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“First Easter Mass” in the Philippines held in Limasawa not Butuan- NHCP |READ: Full NHCP Report

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The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), in its Resolution No. 2 s. 2020, has reaffirmed the recommendation of the Mojares Panel that the 1521 Easter Sunday Mass in the Philippines took place in Limasawa, Southern Leyte.

The six-man panel, headed by National Artists for Literature Dr. Resil Mojares, reassessed the studies and literatures on the historical dispute, gathered the extant copies of the Pigafetta’s chronicle and other accounts abroad, surveyed the presumed site of the event in Butuan and Limasawa, and consulted experts in geology and cartography.

History Departments of the University of the Philippines, Ateneo De Manila University, De La Salle University and University of Santo Tomas together with various historical professional organizations such as the Philippine Historical Association (PHA), Philippine National Historical Society (PNHS), and Asosasyon  ng mga Dalubhasa, may Hilig at Interes sa Kasaysayan (ADHIKA) ng Pilipinas reviewed and concurred with the findings of the Mojares panel.

The issue of the location of the first Easter Mass in the Philippines has been subject of historical dispute for decades now. Proponents of Butuan and Limasawa have engaged in bitter fights over the controversy. They issued extensive reports and position papers with evidence to support their own claims.

Limasawa Island, Southern Leyte

Pro-Limasawa proponents welcomed the NHCP’s ruling. Monsignor Oscar Cadayona, in an interview with Sunstar Philippines stated “We are so happy that our proofs- of the veracity of our claims that our Limasawa is really the site- were not dismantled by those who supported other sites.”

“The decision of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) provides sweet vindication for my nearly 20-year old research and advocacy that Mazau= Limasawa and that the 1521 Easter Sunday Mass was held in the vicinity of the present Bgy. Triana in western Limasawa, Southern Leyte, and not in Butuan in Mindanao” said by 63-year old UP Leyte Professor Dr. Rolando Borrinaga in an interview with Sunstar Philippines.

The Mojares panel was convened after the NHCP, in 2018, received a number of requests from various institutions including the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to reexamine the earlier decisions of the National Historical Institute (NHI), the precursor of NHCP, based on two panel experts, the Gancayco (1995) and Legarda (2008), which both ruled that the Limasawa Island in Leyte was the site of 31 March 1521 Easter Sunday Mass.

“The panel unanimously agreed that the evidences and arguments presented by the pro-Butuan advocates are not sufficient and convincing enough to warrant the repeal or reversal of the ruling on the case by the NHI. Hence, the panel recommended that Limasawa Island, Southern Leyte, be sustained as the site of the 1521 Easter Sunday Mass.” said in the NCHP report.  

However, it looks like this controversy is far from over as some pro-Butuan proponents expressed dismay over the decision of the NHCP.

Netizen and pro-Butuan advocate, Vicente Calibo de Jesus, in a Facebook post, criticized the Mojares Panel stating that its main evidence- the Franciso Combe account on Limasawa- did not even include “the word mass” in its “faux history”.  “There is nothing about the island- geologically, linguistically, historically, navigationally etc.- the coincides with Mazau, the true site of the March 31, of 1521” he added.

READ the full report from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP):

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