“If the criminal case had been successful, ignorance would have triumphed.
Several months ago, the “Limasawa 6”, eminent historians scrutinizing the GPS of the Mass on the first Sunday of Easter, were the subject of criminal proceedings against them in the town of Butuan, the domain of an ancient kingdom. where the mighty Agusan River meanders through the Bohol Sea. The Golden Tara, a statue of a Saiva Hindu deity, was discovered there, along with the remains of balanghays, fast merchant ships from pre-colonial times. In November 2018, René Escalante, president of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, brought together six eminent historians to determine for the third time the thorny question of where the first Easter Sunday Mass was held – in Limasawa or Butuan ? To comply with their civic duty, the following historians have joined the panel formed by Escalante – Dr Resil Mojares, professor emeritus at the University of San Carlos; Dr Antonio Francisco B. De Castro, SJ, professor at Ateneo de Manila University and representative of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines; Spaniard Dr. Carlos Madrid Alvarez-Piñer of the University of Guam; Dr. Danilo M. Gerona, Director of the Partido Studies Center, Partido State University; Dr Francis M. Navarro from Ateneo de Manila University, and Dr Jose Victor Z. Torres from De La Salle University. The panelists are very bookish, weaving their way through old books like bookworms while dredging up historical data. They are also prolific authors of books on Philippine history. National artist Dr Mojares wrote the famous Brain of the Nation and 33 other books. Dr de Castro has written countless articles on history and will soon publish a book on Jesuits in the Philippines. He holds a doctorate in ecclesiastical history from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Dr Madrid is the author of Flames of Baler and several other books on Philippine history. He is the recipient of the Governor’s Humanities Award from the Government of the Northern Mariana Islands. Dr Gerona is the author of the highly acclaimed book Ferdinand Magellan and his Armada de Maluco as well as 35 other books. He received the Chancellor’s Award from the University of the Philippines. Dr Navarro is the author of countless research articles and is the winner of the Erasmus Prize awarded by the University of Lisbon. Dr Torres is the author of Ciudad Murada and 15 other books. He is a five-time recipient of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature. After exhaustive research and careful analysis, this bookish group of prolific authors concluded that Limasawa was indeed the place where the first Holy Mass was celebrated. Almost immediately, they were charged with libel and forgery in front of the Butuan City Tax Office. The case was dismissed and, subsequently, a request for reconsideration was filed. The prosecution again closed the case. Thus ruled the equally learned prosecutors of Butuan: “In this case, Executive Decree No. 55, series of 2018, created the National Five-Year Committee (NQC). And in accordance with its mandate, a panel was formed by the President of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), René Escalante, to study the location of the Mass on the First Easter Sunday of 1521 in the Philippines, and therefore the panel of Mojares. “As the respondents to the Mojares panel correctly pointed out, the study and the subsequent Mojares report were based on the faithful performance of duties by the NHCP and the task entrusted by the President to the NQC. “And so, the Mojares report is seen as privileged communication. Finding no new and additional evidence presented by the private complainant, the undersigned finds no compelling reason to alter his original findings. Therefore, the complainant’s request for reconsideration is hereby dismissed. So ended the story told three times in Butuan. Atty. Saul Hofileña Jr., author of the bestselling Under the Stacks and 15 other books on history and law, a Patnubay Awardee, a former dean of law, pre-bar critic and professor of law at the University of San Beda, joined the fray as an attorney for Limasawa 6. Due to lack of support from NHCP, hapless historians had to rely on their own resources to defend their case, which led to pro bono employment. by Hofileña. It’s as curious as a case can be: bona fide historians have been criminally indicted for researching an event that happened over 500 years ago. If the criminal case had been successful, ignorance would have triumphed and historians would subsequently have been afraid to make their findings known because of the threat of prosecution. We thank these men who left their ivory towers to defend the right of historians to do their work in peace. Now our past can be safely told and the character of our nation reexamined – because of the stubborn tenacity of a few bookish men. FB and Twitter: DrJennyO
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