Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Site of the First Mass, After 488 years Controversy Continues

A Tridentine mass was held early morning of march 31 to commemorate the 488th First Mass Celebration officiated by Father Joesello Amalia at Bood Promontory in Pinamanculan. The mass is in pure latin re-enacting the first Mass officiated by Fr. Pedro Valderrama, chaplain of the Spanish expedition team headed by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, on March 31, 1521.

In his homily, Father Amalla explained that Bood Promontory is not the exact site where the First Mass was held but rather it is the site of commemoration of the thanksgiving mass happened in Mazzua.

488 years ago Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan "rediscovered" archipelago in March 1521 and made history. Little did he know that more than 400 years later, two places will contest the site of the recorded First Mass in the Philippines, whether it was held in Limasawa Island in southern Leyte or in Mazzua or Masao in Butuan. The controversy makes a mockery of the Philippine history when Limasawa and Masao both commemorated the anniversary of the recorded First Mass in respective places.
The issue sparks when Dr. Gregorio Zaide and his daughter, Sonia, in several editions during the 1980s of their widely-disseminated history textbook, insisted that the recorded First Mass was held in Masao, Butuan and in the process, dismissed the Limasawa claim as erroneous.

The First Mass controversy continues and historian experts have been called to intervene in its hope to settle the dispute. Over the years, it came to a point when the National Historical Institute, in a decision handed out a few years back, had ruled that the recorded First Mass in the Philippines was indeed held in Limasawa Island.

However, the Butuan Cultural and Historical Foundation Incorporated would not rest the case without putting up a good fight. Mr. Greg Hontiveros, a local historian who authored two books, “Butuan in Thousand Years” and “A Fire on the Island” stressed, that it is only here in the Philippines who legislates history that makes Republic Act 2733, AN ACT TO DECLARE THE SITE IN MAGALLANES, LIMASAWA ISLAND IN THE PROVINCE OF LEYTE, WHERE THE FIRST MASS IN THE PHILIPPINES WAS HELD AS A NATIONAL SHRINE, TO PROVIDE FOR THE PRESERVATION OF HISTORICAL MONUMENTS AND LANDMARKS a mistake committed by the government.

Mr. Hontiveros added, they may have been failed in their effort to pave way in the amendment of the law, but they were victorious in convincing majority of the historians that indeed, the First Mass was held in Masao, Butuan, 488 years ago today.


  1. Butuan was NOT where the supposed “first mass” was held

    The place where an Easter mass was celebrated on March 31, 1521 was not Butuan. Or, Limasawa.

    It was in the island-port named Mazaua. Being an island, it was surrounded by sea water.

    There is an article at Wikipedia on Mazaua where all the properties of Mazaua–its location, size, kind of port, shape, the name of its king, its flora and fauna, distances from Homonhon to the port, latitude, etc. etc.–are explicitly defined. Click

    A fairly comprehensive but not exhaustive historiography of the Mazaua issue is contained in an article published in the website of the Italian nuclear scientist and Italian translator of Dr. Jose Rizal, Dr. Vasco Caini, at When the page opens scroll down to the article Mazaua.

    The notion the March 31, 1521 mass was held at Butuan comes from the garbled account by Giovanni Battista Ramusio. It is such a corrupted translation of the original that the account is not Antonio Pigafetta’s at all. In this translation, which Henry Harrisse says is a plagiarism by Ramusio of an anonymously published book that saw print in 1534 (no one has seen this edition) and republished in 1536 (which is extant), Ramusio removed “Mazaua” and replaced it with Butuan.

    The Butuan error stayed uncorrected for 266 years from 1534 or 1536 until 1800. The error was detected in a book containing the authentic Pigafetta narration of the Magellan voyage, edited by the ex-Augustinian polymath Carlo Amoretti.

    But in correcting the error, Amoretti made a colossal blunder which was only detected in 1996 by the author. Amoretti in two footnotes surmised that Mazaua (his exact names for the island was Massana and Mazzana) MAY be the “Limassava” island in the 1734 map of the Philippines by French mapmaker Jacques N. Bellin. This map was an exact copy of the most famous map ever made in the Philippines by Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde, the edition of 1734.

    Amoretti, by way of offering proof to support his assertion, states Limasawa and Mazaua are in the latitude given by Pigafett, 9 degrees and 40 minutes North. This is wrong on three points: 1) Limasawa’s latitude is 9 deg. 56 min. N; 2) There is no island at Pigafetta’s latitude; 3) There are two other readings of latitude for Mazaua, 9 degrees North by The Genoese Pilot which is supported by the Portuguese squadron leader, Antonio de Brito, who embargoed all objects found at the flagship Trinidad including a number of logbooks and other papers, and 9 deg. 20 min. North by Francisco Albo, the Greek mariner who piloted the Victoria back to Spain on Sept. 6, 1522.

    The notion Combes’ Limasawa was Magellan’s Mazaua where the “first mass” was held is a false notion. Combes nowhere says his Limasawa is the port where the fleet moored on March 28-April 3, 1521. Nowhere does Combes say there was any mass held in his Limasawa or anywhere in the Philippines for that matter on March 31, 1521. To verify this, go to the English translation of the 3-paragraph story by Combes of Magellan’s sojourn in Philippine waters. Click,M1. The original Spanish text may be accessed at;cc=philamer;q1=Limasaua;rgn=full%20text;idno=ahz9273.0001.001;didno=ahz9273.0001.001;view=image;seq=00000134

    Where then is Magellan’s port today? The answer may be found at the ff. Wikipedia articles:

    1. First mass in the Philippines –

    2. Carlo Amoretti —

    3. Gines de Mafra —

    4. Mazaua —

    5. Francisco Combes —

    6. Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas —

    7. Andres de San Martin —

    8. Ruy Lopez de Villalobos —

    No serious scholar of Magellan historiography today still thinks Limasawa is Mazaua. Only the National Historical Institute and fanatic advocates (not scholars) of Amoretti’s Limasawa hypothesis still think the southern isle is or can be Mazaua.

    Ironically, some writers from Butuan think in the same way as NHI itself. For what unexplained reason, it’s not clear.

    The only remaining problem is whether the suspect isle of Pinamanculan-Bancasi is really Mazaua. This issue is not historiographical. It is archaeological, i.e., there is need to come up with artefacts directly traceable to Magellan, Gines de Mafra, and a number of other recorded visits by Europeans in the 16th century.

    These artefacts cannot be produced by further historiographical conversation. It is only by digging that concrete evidence may be found.


  2. it was in limasawa where the first mass was held..this is according to the p.a.2733, the first mass was in Limasawa and not in Butuan

  3. i could not believe early Philippine history anymore for the numerous hoaxes and plagiarism and distortion by early historians who only wanted to make money out of their supposed historical breakthrough! No! Not even Magellan's death at Mactan island.

  4. the first mass was in masao, butuan,because if you study the degree in Pigafetta's chronicle,it coincide in masao,.so the first mass was in butuan not in limasawa.,no doubt,...


  6. Ok you stop as clairvoyant stick to the book it says 'the place is full of ricefields'.. are there wide ricefields in limasawa island? Said place is rocky and dried. Tnx' hope u learned something..