CULTURAL TREASURE. Government and church officials lead the unveiling of the Guiuan Church marker in Guiuan, Eastern Samar on Thursday (March 18, 2021). The historical marker recognizes the role of the Guiuan Church in Eastern Samar as a “National Cultural Treasure” in the first circumnavigation of the world. (Photo courtesy of St. Mary's Academy of Guiuan)

TACLOBAN CITY – Officials unveiled on Thursday the historical marker recognizing the role of the Guiuan Church in Eastern Samar as a “National Cultural Treasure” in the first circumnavigation of the world.

The activity forms part of the series of commemorative events in Philippine history relative to the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the world led by Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastian Elcano.

The Guiuan Church historical marker is among the 34 signs mounted along the route of the first circumnavigation that took place in the Philippines.

“It is our desire that this historical marker would help us become more aware of humanity’s limitless potential realized in history and humanity’s profound aspiration to go beyond himself,” Guiuan parish priest Fr. Edwin Lanuevo said during the event.

Located at the town center in Guiuan, the church was heavily damaged by Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

Restoration and reconstruction of the church were made possible through funding of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and National Museum of the Philippines (NMP).

In 2016, the NMP allocated PHP112 million to rebuild the church. It was augmented with a USD300,000 donation from the United States government, through the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.

The restoration of the 18th-century Baroque-style Marian church, famous for its extensive shell ornamentation, is very important to the history of the Roman Catholic faith as part of the celebration of 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.

Key officials of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the National Quincentennial Committee, and the Roman Catholic Church Diocese of Borongan led the unveiling ceremony.

NHCP Chairman Rene Escalante said despite the pandemic, the National Quincentennial Committee persevered to mark the 34 sites in the Visayas, Palawan, and Mindanao along the historic route of the first circumnavigation of the world.

“The year 1521 in Philippine History is just a window for us to appreciate the world of our ancestors and to be excited about what lies beyond the pre-colonial Philippines. Yet, at the same time, let us be reminded of the lessons and examples from 1521,” Escalante said.

“Nothing to be disowned but to own. Nothing to be ashamed of but to take pride in. Nothing to antagonize but to synergize. Let the quincentennial remind us all, Filipinos, that we are a triumphant and compassionate people, just like our ancestors recorded in 1521.”

Of the 34 historical markers, four are in Guiuan. Other markers are Suluan Island, Homonhon Island, and Ngolos village in Calicoan Island.

It was on March 16, 1521 when the fleet of Magellan, a Portuguese navigator under the Spanish flag, anchored off the island of Suluan, the first in the Philippines. (PNA)