by Miguel A. Bernad, S.J
Bernad narrated the scenario during the first encounter between Ferdinand Magellan and the people of Cebu in 1521 led by Rajah Humabon. He noted some relevant points relative to the conversion of the natives to Christianity led by Magellan.
The author raised the issue on how at that time, the people of Cebu really absorbed their new religion considering that Magellan was only with them for a week? Did they really understand the essence of the liturgical rites done on them by the group of Magellan?
Bernad was correct in refocusing the attention of his readers on the need to look at the issue of baptism as a possibility that it could be a mere act of accomodation on the part of the natives, out of hospitality to their foreign guests.
Bernad asked:"Was it not perhaps a pathetic case of misunderstanding? Were not the Spaniards and the natives operating on different wave-lengths? The Spaniards understood the baptismal ceremony to be a real sacrament of the faith, admitting new Christians into the church. How did the Rajah of Cebu and his subject understand it? Can we dismiss the possibility that the Cebuanos understood this ceremony as merely the Spanish counterpart of the blood-compact?"
However in the concluding part of his story, Bernad admitted that although Magellan might not have instilled the real essence of Christianity in the hearts of the natives and Rajah Humabon during that time, he spoke positively on the status of Christianity in the present. Even without him speaking about it, it is undeniable that Christianity is a well practiced religion not only in Cebu but universally.
What I consider as a plus point for Bernad was his sharp analysis on the initial encounter between the natives and their invader. He offered another angle to the story by not focusing on the event of the baptism per se but on the factors that were overlooked by many historians.
In essence, Bernad was keen on guiding the thoughts of his readers to ponder deeply on the surrounding events of the baptism beyond the merrymaking and new developed friendship between the Cebuanos and Magellan.
I got this hidden message between his lines when he enumerated the existing practices of the natives then on the issue of sexual promiscuity,animist cult, and slavery. Bernad summarized his point in one question when he wrote: How was Christianity to deal with that?
A good write for Bernad. Brilliant and I highly recommend it for all readers out there who are interested to read the other angle of the first encounter between Magellan and the natives of Cebu.
Bernad is a well-known author and literary critic. His M.A and Ph.D are from Yale University.
(Photo: Ferdinand Magellan)
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