Author Topic: Getting our Philippine history right after 500 years – Part 21 (Conclusion)  (Read 10275 times)

Joe Carillo

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Getting our Philippine history right after 500 years – Part 21 (Conclusion)

By what peculiar historical and religious alchemy was Mazaua transformed into Limasawa as the First Mass site?


These facts can be gleaned from this weekly column’s 21-part chronological review from March 25 to August 19, 2021 of Mazaua’s peculiar evolution in 500 years into Limasawa as the First Mass site:
Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet anchored in Mazaua on March 28, 1521. Having received a warm welcome from Mazaua’s chieftain and its natives, the crew stayed in the island for seven days. On March 31, Easter Sunday, Magellan had Holy Mass officiated in Mazaua—the first ever in the Philippine archipelago.

Voyage chronicler Antonio Pigafetta recorded that First Mass in remarkably vivid detail in his day-to-day chronica or travel diary. His running account of Magellan’s sojourn in the archipelago formed part of his chronicles of the three-year voyage of the Portuguese explorer's expedition for the Spanish crown that circumnavigated the globe for the first time in world history.

When the fleet sailed off from Mazaua and arrived in Cebu on April 7, 1521, Magellan’s sudden excessive striving to both subjugate and Christianize the Cebu natives infuriated the followers of the chieftain Lapulapu. In retaliation they lured Magellan to a violent skirmish in the Battle of Mactan on April 27 where he was dealt a gruesome death.

What happened in Cebu seriously tarnished the reputation and trustworthiness of Magellan and those perceived to be his devoted loyalists. Thus, when Pigafetta got back to Spain in 1522, King Charles V grudgingly granted him an audience for his Magellanic voyage chronicles, giving not even lukewarm comment nor showing interest in his manuscript.

The prospects of Pigfetta's manuscript getting published grew even dimmer when Maximilianus Transylvanus, royal courtier and secretary to the King Charles V, appropriated with astonishing speed for his own first-person tract “De Moluccis Insulis” an expurgated version of Pigafetta’s Magellanic narrative that earlier appeared in Peter Martyr d’Anghiera’s Decades of the New World anthology in Latin. This gave Transylvanus the distinction of being first to publish an account of the first circumnavigation of the world.

The dejected Pigafetta thus went back to Venice to finalize his manuscript, but he found it incredibly difficult to get it published in his lifetime. After he died in 1531, the manuscript disappeared completely.

Towards the mid-1500s, the Italian geographer Giovanni Battista Ramusio, having misread the Pigafetta account while doing an Italian adaptation for an Italian edtion, translocated Mazaua to nearby Butuan as the First Mass site and started what became known as the Butuan Tradition. Two years later in London, the cosmologist Richard Eden translated into English Ramusio’s garbled translation of Pigafetta’s narrative.

Early in the 16th century, the namesake Spanish Jesuit priests Francisco Colin and Francisco Combes each attempted in good faith to reconcile the conflicting First Mass sites in Pigafetta’s chronicles and Ramusio’s translation. They did this by inventing the placenames “Dimasawa” and “Limassava” for the island that they separately imagined must have been the true First Mass site rather than Butuan, then documented their pure guesswork in their respective missionary-work memoirs.

Almost two centuries later in Milan, the Augustinian priest Carlo Amoretti serendipitously found Pigafetta's long-lost manuscript of the Magellanic voyage. Dr. Amoretti restored the authentic narrative garbled by Ramusio and heavily revised the manuscript for his own Italian edition and French translation. However, without providing any reliable proof, Amoretti appended two footnotes in those editions equating Magellan’s Mazaua with the “Limassava” island imagined by Fr. Combes in 1664.

In 1905 or another century later, Blair and Robertson appended to their 55-volume The Philippine  Islands 1493-1898 a tiny footnote to their English translation of the Pigafetta manuscript that equated Mazaua with “Limassava” with hardly any documented proof, thus giving undeserved imprimatur to Limasawa as the First Mass site.

In December last year, the Butuan City-based Roman Catholic priest Joesilo Amalla published An Island They Called Mazaua, a book that he hopes would end what he calls the pernicious Limasawa hoax and restore Mazaua to its rightful place as the First Mass site.

(Next week: How plain English differs from legalese)       August 26, 2021         

This essay, 2,059th 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 - 21”

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 22, 2021, 08:50:29 AM by Joe Carillo »