First in the Philippines (Part I)


First Spanish Monument
Also on April 14, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan planted a huge cross in Cebu. It was here where friar Valderama baptized Rajah Humabon, Rajah Kolambu and 400 other Filipinos into Christianity.

First Mass
On March 31, 1521 (Easter Sunday) Spanish friar Pedro Valderama conducted the first Catholic mass in Limasawa, Leyte. Rajah Kolambu, who forged a blood compact of friendship with Magellan two days earlier, attended along with Rajah Siagu.

First Battle
On April 14, 1521, the first battle between Filipinos and the European conquerors took place in Mactan, Cebu. Filipino chieftain Lapu-lapu defeated Magellan and his men. After Magellan was killed, Sebastian del Cano led his men back to Spain, completing their voyage around the planet.

First Religious Order
The Franciscans were the first Catholic religious order to establish their presence in the Philippines. The Franciscans came here in 1577; Jesuits, 1581; Dominicans, 1587; Recollects, 1606; Paulists, 1862; Sisters of Charity, 1862; Capuchins, 1886; and Benedictines, 1895.

First Chinese Kingdom
After attacking Manila, Chinese conqueror Limahong established a kingdom near the mouth of Agno River in Pangasinan province on December 3, 1574. Agno was the seat of the old civilization. Historians have mentioned one Princess Urduja who ruled Pangasinan before the Spaniards came. In 1660, Filipino leader Malong attempted to establish another kingdom in Pangasinan.

First Revolt
The first attempt to rise against Spanish colonial rule was carried out by chieftains of Bulacan led by Esteban Taes in 1587. On October 26, 1588, Spanish authorities discovered a plot by Magat Salamat of Hagonoy who tried to enlist the support of his relatives in Borneo.

First Mention of King of Tagalogs
New historical writings have mentioned the name of one Raha Matanda or Rajah Ache (Lakandula) who ruled over Tondo, a kingdom encompassing an area that now includes Bulacan, Metro Manila, Rizal and Quezon in the 16th Century. Rajah Matanda was the heir to his father’s throne and was a grandson of Sultan Siripada I (Bolkeiah I) of Borneo. In 1643, Don Pedro Ladia of Borneo who claimed to be a descendant of Rajah Matanda started a revolt and called himself the king of the Tagalog. He was executed in Manila. Historians said that when the troops of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi attacked Manila in 1571, the men of Rajah Soliman – the king of Manila – rose up in resistance.

First Chinese Revolt
On October 3, 1603, the Chinese rose in revolt in Manila and was driven away to San Pablo, Laguna where they made their last stand.

First Map
The first Philippine map was drawn in 1734 by Nicolas dela Cruz and Francisco Suarez under the instruction of Jesuit historian Pedro Murillo Velarde. The original map was 27 inches wide and 42 inches long.
First Dutch Presence
On June 10, 1647, a Dutch fleet arrived in Manila Bay and later attacked Cavite province.


2 responses »

  1. First mass in the Philippines in Limasawa? Or Mazaua?

    All the five eyewitness accounts of Magellan’s voyage–by Antonio Pigafetta, Gines de Mafra, Francisco Albo, The Genoese Pilot, and Martín de Ayamonte–that contain references to a port named Mazaua, do not mention any island named Limasawa. There is no Philippine language that has that word.

    In fact, the placename “Limasawa” is an invention of Fr. Francisco Combés, S.J. Combés published in 1667 a book on evangelization of Mindanao. In his story he narrates the sojourn of Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet in Philippine waters. He states the fleet went to Butuan where a cross was planted on March 31, 1521. He mentions no mass held on that day.

    In fact his Limasawa is not the Mazaua of Magellan. It is the isle Gatighan which is found at 10 degrees North latitude. In the story and map of Antonio Pigafetta, it is the waystation where the Armada de Molucca hove to late in the afternoon of April 4, 1521 where they caught one bat which they ate. Gatighan, like Limasawa, did not afford any anchorage.

