Spain not only brought the Catholic religion in our country, it also brought its culture, tradition and cuisine. The impact of Spanish influence on local cuisine is very much evident during religious feasts, especially during Christmas. That is why we have some favorite Spanish dishes like crispy pata, callos, pochero, paella and etc. Try to visit Casino Español, they have a lot of Spanish dishes.

Now, why should we celebrate this quincentennial when we suffered a lot under the Spanish regime? Do we celebrate our sufferings? Why 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines? Was not Christianity a mere tool for colonial rule?

For me, there are only two important events that we should celebrate during this quincentennial period. First, our victory against the colonizers in the Battle of Mactan where Magellan was killed by local hero Lapulapu. Also, the acceptance of Christianity. What can we do now with our faith? It is already within us and we have embraced it for several centuries. We took and accepted Christ as our savior.

We revolted against the Spanish rule, but continued to embrace the Christian faith even after we won the revolution. That could mean that the natives did not equate Christianity with colonialism. According to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, “let us therefore be clear that what we are celebrating is not colonization but the Christian faith that our ancestors welcome as a gift, albeit from people who were not necessarily motivated by the purest of motives.” I fully agree.