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Mazaua is the name of a Philippine island-port where Ferdinand Magellan and his Armada de Molucca fleet of three naos anchored from March 28 to April 4, 1521. At present, historians and scientists are still searching for the exact location of the said island as depicted by chronicles of Antonio Pigafetta, with the hope of resolving debated issues ascribed on the matter.

Two longitudes, both wrong[edit]

Antonio Pigafetta, the Vicentine diarist who wrote the most comprehensive eyewitness account of Magellan's voyage, fixed the longitude of Mazaua at 162° East which would place the isle somewhere near today's Wake Island. Francisco Albo, who piloted the ship Victoria back to Guadalquivir in San Lucar de Barrameda on September 6, 1521, placed Mazaua at 106° 30' East locating it in today's South Vietnam near Tra Vinh. At the time, there was no precise way of determining longitude, a problem which was solved only with the perfection of John Harrison's chronometer by 1773.

The exact identity of Mazaua is still in question but there's no dispute that its longitude is somewhere between 125° 04' East and 125° 28' East.

Three latitudes[edit]

Pigafetta's latitude for Mazaua was 9° 40' N and Albo, 9° 40' N in one manuscript in Madrid and 9° 20' N in a London manuscript. The amanuensis of Madrid made an error which is easily detected. Albo had fixed the latitude of Homonhon, an island in Samar, at also 9° 40' N; from here the fleet sailed in a southerly course for three days and some 100 nautical miles (190 km), as calculated by Pigafetta, to reach Mazaua. They could not have traveled three days and 100 miles (160 km) and still be at the same latitude of 9° 40' N. The third latitude, 9° N, by another eyewitness, known to history as The Genoese Pilot, is more in consonance with the determination of the distance traveled from Homonhon to Mazaua.

Pigafetta's latitude for Mazaua was 9° 40' N The two other published extant Pigafetta manuscripts, Mss 5650 and Ambrosiana, all mere copies of original manuscript/s, contain the same latitude.

Albo latitude 9° 40' N is found in the Madrid manuscript as written by an amanuensis (see Colección de los viages y descubrimientos que hicieron por mar los españoles desde fines del siglo XV, con varios documentos inéditos concernientes á la historia de la marina castellana y de los establecimientos españoles en Indias, Tomo IV by Martín Fernández de Navarrete, and 9° 20' N in a London manuscript. The amanuensis of Madrid made an error which is easily detected. Albo had fixed the latitude of Homonhon, an island in Samar, at also 9° 40' N; from here the fleet sailed in a southerly or downward course for three days and some 100 nautical miles (190 km), as calculated by Pigafetta, to reach Mazaua. They could not have traveled three days and 100 miles (160 km) and still be at the same latitude of 9° 40' N.

The third latitude, 9° N, by another eyewitness, known to history as The Genoese Pilot, is more in consonance with the determination of the distance traveled from Homonhon to Mazaua. This is shown in the digitized version of Lord Stanley of Alderley's English translation of the Lisbon copy of Albo's manuscript. The isle's name in the Lisbon copy is "Macangor" an event that misled historians and historiographers to dismiss the latitude of 9° N as erroneous by virtue of the false name which was the work of the copyist. On the same page, Stanley's annotation no. 6 states the name as it appears in the Paris copy is "Maçaguoa" which phonetically comes out as "masawa" as cedilla ç was the archaic equivalent of s and guo is the Anglicized w which is absent in Romance alphabet. The isle's name, Stanley writes, in the Madrid copy is "Maquamguoa." The problem of deciphering handwriting in 16th-century manuscripts has bedeviled copyists who sometimes have to contend with copies of manuscripts several times removed from the original. In the case of the name of Magellan's port, the problem of pinning down its "real" name requires identifying a consistent word that is phonetically uniform with others' and is found in a particular language in the area where Magellan's fleet could have anchored on March 28-April 4, 1521. This area may be defined as within the confines of 12° N down to 9° N. The languages and dialects within this area are Surigaonon, Butuanon, Jaun-Jaun, Cantilan (Kantilan), Naturalis, Surigaonon. Dibabawon Manobo, Agusan Manobo, Samareño, Samaran, Samar-Leyte, Waray, Binisaya, Waray-Waray, Sugbuanon or Cebuano, Kamayo, Mansaka.