    It will be recalled Fr. Combés had no knowledge of Mazaua that was correct and factual. He in fact dismissed the account of Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas who said the island-port was named Mazaua. Instead Combés opted for the garbled story by Giovanni Battista Ramusio who said the port was Butuan. Combés also dismissed the name given four years earlier by Fr. Francisco Colín, S.J., for the same island. Colín’s name for Pigafetta’s Gatighan was “Dimasawa,” an invented word, which was to signify it is not the Mazaua of Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas where an Easter mass was held. Colín and Combés both adopted the story–garbled and awfully mistaken–of Giovanni Battista Ramusio that the island-port where a mass was held was Butuan.

    If Limasawa and Dimasawa are misnomers for Pigafetta’s Gatighan, who then said that Limasawa and Mazaua are one and the same?

    The man who said Combés’s Limasawa is Magellan’s Mazaua was Carlo Amoretti who had not only not read Combés but had not read a single primary account of Magellan’s voyage except the Italian manuscript of Antonio Pigafetta. He certainly did not read Ginés de Mafra’s account which is the most authoritative on Mazaua. Ginés de Mafra was the only crewmember of the fleet who was able to return to Mazaua, in 1543, and stayed there for about six (6) months. He was part of the expedition under Ruy Lopez de Villalobos. His testimony about the port is precise. In any case, Carlo Amoretti said in his edition of the Italian Pigafetta which he published in 1800 that Limasawa may be the island named Limasawa in the map of Jacques N. Bellin and that both are found in latitude 9 degrees and 40 minutes as located by Pigafetta. What he did not know was that Limasawa is in 9 deg. 56 minutes North, and there are three readings for Mazaua: Pigafetta’s, Albo’s 9 degrees and 20 minutes North, and The Genoese Pilot’s 9 degrees North.

    What is most telling is the fact that Limasawa, as stated by the Coast Pilot, has no anchorage. Mazaua had an excellent harbor. Philippine historians and historiographers who have entered the discussion on Mazaua are not navigation historians and therefore this technicality has not registered on them.

    It is lamentable that those who’re engaged in this controversy do not take the pains to trace the word “Limasawa” to its very beginning, 1667 when it was first invented by Combés who knew nothing about Mazaua, and what he knew of it was absolutely wrong. And they should indeed trace the idea Limasawa=Mazaua to Carlo Amoretti who was ignorant of what Combés’s Limasawa was.

    Here’s what Combes wrote. Can you find any reference to a mass, even? Does it say Limasawa is the site? Here follows what Combes really wrote:

    “The first time that the royal standards of the Faith were seen to fly in this island [of Mindanao] was when the Archipelago was first discovered by the Admiral Alonso de Magallanes. He followed a new and difficult route [across the Pacific], entering by the Strait of Siargao, formed by that island and that of Leyte, and landing at the island of Limasaua which is at the entrance of that Strait. Amazed by the novelty and strangeness of the [Spanish] nation and the ships, the barbarians of that island welcomed them and gave them good refreshments.

    “While at Limasaua, enjoying rest and good treatment, they heard of the River of Butuan, whose chieftain was more powerful. His reputation attracted our men thither to see for themselves or be disillusioned, their curiosity sharpened by the fact that the place was nearby. The barbarian [chief] lived up to our men’s expectations, providing them with the food they needed…Magellan contented himself with having them do reverence to the cross which is erected upon a hillock as a sign to future generations of their alliance…The solemnity with which the cross was erected and the deep piety shown by the Spaniards, and by the natives following the example of the Spaniards, engendered great respect for the cross.

    “Not finding in Butuan the facilities required by the ships, they returned to Limasaua to seek further advice in planning their future route. The Prince of Limasaua told them of the three most powerful nations among the Pintados [Visayans], namely those of Caraga, Samar, and Zebu. The nearness of Zebu, the facilities of its port, and the more developed social structure (being more monarchical) aroused everyone’s desire to go thither. Thus, guided by the chief of Limasaua, passing between Bool and Leyte and close to the Camotes Islands, they entered the harbor of Cebu by the Mandawe entrance on the 7th of April 1521, having departed from Limasaua on the first day of that month.””

    Translation by Fr. Miguel Bernad, S.J., “Butuan or Limasawa?” in: Kinaadman, Vol. III, 1981, pages 4-5.

    For a full discussion on this issue, please go to

    Vicente Calibo de Jesus

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