Parishioners plant trees to mark 500 years of Christianity in mining island Homonhon

Parishioners plant trees to mark 500 years of Christianity in mining island Homonhon

Polish Ambassador Karoslaw Szczepankiewics joins the residents of Homonhon Island in planting 500 trees to celebrate the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines on March 14, 2021. PHOTO BY ALREN BERONIO

By Alren Beronio

March 16, 2021

Guiuan, Eastern Samar

A small parish in an island that is dominated by decades-old chromite mining operations led the planting of 500 native trees over the weekend to drum up care for the environment.

It was a symbolic event on March 14 on Homonhon Island off Guiuan town in Eastern Samar province as part of the celebration of the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.

Fr. Christian Ofilan of the St. John the Baptist Parish said it was to remind the faithful that they are God’s stewards of all creation.

“Through this we encourage and remind Christians to be responsible and to be good stewards of God’s creation,” Ofilan said. “Protecting the environment is part of the Christian message.”

More than 500 parishioners from the island’s eight villages joined the activity, with Polish Ambassador to the Philippines Karoslaw Szczepenkiewics.

Mining operations have been ongoing in Homonhon since the early 1990s.

The Borongan diocese has also been at the forefront in raising environmental awareness to save the island.

The island is at the center of the diocese’s jubilee celebrations because it is where Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his Spanish crew first landed 500 years ago.

Magellan’s expedition reached the archipelago on March 15, 1521, but docked in Homonhon only on March 17.

From March 17 to 28 that year, they took a respite on the island before proceeding to Southern Leyte’s Limasawa Island, where the first recorded Easter Mass on March 31, 1521 was held.

To commemorate the day, Bishop Crispin Varquez will lead a Mass at the St. John the Baptist Parish Church in the island’s Casuguran village.

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