By Ben Serrano
To once and for all settle the issue of where really is the first Easter Mass held in Philippine soil 500 years ago that paved the way for the spread of Christianity, a summit or forum is being plan to be held in Surigao City to be spearheaded by St. Paul University, the Butuan-Kalagan Cultural Historical Foundation, the March 1521 Proponents, Surigaonon Heritage Center and other private and public sponsors.
Dr. Potenciano Malvar, president of the Butuan-Kalagan Cultural Historical Foundation and chairman of the March 1521 Proponents ,which is composed of local historians now helping the preparation of the 500 years of celebration of Christianity, particularly Roman Catholicism in the Philippines proposed the idea of a summit during the International Baybayin Congress held in Surigao City.
Historians, archeologists, academicians, religious leaders, students, researchers present at the Baybayin Congress agreed with the proposal of a summit and will help preparation for the proposed activity tentatively scheduled on June this year.
Dr. Aurora Roxas Lim, a U.P. professor and archeologist who was resource speaker on the topic “ The Significance of the Archeological Finds in Butuan, Agusan del Norte” and Dr. Bonifacio F. Comandante Jr. who spoke on “The Butuan and Javi Script” at the Baybayin Congress agreed and will present new archeological findings of the first mass.
Historian Fernando Almeda, Jr., president of the Surigaonon Heritage Center (SHC) and author of the Book “Surigao Through the Years” and Dr. Irenetta Montinola, SHC executive director vowed to help in the conduct of the Forum/Summit and preparation for the first ever summit discussing first Holy Mass held in Philippine soil 500 years ago.
In an interview, Sister Marie Rosanne Mallillin, SPC, Chancellor of St. Paul University System and President of St. Paul University of Surigao City told Caraga News Courier, “ determining where really is the Philippine first holy mass was held will bring certainty of the real venue of the first Easter mass and will put everything to rest on this issue.”
Expected to attend the summit are representatives, defenders, proponents from Limasawa, Leyte where a Shrine was built after Republic Act 2733 also known as An Act Declaring a Site in Magallanes, Limasawa Island in the Province of Leyte, where the First Mass in the Philippines was held as a National Shrine, the National Historical Institute (NHI) officially designated Island of Limasawa (a Visayan term means “five wives”) in Leyte as site of First Mass in the Philippines.
But local historians in Mindanao and in Caraga region argued the Limasawa proclamation saying “history can’t be legislated.”
Two claimants contesting Limasawa, Leyte are Masao or Mazaua in Butuan City and the site of Magellan Shrine located, Magallanes, Agusan del Norte which was erected in 1872 by then Spanish District Governor D. José María Carvallo.
Magallanes Shrine was one of the oldest Spanish Shrine erected in 1872. Around it are inscriptions about the Old Butuan and Magallanes’ rich and colorful history.
Historians claimed old Butuan at that time was composed of Magallanes up to Cabadbaran now a city and other towns like Tubay, Jabonga, Santiago formerly sitios and barangays of Butuan, which is now part of Agusan del Norte and even up to Davao Oriental and Surigao became once part of huge Distrito of Butuan in the olden times.
“We don’t assumed that the declaration of Limasawa in Leyte as the official site of first mass was wrong but isn’t it new evidences discovered like first and foremost the Chronicle of Magellan’s Voyage to the Philippines written by Magellan’s official chronicler Antonio Pigapetta who was one of the eyewitnesses of the first mass, which he mentioned Butuan or Mazaua not Limasawa was the real site of the first mass,” Malvar said
“The gold as big as nuggets, opening up of new trades, ports, the discoveries of ancient Balanghai boats in Butuan used for trading at that time valuable inputs why there is a need to have second look of where really is the genuine site of the first mass?”
“Wouldn’t it a summit or forum appropriate to discuss the first mass where archeological, scientific evidences can be presented to once and for all so that there is certainty, where really is the first venue of the first holy mass ever held in Philippine soil on March 31, 1521,” Malvar told the participants of the Baybayin Congress by which they all agreed to hold a summit.
Baybáyin was the script that Tagalog speakers used for writing before the Spaniards arrived. It is a system of writing with borrowings from Sanskrit.