Butuan City to celebrate 490th First Easter Mass in Philippine soil on March 31

by Ben Serrano

     March 29, 2011

            BUTUAN CITY (PNA) - The Butuan City Government headed by Mayor Ferdinand Amante, Jr. is set to spearhead the celebration of the 490th First Catholic Easter Mass in Philippine soil on March 31, 2011.

            In the official letter of invitation sent to different heads of government national and local offices, regional directors and GOCCs whose offices are also situated here in Butuan City, Amante who signed the letter said the annual celebration will be started with an all Latin Mass or Tridentine Mass to be officiated by Historian priest Fr. Joesilo Amalia who is also Diocese of Butuan Museum Curator.

            At 9 o’clock in the morning March 31, a program will be held then a theatrical re-enactment of the first mass will be performed by local artists.

            All activities will be held at the Butuan City’s Rizal Park fronting St. Joseph Cathedral.

            In the past, the first Cathoic Mass celebration was held at the Buod Promintory where a huge cross and a Balanghai Boat marker were built in Barangay Pinamangculan, Butuan City.

Local historians claimed the Buod Promintory was the real, actual site where the official first Easter Mass in the Philippines, the only Christian nation in Asia, was held.

Historians say the Spanish expedition that landed on Mazaua on March 31, 1521 headed by Ferdinand Magellan. Expedition members reportedly planted a cross on the island where the fleet's chaplain, Father Pedro De Valderrama, celebrated Easter Sunday Mass.

In an interview, Father Amalla who also served as trustee of the Butuan City Cultural and Historical Foundation Inc. (BCHFI) toldPNA journals of an early Spanish expedition record that a Mass took place on "Mazaua," in Butuan City not Limasawa in Leyte.

The Butuan City Government on the other hand on its letter dated March 23, 2011 said that regardless of its lengthy history of controversy, the first easter mass was more symbolic than substantive importance to the evangelization of the Catholic church and the advancement of Christianity.

It added that the significance of the first Catholic Easter mass in Philippine soil is the knowledge that Christian Church took its roots here Butuan City before it spread to other areas in Mindanao. 

Local historian Greg Hontiveros who is author of two books, the first one, “Butuan in Thousand Years” which was published in 2004 and his second was launched last year  titled, “ A Fire on the Island” claimed both books presented  breakthrough in the study on long-running First Mass controversy and inquiry.

In Hontiveros’ second book, he explained that the First Mass in the Philippines find its significance in two ways, one, as the only recorded history in the expansion of Christianity in the Far East in our time and two, in the symbolism that parallels the beginnings of Christianity in key areas of Europe.

Hontiveros further adds that with explosive growth of Christianity (all sects) in Asia and Africa of which the conversion process is fastest in South Korea, China and Eastern Indonesia said phenomena should have spark a scholarly interest and popular consciousness on the early evangelical beginnings of the faith.(PNA/Ben Serrano)

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