Author Topic: New book asserts Mazaua is the true site of first Holy Mass in the Philippines  (Read 10611 times)

Joe Carillo

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New history book asserts that the lost island of Mazaua
is the true site of the first Holy Mass in the Philippines

A profusely documented history book that came off the press in Manila last mid-December asserts that the true, historically factual site of the first Holy Mass in the Philippine archipelago on March 31, 1521 could only be the now-lost island of Mazaua in Butuan in the Mindanao landmass rather than the island of Limasawa in the Visayas.

The 644-page book, An Island They Called Mazaua, was written and independently published by a Butuan City-based Roman Catholic priest, Fr. Joesilo Amalla, 61. It is based on his over 46 years of research and investigation into the landmark event that started Christianity in the Philippines when the Magellanic Expedition made its providential sojourn in the archipelago almost 500 years ago.

Below, the Forum reproduces in full a feature story about the book that appeared in the online edition of The Manila Times yesterday, January 7, 2021.

A new history book published by a Catholic priest asserts that the lost island of Mazaua Island in Butuan in Mindanao was where the first Holy Mass in the Philippines was celebrated and not in the island of Limasawa in the southern tip of Leyte in the Visayas.

The assertion was made by Butuan-based Fr. Joesilo Amalla, 61, in his 644-page full-color illustrated book titled, An Island They Called Mazaua.

Fr. Amalla said he delved over 46 years of research and investigation into where the first Holy Mass took place on March 31, 1521 when the Magellanic Expedition made its providential sojourn in the Philippine archipelago.

“The truth is that the prevailing state- and church-affirmation and multiple reaffirmations of the island of Limasawa as the site of that first Holy Mass have no factual, historical and geographic basis whatsoever nor any shred of evidentiary support from cartographic studies, navigational information, and maritime history,” Fr. Amalla wrote.


The Philippines is now preparing for the 500th anniversary of that historic event this year.

His book presents evidence that attributed Limasawa as the site of that first Holy Mass was the result of what he called glaring errors, misinterpretation and misappreciation of facts by a string of history writers in the four centuries that followed the 1521 event.

Fr. Amalla explained that he first saw the evidence in Blair and Robertson’s multivolume history book Philippine Islands 1493-1898, published in 1905, when the country was under American colonial rule.

With just a tiny 19-word footnote in that book, Dr. James Alexander Robertson said that Mazaua in Butuan was in truth the site of that First Mass.

“What began simply as Dr. Robertson’s doubt about the lost island of Mazaua and his presumption that it was the existent Limasawa in the Visayas became such a firm certainty in his mind that even without any reliable basis, he declared with great authority and fanciful interpretative detail that Ferdinand Magellan’s expeditionary fleet indeed went to Limasawa when in fact the historical records show it never did.

“And Dr. Robertson had given neither proof nor cogent explanation for his exuberant assertions in favor of Limasawa, so it is indeed incredible and shocking that many reputable historians, most of the academic community, and the country’s governing bodies had accepted his dubious assertions from 1905 onwards with no question or reservation whatsoever,” the priest wrote.

He said that despite the huge body of evidence in favor of the lost island of Mazaua as the true site of that first Holy Mass, Limasawa was later officially affirmed thrice to be that site during the past 24 years by the National Historical Institute and later by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

“Three investigative panels tasked by these government bodies to verify the Limasawa Theory incredibly validated it — the third time as recent as only last March year — despite the almost total absence of evidence or demonstrable proof,” he said.

“The very text and maps in the extant, easily verifiable original journal of Antonio Pigafetta, the official chronicler of the Magellan-led expedition in 1521, conclusively affirm several times that the island Mazaua in Mindanao was where that first Mass was held. Nowhere is the name or word ‘Limasawa’ ever mentioned in all of Pigafetta’s accounts of that event. The very disturbing aspect about this is that Pigafetta’s journal record was, in fact, the very same primary source of the Blair and Robinson book and of practically all secondary sources and several other published historical works about the Magellanic expedition that were later discovered from the early 16th century to the 18th century.

“For one reason or another, whether from ignorance, lack of information, ulterior motive, self-interest, or flight of fancy, those history writers differed only in the name they decided to give the island where that first Mass was held, and they had been misled for one reason or another to choose the wrong one. This is a most unfortunate circumstance that led to so much confusion and prevarications about the Magellanic sojourn in the Philippines that still hound both the country’s history and world history even today.”

This article as it appeared online in The Manila Times:
New book asserts Mazaua Island in Butuan true site of first Holy Mass in the Philippines

Gemma Cruz Araneta's commentary on "The First Holy Mass Controversy"

The first edition of An Island They Called Mazaua is available at 15 Rex Book Retail outlets in Metro Manila and in key cities nationwide; click this link for the list of those Rex retail outlets. The Solidaridad Bookshop in Ermita, Manila, also carries the book. Orders for home or office delivery can be made through Lazada (, and single-copy and limited bulk orders for delivery to Luzon and Mindanao can also be made by sending e-mail to
« Last Edit: March 15, 2021, 07:50:49 PM by Joe Carillo »