Huge wrong
HIDDEN AGENDA - Mary Ann LL. Reyes (The Philippine Star) - June 27, 2020 - 12:00am

Where was the first Mass on Philippine soil, held on an Easter Sunday, actually celebrated?

The debate still rages on the true location of the first Mass.

According to the accounts of Antonio Pigafetta, the chronicler of the Magellan-Elcano expedition, the first Mass, celebrated on March 31, 1521, an Easter Sunday, was held at a venue called “Mazaua.”

In 1959, Republic Act 2733 sponsored by Southern Leyte Rep. Nicanor Yniguez declared the island of Limasawa in Leyte to be the venue. But critics noted that the law was passed without adequate research, site visits, and public hearings and with only 11 of 39 legislators present to vote on it.

But there are others who say that the first Mass was held elsewhere.

Budding historian Potenciano “Bon” Malvar of Sarrat, Ilocos Norte is a medical doctor who has been a supporter of the National Historical Commission,  the General Miguel Malvar Museum in Sto. Tomas, Batangas and museums in Butuan and Antipolo. He is married to Lourdes Malvar Comcom, granddaughter of Gen. Malvar of Batangas.

His deep interest in the study of the first Mass has led him to acquire a specialized library on the subject and to write a book titled “Butuan, Not Limasawa,” to prove that historians are wrong and that Butuan is the venue.

Bon spent over five years  to come up with the book to be launched this year. The search for the truth brought him to Portugal, Spain and the US, as well as to Homonhon, Limasawa, Malimono in Surigao del Norte, Buod Masao site and the Carballo Monument in Magallanes, and to study documents such as the 1581 Ecclesiastical Edict of Bishop Domingo de Salazar, the Papal Edict of Pope Gregory in 1582, Gaspar de San Agustin’s Conquistas de los Islas, Pablo Chirino’s Relacion de las Islas and the Pigafetta manuscripts.

Bon bewailed the failure of the Limasawa proponents  to account in detail the events starting from March 22, 1518, disregarding orders, commands, edicts and agreements  between King Carlos of Spain and Magellan and Faleiro as well as the deliberate deletion  by the Gancayco report of 1998 of significant lines and sentences in the Pigafetta manuscript.

Important to note is that in 1581, Domingo de Salazar, the first Bishop of the Philippines, declared Butuan as the site of the Easter Mass on March 31, 1521 based on the Julian calendar or April 8, 1521 (Gregorian calendar).

With the 500th anniversary of the First Mass next year, Butuan proponents, including Bon Malvar, are hoping that the National Historical Commission led by chairman Rene Escalante and members of Congress, will settle this issue once and for all and correct a great historical wrong.

Royal pardon

Recently, Bahrain King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa granted royal pardon to Filipino workers Roderick Aguinaldo and Edward Benjamin Garcia who had served sentences for the death of a foreign national.

Roderick was convicted for the death of a Pakistani national and was detained in Bahrain for four years and put on death row. He returned to the Philippines last June 7 and has thanked both the President and Sen. Bong Go for their appeals to secure his release.

He said an unnamed individual helped him get in contact with then special assistant to the President and now Senator Go. Roderick’s mother called Go in mid-2018 that eventually led to concerted efforts by the government to save his life.

Meanwhile, Aguinaldo’s wife Imelda recalled how Go assisted her family during those difficult times when they were uncertain about the fate of her husband, saying the senator assisted her in finding employment and helped their children continue their schooling.

Upon meeting the family in 2018, Go made a personal appeal to President Duterte who immediately instructed concerned national agencies to extend further assistance to all incarcerated Filipinos in the Arab kingdom. Last year, the President wrote the King of Bahrain requesting for pardon for imprisoned Filipinos there.
Aguinaldo, who was finally granted a royal pardon on May 2020 during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, said what happened was a miracle since he is the first sentenced to death in Bahrain to escape death.

The senator expressed his gratitude once again to the King and the Bahraini government for granting royal pardon to Aguinaldo. He also acknowledged the Philippine government for its efforts which resulted in the OFW’s subsequent release, and mentioned the President, Special Envoy to the Gulf Cooperation Council Amable Aguiluz V, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Welfare Affairs Sarah Arriola, the embassy in Manama, Chief Protocol Robert Borje who all helped to seek Aguinaldo’s release.

Go said he will push for the passage of Senate Bill 202 which seeks to establish a separate executive department solely for overseas Filipinos concerns and to make sure that all Filipinos in distress, here or abroad, are given timely assistance and that measures are also undertaken to protect their welfare, especially in times of crises.

For comments, e-mail at mareyes@philstarmedia.com.

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