On Sunday, March 14, the St. John the Baptist Parish on Homonhon Island led the planting of 500 trees to mark the quincentenary of Christianity in the Philippines. The event was considered symbolic as Homonhon has long been dominated by mining activities.
“Through this, we encourage and remind Christians to be responsible and to be good stewards of God’s creation,” said Fr. Christian Ofilan, parish priest. (Read: CBCP Launches Nationwide Program for the Care of Environment)
He added that the care for the environment has always been a religious affair, and that the tree planting activity is the parish’s way of reminding the faithful of their duties as God’s stewards of all creation. “Protecting the environment is part of the Christian message,” Fr. Ofilan said.
More than 500 parishioners from Homonhon island’s eight villages joined the tree-planting activity. Polish Ambassador to the Philippines, Karoslaw Szczepenkiewics, also took part in the event.
The island of Homonhon near Guiuan town, Eastern Samar has been at the center of the jubilee celebrations because it is where Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his Spanish crew first landed 500 years ago. (Read: The 500-Year History of Catholicism in the Philippines)
True enough, Magellan’s expedition reached the Philippine archipelago on March 15, 1521. But it was only two days after, on March 17, when he and his crew docked in Homonhon island.
They stayed on the island for nine days before proceeding to the Limasawa Island in Southern Leyte, where the country’s first Easter Mass was held on March 31, 1521. (Read: NHCP Confirms First Easter Sunday Mass Held in Limasawa Island)
Since the 1990s, the Homonhon island has been a hotspot for legal (and illegal) mining operations. It is a fact that has caught the attention of different environmental and religious groups from across the country.
At the forefront of raising awareness to save the island and its natural resource is the Borongan diocese, to which the St. John the Baptist Parish is currently under.
For more information about the year-long celebrations for 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines, visit 500yoc.com.