The recovery of domestic tourism

Published October 26, 2021, 11:11 AM

by Dr. Bernardo M. Villegas

(Part 4)

                Let us continue to examine the arguments of Dr. Malvar in support of the contention that Butuan was the site of the First Easter Sunday Mass in the Philippines.  After all his efforts and expenses from his personal finances, he should at least get a hearing from the public.  He starts with the historical reference to King Charles of Spain commissioning Ferdinand Magellan for conquest, trade and the spreading of Christianity in the Spice Islands.  On April 19, 1519, King Charles ordered Magellan to make sure that his voyage of the Armada de Molucca to the Spice Islands be kept “under guise” so as to mislead other explorers from reaching said islands.  This order of April 19, 1519 was confiscated together with other documents by Captain Brito, a Portuguese Governor in the Moluccas.  This said document is presently kept in the Lisbon Archives.  On May 8, 1519, the Casa Contratacion in one of its orders to Magellan said “when the land of Spice is reached, you will make a treaty of peace or trade with the King or Lord of that Island.”

                Pigafetta logged the Island of Masaua at 9 2/3 degrees latitude which was intended to mislead other explorers about the exact location of the true site of the Spice Islands.  Failure to obey, according to King Charles, would be punishable by death.  Albo logged the 9 2/3 degree at San Lazarus Islands earlier on March 16, 1521.  Gines de Mafra logged Masaua at 9 degrees latitude and Butuan 12 leagues to the North.  These three sailors were with Magellan in the Trinidad.   Why then did the three sailors who were all sailing in the same boat as Magellan log the latitudes differently? The answer is obvious.  They were just following the order of King Charles to conceal and keep Butuan away from the Masaua latitude.  The subsequent voyages commissioned by King Charles and later, King Philip (the Legaspi Expedition) all went to Butuan.  The true site of the Islands of Spice, Butuan, is at 9 degrees latitude, the same as that of Mazaua. 

                Pigafetta, in his narrative during the late morning of Easter Sunday, clearly indicated that the Easter celebration was at the domain of the first King, Raja Colambu of Butuan.  The full interpretation by Dr. Francis M. Navarro, a member of the Mojares Panel that supported the Limasawa hypothesis, confirmed that the Mass was celebrated at the domain of the First King.   Limasawa cannot be possibly Masawa.  Pigfafetta in his manuscript wrote the following while in Chippit, Zamboanga: “that part of the island belongs to the same island as Butuan and Calagan and it lies towards Bohol and is bounded by Mazaua” (from Robertson).   This is confirmed by Skelton who wrote: “That part of the island is one and the same land with Butuan and Calagan and lies towards Bohol and borders on Masawa.” In Pigafetta’s calculation, the distance of Mazaua to Gatigan was 25 leagues and from Gatigan to Zzubu was 15 leagues.  That fits the actual distance from Barangay Masao to Zzubu.  The route of the three ships of Magellan after leaving Masaua fits the theory that they left from Barangay Masao and not from Limasawa.    Due to siltation because of frequent severe floods and earthquakes, the 1521 Masaua island eventually fused with the mainland.  It eventually became Barangay Masao of Butuan City.

                As mentioned earlier, quoting Wikipedia, up to the nineteenth century, it had been believed that the first Mass was in Butuan, not Limisawa.  In 1581 an edict by First Bishop of Manila, Bishop Domingo de Salazar affirmed Butuan as the site of the First Easter Sunday Mass in the Philippines. Last year 2020, or 439 years later, a member of the Mojares Panel, Dr. Francis M. Navarro, interpreted the Spanish to English translation of Pigafetta’s narrative during the late morning of Easter Sunday, stating “When Magellan asked through the interpreter why there was so little to eat,” the one who replied was the first King.  He was also the same King who ordered Magellan’s ships not to depart on April 1, 1521, Monday, so that he could have his rice harvested with the assistance of Magellan’s men.  The first King as described by Pigafetta himself during the dawn of Saturday, March 29 was Rajah Colambu and his domain was Butuan.

                It is a historical fact that Magellan’s intention in coming to the “Islands of Spice” was for conquest and trade.  Archaeological artifacts prove that Butuan was a trading center centuries before Magellan came.  Butuan and Barangay Masao had artifacts unearthed.  These included the balanghai boats, most of which are still underground.  In Limasawa, all they have is their barangay house.  Limasawa has neither spice nor gold. These circumstantial evidences explain why for many centuries since Magellan travelled to the Philippines, it was the general belief that the first Mass in our country was celebrated in Butuan. The people in Mindanao should be familiar with the findings of Dr. Malvar so that they have some of the facts needed to defend their view.  Whether or not this issue is finally resolved, however, let us work for a win-win solution.  The Solomonic solution should be to mention the two possible sites for the first Mass, as in the case of Emmaus in Jerusalem.  Let pilgrims and tourists decide to either visit only one of the two rival sites or both of them.  It would be worthwhile to visit both of them since Eastern Visayas (where LImasawa is) and Mindanao (where Butuan is located) have many other attractive tourism destinations.  For those who are interested in getting a copy of the book written by Dr. Malvar, they may contact Ms. Lourdes C. Malvar at [email protected]   For comments, my email address is [email protected].