Philippines News Agency


Limasawa: Site of the First Mass


MANILA -- It was Easter Sunday, March 31, 1521, when the first Mass in the Philippines was celebrated by Pedro Valderama, a priest with the Magellan expedition in Limasawa, an islet at the southern tip of Leyte del Sur.

Two days earlier, on March 29, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan asked Rajah Colambu, for a "casicasi" (a phrase culled by Magellan for brotherhood relation. This was the genesis of Fil-Spanish relation).

The brotherhood relation was realized on board the Victoria, the flagship of Magellan, and sealed with artillery fired from the Spanish fleet anchored on the southern end of Limasawa, now barangay Magallanes.

When Magellan's fleet arrived, a baroto (an outrigger), approached the Spanish ships. The hospitality of the people of Limasawa was in contrast to the unfriendly treatment by the natives of South America. In Limasawa, the Spaniards met a cultured people.

Colambu showed the ritual for drinking by raising his clasped hands towards the sky then towards his guest and pointing his fist towards a guest.

The First Mass was the mega-event with artillery fired announcing the coming of Christianity in the Philippines to the world.

Magellan took Colambu and his constituents to a hilltop which they obliged unknowing that the erection of a cross was the ritualistic subjugation of the Filipinos by Spain through Capitan Fernando de Magallanes formerly Fernao de Magalhaes, Admiral of Portugal.

The people of Limasawa welcomed the foreigners with a true spirit of love and with a tangible feeling of pride and dignity. But this was dented by the suicidal self-delusion of Magellan that he and 49 soldiers were enough to subdue the enemy of Humabon -- Lapulapu who challenged Magellan's forces with 1,500 armed men with bolos and sharpened bamboo spears.

The battle of Mactan drove the Spanish soldiers back and their leader Magellan was slain. With Magellan's death, Europe was not fed the truth about the events that unfolded in Limasawa.

A law was passed by Congress on June 19, l960 (Republic Act No. 2733), declaring the site in Magallanes, Limasawa Island, Leyte, as the national shrine to commemorate the First Mass and hence "the birth of Christianity" in the Philippines in that location.

The location has been accepted by American and Filipino scholars, notably Emma H. Blair and James A. Robertson, Prof. Teodoro A. Agoncillo, and Dr. Gregorio F. Zaide.

The historical basis for locating the first Easter Mass in Limasawa, Leyte, dates back to the translation of Antonio Pigafetta's diary of Magellan's expedition.

In 1905, Robertson translated the Pigafetta manuscript for "the Philippine Islands, 1493-1898, a 55-volume collection of documents on Philippine history edited by Blair and himself. In the translation, Robertson provided several footnotes to clarify names and terms in Pigafetta's diary. One of those footnotes (no. 263) in volume 33 stated that the place called "Mazaua" in Pigafetta's diary was "now called the island of Limasawa." (PNA Newsfeatures)

By Linda B. Valencia