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Sinugduan Fest recalls great historic event in Limasawa Island
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Louie Guarin
Date: 2002-05-01
This year marks the 481st anniversary of the first Holy Mass in Limasawa Island. The historic and religious event occurred on March 31, 1521. The Eucharistic Mass in the Philippines, the very first one ever held, was led by Fr. Pedro de Valderama. The Spanish priest was one of the crew of the fleet headed by Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain.

Limasawa Island is one of the scenic places of Southern Leyte province situated on the southern tip of Sogod Bay. It is surrounded by Panoan Island on the eastern part and Limasawa Island on the western part, and is strategically located near the Surigao Strait on the northeastern fringes of the Mindanao Sea. The tadpole-shaped island is approximately six kilometers long. Its land area is about 12 In 1996, Limasawa’s population was roughly 6,000. Today it has doubled.

History states that the name Limasawa originated from “Limasawa,” the dialect for “five wives.” Rajah Kolambu was the chieftain of Limasawa that time. He promised to pray before the cross erected at the peak of the highest mountain.

The first Christian Mass in the Philippines was accented with a display of religious ceremony, marches, a mock fencing tournament and gun salute. Today, however, to commemorate the memorable event, a cultural presentation and anniversary programs are held. It is called “Sinugduan” which means “beginning.” It is held on the same month and day the Spanish conquistadores landed on Philippine shores. By coincidence, it was Easter Sunday.

On the eve of the Sinugduan Festival, Limasawa townsfolk are busy preparing for the big event the next day. There is a sports fest called “Bancaton” sponsored annually by the Marsoon Industrial Corp. This unique boat race draws crowds from nearby islands like Panaoan, Surigao and Cebu provinces.

The celebration starts with a concelebrated Mass in the morning officiated by the bishop of Maasin, the capital town of Limasawa. Later, townsfolk dress themselves as conquistadores and march along the area of festivities. The highlight of the parade is a colorful pageantry in the afternoon which features five “tribes.” One from Limasawa and the other four from the towns of Padre Burgos, Sogod, Macrohon and Malitbog. Each tribe re-enacts a live tableau of the first Christian Mass. They are judged according to historical relevance, colorful costumes and quality of presentation.

What transpired a hundred years ago is re-enacted in the present. Expect an exaggeration of sort both from the costumes used and drama delivery. But what is important are the details of the story being revealed: the conquest of Magellan, his offer of a Christian life with the first Mass, and the acceptance of the Holy Cross by Rajah Kolambu. Not to be missed is the blood compact called “Casi-casi’’ between the two leaders. It signifies friendship sealed by blood.

The two-hour dramatic spectacle is a much-awaited event in Limasawa. Food and drinks are served and every tribe gives a dance number to the Great Bathala and Indonala, the god of harvest. It shows that the Filipino natives had a distinct culture and religious practice long before the conquistadores came over.

Sinugduan Festival mesmerized both local and foreign tourists.

[ Limasawa Island Wiki | Malitbog Wiki | Sagod Bay Wiki ]

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