Talk:First Mass in the Philippines

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Limasawa=Mazaua, a crazy idea that has imprisoned Philippine geographical thinking

For over two centuries now the isle named Limasawa has bedeviled the thinking of Jesuit historians and scholars and government historiographers who see it as the perfect, exact, and total equal of Mazaua, anchorage from March-April 1521 of the fleet under the Portuguese captain-general Fernão de Magalhães a.k.a. Hernando Magallanes, Ferdinand Magellan, and Fernam de Magalhains.

To be more precise, they see the southern Leyte island not so much as a port or an anchorage as "the site of the first mass." How this absolutely crazy idea has captured otherwise sane if not indeed powerful minds is something that should make us all pause and ponder at how so irrational an idea could capture sound minds for over 200 years.

The Limasawa story was written by a religious writer who knew nothing of Mazaua, who in fact disregarded every authentic information on Magellan's port.

And he certainly wrote nothing about a mass being held anywhere in the Philippines on March 31, 1521.

It was a Jesuit priest, Fr. Francisco Combés , S.J., who "baptized" the isle "Limasaua" in 1667, a neologism that you can't find in any primary or secondary account of Magellan's voyage. You will not find the word in the works of eyewitnesses Antonio Pigafetta, Ginés de Mafra, Francisco Albo, The Genoese Pilot (referred to by James Alexander Robertson as "The Roteiro"), Martín Méndez, Martinho de Aiamonte, The Anonymous Portuguese, The Leiden Narrative, and Sebastian Elcano. It's not in the narrations of Maximilianus Transylvanus, Peter Martyr, Antonio de Brito, Gaspar Corrêa, João de Barros, Fernão Lopes de Castanheda, Antonio Galvão, Gonçalo Fernández de Oviedo y Váldes, Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas.

The word is a pure invention.

Combés never read any of the above except Antonio de Herrera who is in fact the source of the word "masaua" in the Jesuit's neologism. And his use of the prefix "Li" was purely whimsical; it has no provenience in any associated material on Magellan's sojourn in Philippine waters. One will go mad looking for a possible link to a Philippine language or any of the languages spoken by the multi-national composition of the Armada de Molucca, Italian, Spanish, French, Greek, Portuguese, German, etc.

The word "Limasaua" is a work of fantasy. The story itself would qualify as a factualized fiction that has little resemblance with fact and truth.

But first, let's hear it as Combés wrote it. His original three-paragraph text in Spanish can be accessed at http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=philamer;cc=philamer;q1=Limasaua;rgn=full%20text;idno=ahz9273.0001.001;didno=ahz9273.0001.001;view=image;seq=134. It was translated into English by one of the foremost advocates of the Limasawa=site of the first mass notion, Fr. Miguel A. Bernad, S.J. This page has been digitized and published at Google books at http://books.google.com/books?id=NbG7kHtBma8C&pg=PA1&dq=First+mass+in+Limasawa&ei=6w27SZi7IoLKlQS8neDVAg#PPA4,M1. I use Bernad's work to preclude suspicion any anti-Limasawa bias has entered the processs of translation: “The first time that the royal standards of the Faith were seen to fly in this island [of Mindanao] was when the Archipelago was first discovered by the Admiral Alonso de Magallanes. He followed a new and difficult route [across the Pacific] , entering by the Strait of Siargao, formed by that island and that of Leyte, and landing at the island of Limasaua which is at the entrance of that Strait. Amazed by the novelty and strangeness of the [Spanish] nation and the ships, the barbarians of that island welcomed them and gave them good refreshments. “While at Limasaua, enjoying rest and good treatment, they heard of the River of Butuan, whose chieftain was more powerful. His reputation attracted our men thither to see for themselves or be disillusioned, their curiosity sharpened by the fact that the place was nearby. The barbarian [chief] lived up to our men’s expectations, providing them with the food they needed….Magellan contented himself with having them do reverence to the cross which is erected upon a hillock as a sign to future generations of their alliance….The solemnity with which the cross was erected and the deep piety shown by the Spaniards, and by the natives following the example of the Spaniards, engendered great respect for the cross. “Not finding in Butuan the facilities required by the ships, they returned to Limasaua to seek further advice in planning their future route. The Prince of Limasaua told them of the three most powerful nations among the Pintados [Visayans], namely those of Caraga, Samar, and Zebu. The nearness of Zebu, the facilities of its port, and the more developed social structure (being more monarchial) aroused everyone’s desire to go thither. Thus, guided by the chief of Limasaua, passing between Bool and Leyte and close to the Camotes Islands, they entered the harbor of Cebu by the Mandawe entrance on the 7th of April 1521, having departed from Limasaua on the first day of that month.”