Only Butuanon has the word "masawa" which means brilliant light. It has ready affinity with the words of Pigafetta as he described how Magellan's fleet came to anchor in the island-port, "On Thursday morning, March 28, as we had seen a fire on an island the night before, we anchored near it."

No isle in the three latitudes[edit]

There are no islands to be seen in any of the three latitudes. However, in 2001 a team of geologists, archaeologists, and a geomorphologist acting as leader discovered an isle at exactly 9° N and at 125° 28' E. The isle is an improbability: it is fused with mainland Mindanao. No material object that can be directly linked to Magellan has been found in this isle.

Until artefacts are found that are authentic remains of European visits to Mazaua, the safe harbor of Magellan's fleet remains lost.

Several artefacts, among these Ming blue and white shards, earthenware of Age of Encounter design, skulls of pre-Spanish inhabitants, corroded iron objects, copper ring, and a bronze pestle of European design that has yet to be dated. This pestle was unearthed among and almost at the same level of the sherds which would suggest some kind of association. But even assuming the pestle to be a 16th-century object this by itself will not prove the isle is Mazaua. Every highly portable artefact carries with it the element of uncertainty, it could have been found elsewhere and transported at some unknown time to the isle.

Several visits by Europeans to the isle[edit]

During the entire Age of Sail, within the Renaissance period, several visits to the isle have been recorded. Magellan's fleet, with an estimated 186 men, lay at anchors at Mazaua for seven days. The second known visit was in 1543 by a contingent of the Ruy Lopez de Villalobos expedition of about 90 mariners who sailed in a galeota named San Cristobal. It was piloted by a veteran seaman, Ginés de Mafra, who was also in the Armada de Molucca. He is the only crew member of Magellan's fleet to return to Mazaua.

The San Cristobal was yanked out from the fleet by a terrible storm somewhere between Eniwetok and Ulithi reaching Mazaua in late February. It is a testament to de Mafra's seamanship that he was able to bring the limping San Cristobal back to his old haunt of 1521. The men spent the next four to six months at the hospitable little isle where twenty-two years earlier Magellan and his crew were received with great "urbanity." In his account, de Mafra relates he again met the "king" of Mazaua, named "Siaiu" by Pigafetta, who showed to de Mafra the items Magellan had given him as gifts, namely a "robe of red and yellow cloth, made in the Turkish fashion, and a very fine red cap," as enumerated by Pigafetta.

There were two other visits by members of the Villalobos expedition to Mazaua. The galleon San Juan, under Bernardo de la Torre, paid a brief visit some time in April 1544 in search of the main contingent of the expedition. Another visit was by the brigantine under Captain Garcia Escalante de Alvarado around September–October 1544 in search also of the some members of the expedition who were left in Sarangani.

There are references in Portuguese chronicles of visits by Portuguese ships to Mazaua in search of gold and slaves. Most of these are brief stories with unspecified dates except that we know they happened during the 16th century.

Five eyewitness accounts of Mazaua episode[edit]

There are five eyewitness chronicles mentioning Magellan's visit to Mazaua. The authors and the dates of publication of their writings are Antonio Pigafetta,1800; The Genoese Pilot, 1826; Francisco Albo, 1837; Ginés de Mafra, 1920; Martín de Ayamonte,1933. It's important to know these dates because a controversy surrounds Mazaua principally because erroneous references to it in accounts that saw print before the primary sources surfaced have confused Mazaua's true identity.

Secondary sources[edit]

Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas wrote a faithful account of the Mazaua episode from papers of the chief pilot-astrologer of the Armada de Molucca, Andrés de San Martín. From 1521 until 1890, Herrera's work is the only one that has the correct name of the isle, Mazaua, although he spells it in the Hispanicized form, Mazagua, where gu has the value of w, a letter absent in the Spanish alphabet. This fact, his name, and the fact his narration is faithful to the true episode is central to resolving the question of the true identity of Mazaua.

