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Brief Chronology Of How Mazaua (Magellan’s Port) Became Limasawa (Isle Without Anchorage)


1521 – Magellan fleet anchors west of skerry named Mazaua. Five seamen write eyewitness accounts

            on Mazaua where mass was held and cross planted.

1536 – G.B. Ramusio restranslates back to Italian from French  translation of firsthand account of

Antonio Pigafetta. Mazaua becomes Butuan, Stop-over isle on way to Cebu

becomes “Messana” is Gatighan in Pigafetta map.

1601 – Antonio de Herrera relates Mazaua incident faithful to the actual incident.

1663 – Fr. F. Colín recounts incident as Ramusio wrote it, renames stop-over isle

Dimasaua to signify it was not the site of the first mass, di is Bisayan of “not

1667 – Fr. F. Combés recounts incident of Ramusio, renames stop-over isle Limasaua

1734 – Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde draws map tracing Magellan route incldg. Butuan incident and

            stop-over in Limasaua. His book Geographica gives other name for isle Dimasaua.

1734 – French cartographer Jacques N. Bellin publishes his pliagiaristic copy of Murillo map.

1794 – Carlo Amoretti discovers one of 4 extant Pigafetta codices, this Italian is now known

as Ambrosian codex, the more known of all.

1800 – Amoretti publishes transcription of codex. He says in a footnote Mazaua may be Bellin’s

            Limasava, fusing the anchorage (Mazaua) and the stopover isle (Gatighan). A second footnote states Mazaua’s latitude 90 40’ N is the identical as Limasava’s (90 56’ N).

1825 – Francisco Albo eyewitness account (Madrid copy) published in Navarette’s Colección…

            Albo’s latitude for Mazaua in this copy is 90 40’ N same as Pigafetta’s.

1826 – Genoese Pilot’s firsthand account, Lisbon copy, published by Academia Real das Scinceas de

            Lisboa. Latitude of isle is 90 N but its name is transcribed as Macangor.

1874 – Lord Stanley of Alderley’s English translations of Pigafetta, Albo and Genoese Pilot

             published. Stanley repeats Amoretti’s note that Mazaua and Limasaua maybe one and the

            same. Albo’s latitude, based on London copy, is 90 20’ N. Genoese Pilot’s name for skerry, in

            Paris manuscript, is Maçaguoa, according to Stanley.

1894 – Andrea da Mosto’s transcription of Ambrosian comes out. It establishes the text of the codex

            on which J. A. Robertson’s based his English translation that Filipino historians invoke.

1895 – Dr. T.H. Pardo de Tavera, after reading Spanish translation of Amoretti’s text, declares

             Butuan is not site of first mass but fails to acknowledge Amoretti.

1902 – J.A. Robertson, in Vol. II of Philippine Islands…cites Stanley’s footnote but fails to state

             Stanley is just citing Amoretti publishes English tr. of Ambrosian.

1903 -  Fr. Pablo Pastells, in annotation of Colín’s Labor…, restates Tavera’s declaration without

            adverting to Tavera and without acknowledging Amoretti.

1906 -            Robertson’s English tr. of Mosto’s transcription published. In a footnote he states as certain,

             without proof or reasoned argument, that Mazaua is “doubtless” Limasawa. He still fails to

             acknowledge Amoretti’s paternity of the Limasawa hypothesis.

1911 – J. Denucé’s Magellan La question…states Albo’s Mazaua latitude in London copy is 90 20’ N

            which he repeats in his transcription of Pigafetta’s MS fr. 5650.

1920 – Ginés de Mafra account published in Madrid. Mafra is unknown to Philippine historians save

            Wm. H. Scott. This Magellan seaman returned to Mazaua in 1543. He states Mazaua’s

             circumference is 3 to 4 leguas and that it is 15 leguas below 1521 Butuan.

1960 – Congress passes law, R.A. 2733, naming Limasawa site of first mass. Not one of the legislators

            had read Pigafetta’s 4 MSS, Albo, Genoese Pilot, Ginés de Mafra, and Martin de Ayamonte.

1998 -             National Historical Institute dismisses Mafra as fake, ignores other evidences that show

             Limasawa does not possess a single property of Mazaua. It declares Mazaua and Limasawa

as identical—the two are perfect, exact, total equal of each other.

2001 - Dr. Ricarte S. Javelosa, geomorphologist, and team discovers hidden isle now fused with

             present-day Butuan which has some of the earmarks of Mazaua.

2001 -            Archaeologist M.J.L. Bolunia unearths metal pestle. If brass, the artifact could be

proof Mazaua is buried in Butuan since Magellan carried one and only one

brass pestle. Philippine Nuclear Research Institute establishes it is bronze.