There are a number of factual errors here that should be obvious to students of Magellan historiography. This is the first and only time Magallanes' has been called "Alonso." The fleet did not enter through Siargao but through Samar. Its first anchorage was not "Limasaua"; on the night of the 15th of March, the fleet dropped anchor at Suluan Island (this testimony from Francisco Albo), a little known fact not found in the account of Antonio Pigafetta whose first port was Homonhon. All these hint at an over-exercised imagination that is able to invent "facts" beyond what his sources say.

The "barbarians" who "welcomed them and gave them good refreshments" were not the people of Limasaua or Homonhon but were the Suluans who, according to David P. Barrows in A History of the Philippines, were like the people of Sulu. (See http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=philamer;cc=philamer;q1=Islas%20de%20las%20Velas;rgn=full%20text;idno=AHZ9239.0001.001;didno=AHZ9239.0001.001;view=image;seq=00000082)

Combés writes Magellan and his men went to Butuan. There is no eyewitness or secondhand account or whatever account that refers to such a visit. This egregious error--that has been the bane of Mazaua historiographers since the 16th century--is traceable to Combés's main source, Giovanni Battista Ramusio, Renaissance travel writer from Venice whose hopelessly garbled Italian retranslation of Antonio Pigafetta's narration replaced the island-port of Mazaua with a non-island, Butuan. Here at Butuan, Combés wrote, the fleet stayed long enough to have planted a cross atop a mountain. (The English translation of Ramusio by Samuel Purchas on the Butuan anchorage may be accessed at http://international.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=rbdk&fileName=d0401//rbdkd0401.db&recNum=271&itemLink=r%3Fintldl%2Frbdkbib%3A%40field(NUMBER%2B%40od1(rbdk%2Bd0401))&linkText=0. The planting of the cross in Ramusio as translated by Purchas is at http://international.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=rbdk&fileName=d0401//rbdkd0401.db&recNum=272&itemLink=r%3Fintldl%2Frbdkbib%3A%40field(NUMBER%2B%40od1(rbdk%2Bd0401))&linkText=0)

From Butuan they left for Cebu after a brief stopover at Limasaua, so Combés continues his fantasy tale. In the true account by Pigafetta and other authentic sources, from Mazaua the Armada left for Cebu making a fleeting stop at Gatighan. Thus if one were to follow the track of the fleet, this stopover, Limasaua, could very well be Gatighan. (See Wikipedia article on this isle at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatighan)

Reread Combés's story above. Nowhere is there mention of an Easter mass held anywhere in his fantasy island of Limasaua or in the Ramusio never-never land of Butuan.

Yet historians like Bernad, John N. Schumacher, Peter Schreurs, Jose S. Arcilla, and such stalwart government historians like Ambeth R. Ocampo, Samuel K. Tan, Augusto de Viana, Ma. Luisa Camagay, and too many others to mention here...they all have seen and are able to write volumes on an Easter mass having been celebrated at Combés's Limasaua.

For over half a century, government historiographers of the National Historical Institute, have been declaring as "ultimate truth" that such a mass did occur at Limasaua.

No one among them have invoked "Faith" as the basis of their historiography...faith as defined in the Bible as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen..." As far as I can tell, they all approach the issue of the Mazaua episode--or as they like to call it, "the site of the first mass"--as an issue amenable to social science investigation rather than as an article of religious belief. No one among the religious writers have invoked any extraterrrestial or heavenly powers of "infallibility."

Maybe I'm an agnostic because unlike these true believers I am unable to see a non-existent mass at Limasaua.

It may be appropriate to invoke the words of Alfredo Pinheiro Marques when he defined what history is:

"History is not based on imagination. It is made with sources. History is based on evidence, not on opinions." --Vicente Calibo de Jesus 11:50, 2 April 2010 (EDT)

Have you even read the Limasawa story?

Virtually all who write about the Limasawa "first mass" have not read the three paragraphs of Fr. Francisco Combes, S.J., which contains the Limasawa story. I implore those who write on this issue to read the three paragraphs, surely not a difficult task. You will not find the word "Missa" (mass) in the story. The story does not say Limasawa is the port of March 28-April 4, 1521, the week when the Easter Sunday mass occurred. Combes, who had not read a single primary source of the Magellan voyage, in fact adopted a false history of the incident, the one by Giovanni Battista Ramusio who wrote Butuan was the port. At Picasa you will read a chronological study of how the Limasawa error came about. Go to https://picasaweb.google.com/103135314023445858830/AmbethOcampoSLimasawaHoaxOhWhatATangledWebWeWeaveWhenFirstWePractiseToDeceive.