On the eve of the 500th anniversary of Magellan’s landing in Philippine shores, the Church Historians’ Association of the Philippines (CHAP) released a statement saying it agrees with the earlier position of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines that says Limasawa, Southern Leyte, was indeed the site of the first ever Easter Sunday Mass in the country.
“We concur with the position expressed by the NHCP in its resolution,” says the statement of the CBCP Church History Team to the Mojares Panel led by Fr. Antonio Francisco B. de Castro, SJ. “We believe that the Mojares Panel studied the matter, following the demands and norms of the historical discipline. We agree with its findings. The evidence currently available suggests Limasawa, Southern Leyte, as the site of the first Easter Sunday Mass. Scholarly consensus at present likewise supports this position.”
ANCX reported August last year that in 2018 the NHCP assembled a panel chaired by Resil Mojares, historian and National Artist, geared to revisit the decades-old issue of the exact location of the March 31, 1521 mass. While there were those who insisted it took place in Butuan City, Agusan Del Norte, research and evaluation led the panel to conclude the Butuan proponents were lacking conclusive arguments and proof that could change the initial ruling that upholds Limasawa as official first mass site.
The latest statement from the CHAP is expected to finally put an end to the age-old Butuan versus Limasawa debate. It will be remembered that the Mojares panel was already the fourth panel formed to look into this important historical detail. Similar groups were created in 1980, 1995 and 2008.
It was the NHCP, through the National Quincentennial Committee, who extended an invitation to the CBCP to sit in and take part in the Mojares Panel. The CBCP and the Episcopal Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church then “sent its Church History Team – whose members offered their comments at the Panel’s instance – as observers.”
By concurring with the NHCP’s upholding of the Limasawa as mass venue, the CHAP ends its statement with the rejection of the book “An Island They Called Mazaua: The Truth About the Site of the First Holy Mass in the Philippines.” Published recently, it is described in the statement as “substantially misleading and methodologically erroneous,” with “findings and conclusions unacceptable.”