Another secondhand account is the letter of Portuguese Antonio de Brito, governor of the Moluccas, based at Ternate. He had the seized papers of flagship Trinidad which was captured at Benaconora, believed to be today's modern town Djailolo.

De Brito reported to King John III of Portugal that Magellan's fleet had been to Mazaua (he spells it "Mazaba") located at 9° N which latitude is identical to that of The Genoese Pilot for which reason the information is ascribed to him. But this is not certain at all since de Brito does not attribute it to anyone. It could very well have come from papers of Andrés de San Martín some of which supposedly were seized from Trinidad. It could very well have been Magellan's own logbook, although this is mere speculation. But because some passages resemble those found in the logbook of The Genoese Pilot, the dominant view is this was de Brito's authority for his letter.

De Brito sent two copies of his letter to the King dated February 11, 1523. The first saw print in 1894 in Andrea de Mosto's Raccolta Colombiana, Part V, No. 2. The duplicate copy was published in Alguns documentos do Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo (Lisbon: 1892), pp. 464–478.

Another secondary source is the letter of Maximilianus Transylvanus. Maximilianus, a protégé of the Spanish court historian, Peter Martyr, interviewed survivors of the voyage when they arrived at Valladolid where Charles V was holding court. From the interview he wrote a letter to Matthäus Lang, archbishop of Salzburg, reporting the information gathered from the interview. This letter, written in Latin, was dated January 1523 and is the first published report of the expedition. Here Maximilianus called the port of March–April 1521 "Messana" or "Massana," the two names that endured throughout the 16th century until 1894.

Accounts that saw print before eyewitness reports[edit]

As earlier stated, Maximilianus' letter was the first that reported on Magellan's voyage. His names for the isle, Messana and Massana, prevailed all throughout from the 16th century all the way to 1890 when the real name, Mazzava, with v having the value of w, came out in the English biography of Magellan by F.H.H. Guillemard came out.

In 1526, a French translation of Pigafetta, Le voyage et nauigation faict par les Espaignolz es Isles de Mollucques, from an Italian original was published in limited number in Paris. This is called the Colines edition, after the name of the printer.

A retranslation back to Italian of the Colines edition saw print in 1536 anonymously and without the name of the printer or the place of publication. Its title, Il viaggio fatto da gli Spagniuoli a torno a'l mondo. The speculation is that this was printed at Venice by Zoppini but there is no evidence to support the claim.

This Italian retranslation is where a crucial error was made that would lead to present-day conundrum on the anchorage at Mazaua. Here Mazaua is removed and replaced by "Buthuan" sometimes spelled "Buthuam" with an m. How this transposition came about and why is beyond explanation. In the four extant manuscripts of Pigafetta—which scholars agree are mere copies of an original or originals—there is no way it can be mistaken that the port is named other than Mazaua. Even in the Colines edition, the name is clearly "Messana" not "Buthuan."

In 1550 this same work, with the "Buthuan" intact, is published in a compendium of travel stories in a book entitled Primo Volume delle Navigationi et Viaggi...published at Venice by Antonio Giunti. The Italian translation of Pigafetta is titled Viaggio attorno il mondo scritto per M. Antonio Pigafetta...tradotto di lingua francese nella Italiana. This is reprinted in 1554 without attribution to the translator. Only in the reprint of 1563 is the name of the translator, Giovanni Battista Ramusio, shown. Succeeding editions came in 1588, 1606, and 1613.

There are two known versions of Ramusio's work, one is represented by the English translation The Decades of the Newe Worlde or West India...Wrytten by Peter Martyr...and translated into Englysshe by Rycharde Eden. London, G. Power, 1555. The other is the English translation Hakluytus Posthumus or Purchas His Pilgimes, Containing a History of the World in Sea Voyages and Lande Travells by Englishmen and others By Samuel Purchas, B.D., Volume II. Glasgow,1625. The first version talks of a mass at "Buthuan" on March 31, 1521 followed by the planting of a big cross atop the highest hill. The second version mentions no mass in "Buthuan", only the planting of a cross. These differing versions will reach the hands of two 17th century religious historians that will lead directly to the confusion as to what Mazaua really was.


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