By Ben Serrano
A local historian who leads and sponsored the retracing of Magellan’s routes in the Philippines wanted a second look of where really is the true venue of the First Easter Mass in the country that paved the way of the spreading of Christianity not only in the country but in Asia.
Dr. Potenciano Malvar, who is also an antique collector aside from being a Chronicler who already traveled around the World told Caraga News Courier those with him in the “Retracing Magellan’s Routes” agree that there is a pressing need to review history as where really is the site of first mass, saying he has archeological and physical evidences to prove his point.
Last week, Malvar, two archaeologists, a representative priest from Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), some local historians, field researchers, representatives from the academe and local government unit embarked a four-day journey dubbed “Retracing Magellan’s Routes” before the First Easter Mass was held on March 31, 152.
The first Holy Mass also known as the First Easter Mass celebrated by Fr. Pedro Valderrama 500 years ago was tagged by the Roman Catholic Church officials and faithful as the first ever Holy Mass held in the Philippine soil.
“You know why it is important why the whole of Christianity must know where really is the first mass was really held in the Philippines because it was in that mass that paved the way of the spread of Christianity not only in our country but in Asia,” Malvar said.
“I don’t say neither my colleagues in that retracing Magellan’s routes that the declaration of Limasawa in Leyte as the official site of first mass was wrong but isn’t new evidences and new discoveries like 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?” he said.
“In fact , Fr. Marvin Mejia from CBCP agree with me and this coming May, we will be holding meeting with Dr. Rene R. Escalante, the current Chairman of the National Historical Commission in his office in T.M. Kalaw in Manila. We will be join by two archeologists Victor Paz and Anna Pineda from U.P. Paz and Pineda joined us in the retracing of Magellan’s routes,” Malvar added.
Malvar, who sponsored the retracing of Magellan’s route with Surigaonon historian Fernando Almeda, Jr., Fr. Marvin Mejia, representative from CBCP lead the retracing from March 19 to March 22, 2018 which started in Surigao City then went to Tacloban City to fetch Fr. Mejia and two archeologists who boarded passenger plane from Manila.
The group then sailed to Homonhon Island, to Limasawa and went to other islands in the Visayas, to Dinagat Island where they spent a night then to Malimono in Surigao del Norte and ended up in Magallanes, Agusan del Norte, location of the Magellan Shrine.
Malvar-led retracing of Magellan’s route team eventually went to Masao in Butuan City, the final leg of the tour.
Mazaua in Butuan City and Magallanes, Agusan del Norte where the Magellan Shrine is located are claimants of still unsolved issue, where really is site or venue of the first Easter Mass ever held.
Propelled by 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) made also 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 laughed off and argued the Limasawa proclamation saying “history can’t be legislated.”
Thus, leaving two claimants contesting Limasawa, Masao or Mazaua in Butuan City and the site of Magellan Shrine located in 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 and in it written in Spanish words “Al inmortal Magallanes el pueblo de Butuan con su parroco y Españoles en el residentes para conmemorar su arribo y celebracion de la primera misa en este sitio el dia 8 de Abril de 1521. Erigido en 1872 siendo gobernador del distrito D. Jose Maria Carvallo.” (The immortal Magellan the people of Butuan with his parish priest and Spanish residents to commemorate their arrival and celebration of the first mass on this site the day April 8 of 1521. Erected in 1872 as governor of the district D. José María Carvallo.”)
Around the Magellan Shrine are inscriptions about the Old Butuan and Magallanes‘ rich and colorful history: Historians here 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.
Caraga historians who pushed for Masao and Magallanes as site of the First Mass hoped that this controversy in the country’s history will be resolve before March 31, 2021 when the Philippines celebrates its 500th Year of Christianization or Quincentenial Anniversary.
Others who joined aside from Fr. Marvin Mejia, Dr. Malvar and historian Jun Almeda in retracing the Magellan routes were archeologists Victor Paz and Anna Pineda from U.P.; ship captains who are modern day navigators Captains Milly Jover and Samuel Bagaslao.
A total of 22 historians, archaeologists, history researchers, representatives from the religious, academe joined the Malvar-led four day “Retracing Magellan’s route in the Philippines” before the First Easter Mass was held on March 31, 1521 in Philippine soil.
It was said, Magellan entered through Surigao Strait from Homonhon Island when he first arrived in the country on March 1521, according to Pigafetta.
Retracing the routes of Magellan after his expedition team aboard ship Concepcion, Trinidad and Victoria landed in Homonhon Island in Leyte on March 16, 1521 and stayed there for 8 days after 3 months of sailing ended in Magallanes, Agusan del Norte and/or in Masao, Butuan City.
Mejia said he would present his observations to the CBCP.
Earlier interviews surmised that Fr. Mejia, the two archaeologists and the rest of the 22-man retracing Magellan’s routes journey agreed with Dr. Malvar, all saying “there is really dire need to take a second look “Where really is the first mass in the Philippines” that is scientific data-based and evidences by which Dr. Malvar said he is ready to provide.
Magellan’s Armada de Moluccas (the Indonesian name for the Spice Islands) was composed of five ships Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepción, Santiago and Victoria under Magellan’s command and left Seville, Spain August 10, 1519.
The expedition funded largely by the Spanish crown, Magellan (1480-1521) set out from Spain in 1519 with a fleet of five ships to discover a western sea route to the Spice Islands, sail to the Spice Islands from Europe and the first world circumnavigation.
En route he discovered what is now known as the Strait of Magellan and became the first European to cross the Pacific Ocean.
The fifth ship Santiago never arrived Philippine soil as it was battered by storm and sank but its crew survived.
Out of four remaining, only two ships returned back to Spain with Magellan, the head of the expedition never returned as he was killed in Philippines in Battle of Mactan, Cebu.