Not In Limasawa: The Search to Find the Site of the First Mass in the Philippines

SURIGAO City – A local historian who is an advocate of Butuan City as the site of the First Easter Mass in the Philippines 497 years ago has offered a P2-M cash reward to anyone who can pinpoint that Limasawa Island was mentioned by Magellan’s chronicler, Antonio Pigaffeta.

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During the forum on the First Easter Mass held at St. Paul University Surigao City, Butuanon historian Vicente De Jesus told the more than 200 forum participants, “If anyone of you can pinpoint directly from Pigafetta’s account and all other accounts including that of Magellan’s navigator, Francisco Albo’s account, that Limasawa Island was the site of the first Easter Mass, I will give P2-M cash reward no questions asked.

Professor Vic De Jesus and Dr. Leslie Bauzon of the UP Archeology Studies

De Jesus claimed that nowhere in the logbooks of Albo and Pigafetta was the word “Limasawa” mentioned about First Easter Mass in the Philippines on March 31, 1521.

“Magellan, the leader of the Spanish-sponsored expedition then ordered a cross, the universal symbol of Christianity, to be made and to be erected on top of the tallest Mazaua Hill,” Sister Mallillin said.

Both eyewitnesses of the first Easter Mass, Albo is the pilot of Magellan’s expedition while Antonio Pigafetta is the chronicler.

De Jesus, spoke on “The Search for and the Discovery of Mazaua, Magellan’s Island Port” while another Butuanon, Dr. Potenciano Malvar, discussed the topic, “ 1521 Butuan: The Site of the First Easter Mass”.

On the account of Gines de Mafra, a Portuguese a crew member of the Magellan Expedition in 1519, claimed that the Mazaua mentioned by Pigafetta and Albo was Butuan, then composed of an area of 3,930 hectares.

De Jesus, however, admitted that based on the De Mafra Account there was no specific location as to where in Mazaua (now part of present Butuan City) where the venue of the First Easter Mass actually did happen, he told the forum participants.

Sister Mallillin, president of St. Paul University Surigao City, UP professor Dr. Bauzon, Dr. Jocel Dagani, and Sister Concepcion Heras

The Mazaua which is the real site of the First Mass is now in three present barangays of Butuan City, Pinamangculan, Bancasi and Libertad, where ancient Balanghai Boats and artifacts were unearthed.

The recently concluded forum was participated by goers who visited the LIMASAWA Shrine in Southern Leyte, the traditionally-held first mass site; Magellan’s Shrine in Magallanes, Agusan del Norte, and the MAZAUA described by Pigafetta, Albo and De Mafra in Buod Promontory, Pinamagculan which was declared as a “commemorative site” of Butuan City’s first mass site.

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De Jesus claimed that the Buod Promontory was designated by Fr. Joesilo Amalia, former Diocese of Butuan Museum Curator, as the site of First Easter Mass. This was based on the description of three eyewitnesses that Mazaua was not the exact location of the First Easter Mass.

“That’s why Buod Promontory was only a commemorative site,” Fr. Joesilo Amalia told De Jesus.

“[And] That’s why I proposed to Butuan City government to commission a team of geomorphologist, geologists, and archeologists to look for the island at 9 degrees north, maybe there we can now find the exact location of the real site where the first Easter Mass in Philippine soil was held 497 years ago but definitely not in Limasawa,” concludes De Jesus.

Delivering her welcome speech, Sister Marie Rosanne Mallillin, SPC, president of St. Paul University, Surigao City and Chancellor of St. Paul University System said that the theme of the forum, “Flat World Notion Versus Open Mind: A Symposium on the Birth of Christianity in the Philippines”, aptly describes the forum’s goal to seek the original site of the first mass”.

“I welcome this challenge of being chosen as the venue [for this forum]. I felt this is a responsibility of a Catholic University like us to be a venue in the continuing search to correct history based on facts backed up by archeological evidence of where really is the real venue of the first mass in Philippine soil that happened some 500 years ago, to finally correct historical facts if there is a need … What is important is that [the findings] have been thoroughly studied, research and discussed,”  Sister Mallillin concluded.

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