2001 -  Talks with National Geographic Society to fund further Mazaua geo-archaeological

investigation enters formal proposal stage. Early  talks also start for help of Philippine

Nuclear Research Institute and possible assistance of International Atomic Energy Agency of


Study of Pinamanculan and Latest Finding on Mazaua (Magellan’s Port)

Two incidents and a new historiographical insight mark the continuing search for Magellan's lost port, Mazaua. On November 29, 2001 geomorphologist Dr. Ricarte S. Javelosa and geologist Fred Carpio made probings in the Chinese cemetery in Bancasi (the side going towards Mt. Mayapay) in Butuan City and discovered the soil there is limestone. That alone establishes the Pinamanculan "isle" that he earlier hypothesized to be definitely an isle. That same week, Ms. Mary Jane Louise Bolunia (who dug up a bronze pestle of indeterminate provenance in May 30, 2001) dug up pre-Hispanic bones also in Pinamanculan, further strengthening the finding of Javelosa earlier that Pinamanculan is one of the oldest geological structures in Butuan. The limestone discovery has prompted Dr. Javelosa to rethink many of the things he had assumed which now turns out incorrect. Geologically speaking, according to Dr. Javelosa, even today Pinamanculan is "detached" from mainland Butuan because of creeks and other waterways that completely surround it. The coconut grooves that he earlier thought indicated solid ground now turns out to be alluvial sedimentations. He hypothesizes that the shoreline of Butuan was way further inland of present-day Butuan. He is convinced Pinamanculan was under sea water or at least parts were brackish water. All that Dr. Javelosa's new findings tell us is that Pinamanculan was indeed an isle. It does not in any way tell us it is Mazaua. Only authentic remains of the 1521 Magellan visit and the 1543 Mafra second visit will prove that. In other words, archaeological diggings will be the next major step that alone will prove if Pinamanculan was Mazaua. The bronze pestle Bolunia discovered is at least tantalizing. We know it is not the item brought by the Magellan expedition. The fleet had one and only one pestle and it was brass. The pestle is approximately 18 cm or just a little over 7 inches. Its specific gravity is 7.37 g/ml. Its weight is 408.51 grams (using analytical balance). Was it Mafra's? How old was it? Who made it? Was it European? If European, what, Belgian, Portuguese, Spanish? If not, what, Chinese? A well-funded study would have tried to determine the age of the artifact by analyzing associated materials that can be carbon-dated. There are suggestions the artifact is 15th or 16th or 17th century material because of the Ming shards/sherds just a few centimeters above it. It is ironic that no one asks if an authentic remains of the Magellan and Mafra expedition has been found in Limasawa. Now as for the historiographical insight. How did we come to the notion Mazaua is in today's Butuan? Here is how we arrived at that conclusion. Mafra said that Mazaua was south of 1521 (please remember that he is talking of what he knew then at that time) Butuan 15 leguas away. There are at least 28 values to the legua. How do we know which of the 28 Mafra used. We know he is Spanish, so very likely he used the Spanish legua which is 3 nautical miles to one. We will find confirmation of what he used only after we are able to know for sure where Butuan was and where was Mazaua was. So where was Butuan of 1521? We shall be able to locate 1521 Butuan by the latitude of Mazaua. Pigafetta says Mazaua was in 9 degrees 40 minutes North. We know this is a wrong latitude because no isle exists in that latitude. If Butuan was 45 nautical miles above Mazaua, that puts Butuan at 10 degrees and 25 minutes N. That latitude is above Mindanao and puts Butuan in the Visayas. This at once eliminates Pigafetta's latitude. The second latitude is that of Albo's, 9 degrees 20 minutes N (which no Philippine historiographer who has participated in the Mazaua debate has discovered: it is in Lord Stanley of Alderley and Jean Denuce). Thus Butuan will be in 10 degrees and 5 minutes N. Again this is above Mindanao and well into the Visayas. Here we see also the argument or proof that Albo's latitude for Mazaua is erroneous. Now, we come to the Genoese Pilot's 9 degrees sharp. Forty-five nautical miles from 9 degrees is at latitude 9 degrees and forty-five minutes N. This is at the tip of today's Surigao. More precisely, at Bilaa Pt. Here we see the coincidence between Mafra's 1521 Butuan and the Genoese Pilot's latitude for Mazaua. What are the other corroborative evidence? The French pilot, Pierres Plin or Plun, of the Legaspi expedition said that the gap between Panaon and 1565 Butuan was 4 leguas (12 n.m.). Now the gap between Panaon and today's Surigao is 11 n.m. Plin's 1565 Butuan cannot be 2001 Butuan which is more than 45 n.m. away from Panaon. A Spanish friar by the name of Sanchez wrote in a letter to the Jesuit HQ that fronting 16th century Butuan was Leyte. Today's Butuan can't possibly be said to be in front of Leyte. Surigao is fronted by Panaon which is the southernmost tip of Leyte. In another posting, I will describe how an isle that was named precisely to signify that NO MASS WAS HELD THERE is today heralded as the site of the first mass in the Philippines. As I have been signalling to all non-navigation historians (all those who have participated in the Mazaua debate are neither Magellan scholars nor navigation historians) Limasawa can never be Mazaua because it has no anchorage. Mazaua was first and foremost a port! Vicente C. de Jesus