Author Topic: Getting our Philippine history right after 500 years – Part 19  (Read 9972 times)

Joe Carillo

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Getting our Philippine history right after 500 years – Part 19

How come that another false historical narrative intruded just three years after the Augustinian priest Dr. Carlo Amoretti found in 1797 the long-lost manuscript of Antonio Pigafetta confirming that Mazaua rather than “the island of Butuan” was the site of the First Holy Mass in 1521?

Amoretti had taken it upon himself to heavily revise Pigafetta’s manuscript for an Italian edition, followed right after by a French edition that he himself translated. In doing so, Amoretti somehow straightened world history—detecting and correcting the 276-year-old false narrative started by the Italian geographer Giovanni Battista Ramusio in 1536 who replaced Mazaua with Butuan as the First Mass site. However, Amoretti himself committed an even more flagrant blunder by equating Magellan’s Mazaua with the “Limassava” island invented by the Spanish Jesuit missionary Fr. Francisco Combes, S.J., in 1664.

In two footnotes in his edition of the Pigafetta manuscript, Amoretti renamed Mazaua as “Massana” but surmised on scant evidence that the island might be the “Limassava” in a Philippine map by the French cartographer Jacques N. Bellin. That map was a perfect copy of a chart of the Philippines drawn in 1734 by the Spanish Jesuit cartographer Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde, S.J.

    IMAGES CREDIT: FROM THE BOOK AN ISLAND THEY CALLED MAZAUA BY FR. JOESILO AMALLA
When the Augustinian priest Carlo Amoretti saw French hydrographer Jacques Nicholas de Bellen's 1744 "Cartes des Isles Philippines" map that had copied the famous Philippine map of Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde, S.J. showing the speculative island of "Limassava" off the island of Leyte, he guessed that "Limassava" was Pigafetta's Mazaua in two footnotes to his heavily edited translation of Pigaffeta's Magellanic voyage chronicles. This guess that was not founded on acccurate and factual evidence became the basis for later history writers to equate Limasawa as Pigafetta's Mazaua.

Amoretti supported his “Limassava” guess by asserting that its latitude was the same as  Mazaua’s that Pigafetta had recorded at 9º40 North. The exact latitude though for Limasawa was 9°56 North, while Mazaua’s 9°40 N by Pigafetta was actually at variance with what proved to be more accurate and reliable readings of two other members of Magellan’s fleet—9°20 N by the pilot Francisco Albo and 9°00 N by the Genoese pilot.   

It is evident from Amoretti’s equating Masaua with “Limassava” that he was unaware that the invented  “Dimasawa” and “Limassava” placenames were just manifestations of the ignorance of the Jesuit missionary priests Francisco Combes and Francisco Colin in their respective theorizing in the early 1600s about the Mazaua episode. (In particular, their information at the time was based on Ramusio’s garbled narrative that the Magellanic fleet had anchored at Butuan instead of Mazaua for the First Mass.)

As it turned out, those two island-placenames they invented were in all likelihood Pigafetta’s “Gatighan.” Worse, Amoretti’s assertion that Mazaua and Limasawa were one and the same had no basis at all because only the former had a real port for anchorage; the latter had none at all for vessels as large as the Magellanic ships.

Fr. Joesilo Amalla, author of An Island They Called Mazaua that was published in the Philippines only last December, wrote of the impact of Amoretti doubts on Mazaua’s legitimacy as the First Mass site: “For this reason, in his Mappa delle Filipine of 1800, Amoretti struck off Messana or Mazaua in favor of Limassava in his depiction of Mindanao while retaining the place-names Butuan, Calagan, and Chipit on the map. This created such a big—nay, a monumental mess—about the true site of the first Mass that has continued to hound both Philippine history and world history for over two centuries until this day.”

Amoretti’s wrongheaded assertion of the Limassava-Mazaua equivalence was surprisingly accepted by notable world history and navigation writers who came after him, among them Lord Stanley of Alderley, Jose T. Medina, F.H.H. Guillemard, Andrea da Mosto, Charles McKew Parr, and of greatest influence to Philippine history, James Alexander Robertson and Emma Helen Blair.

Blair and Robertson were scholarly and scrupulous in their 55-volume The Philippine  Islands 1493-1898 that they published in 1905. But reprising what Amoretti did by appending two footnotes to his edition of the Pigafetta manuscript that equated Masaua with “Limassava,” they themselves gave imprimatur to Limasawa against Mazaua, likewise without evidence to support it, as the First Mass site in this tiny 19-word footnote in Volume 33 of their book:

“‘MS. 5,650, Mazaua;’ in Eden, ‘Messana;’ in Mosto, ‘Mazana,’ while in the chart it appears as ‘Mazzana;’ Transylvavus, ‘Massana;’ and Albo ‘Mazava.’ It is now called the island of Limasawa, and has an area of about ten and one-half square miles.”

In Volume 33 of their book The Philippine Islands 1493-1898, Dr. James Alexander Robertson and Emma Helen Blair, using a mere foottnote with hardly any supporting evidence, overrruled the facts of Philippine history and long-held church tradition and gave imprimatur to Limassaua over Mazaua as the site of the First Mass in the Philippine archipelago.


(Next: Getting our Philippine history right after 500 years – Part 20)    August 12, 2021         

This essay, 2,057th of the series, appeared in the column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in the Campus Press section of the August 5, 2021 Internet edition of The Manila Times,© 2021 by the Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved. 

Read this article online in The Manila Times:
“Getting our Philippine history right after 500 years - 19”

To listen to the audio version of this article, click the encircled double triangle logo in its online posting in The Manila Times.
« Last Edit: August 09, 2021, 03:02:46 PM by Joe Carillo »