While Miguel Lopez de Legaspi was still in Cebu, he wrote King Philip II in 1567 requesting for religious to be sent to the Philippines. In reply to such letter, the King ordered the Provincial of the Order of St. Augustine in New Spain (Mexico) to dispatch religious of his Order to the Philippines to help propagate and spread the Christian faith.

            As a consequence, while in Mexico Fray Alonso Jimenez, O.S.A. “voluntarily offered himself to such an apostolic enterprise” to the Philippines with Fray Juan de Alva, O.S.A. From Mexico, they boarded the ship “San Juan” under the command of Captain Juan Lopez de Aguirre, a Viscayan noble and soldier with great reputation and arrived in Cebu in 1569.

            At that time, the religious in Cebu were over-joyed when they “received the first great consolation and happiness, since the ship carried two of the most radiant lights ever to shine on the hemisphere of this province in the person of two of our religious, new soldiers in spiritual militia”.

            A native of the City of Malaga in Southern Spain, Fray Alonso Jimenez was ordained priest in Mexico City on August 21, 1558. When he reached Cebu, he entered his vows in the First Provincial Chapter and he was nominated and selected to be the missionary in that memorable assembly of the whole Southern Luzon.

            Coming from Cebu, Fray Jimenez together with Fray Juan de Alva went to Oton, Panay to meet Legaspi who was there at that time. Then Fray Alonso Jimenez and Spanish Captain Luiz Enriquez de Guzman were sent to explore, pacify and evangelize Southern Luzon.

            Sailing northeasterly coming from Oton, Panay with brief stopovers to evangelize Leyte, Samar, Masbate and Burias Island, and across Ticao Pass to Sorsogon Province, the missionary group of Fray Alonso Jimenez reached Ginangra (a barangay of the present-day town of Magallanes) and landed finally at the ancient fishing village of “Hibal-ong” which was later called Ibalon (Gibalon).

            It is worthy to mention in this connection that for every sea expedition or voyage, there must be a landfall.

            In this case, where was the landfall (“surgidero”) of the Guzman-Jimenez expedition? What is the name of the place at present? The answer to these questions are very crucial and of vital or decisive importance in determining the true site of the first mass in Luzon. (In Magallanes-Bicol dialect, the question is “Saeng lugar sinda nagdoong o nagsalta?” Translated to English is “Where did they land?”).

            The landfall of the De-Guzman-Jimenez expedition was on the shore of Ibalon (“Hibal-ong”) now known as sitio San Isidro (in Barangay Salvacion), which is situated at the mouth of a big river, located at the western coast of Sorsogon Province in what is now the Ginangra River. Near the mouth of the said river, they must have cast anchor not too far from the seashore and went ashore to Ibalon.

            On the shore of Ibalon, the present-day sitio of San Isidro at the mouth (“bocana”) of said Ginangra River, Captain de Guzman and Fray Alonso Jimenez built a small chapel made of bamboo and nipa. There, Fray Jimenez held the first mass in Luzon in 1569. The natives were baptized, thus making Ibalon (now sitio San Isidro) as the first Christian settlement in Luzon.

            The holding of the first mass in Ibalon (Gibalon) in Luzon in 1569 is evidenced by the records of the San Agustin Museum in Cebu and Manila which stated that he (Fray Jimenez) went to Ibalon in the province of Camarines (the name of the Bicol Region at that time) where he resided for sometime, baptized a lot of indios and principales and built a small chapel. The said records were written in Spanish, a portion of which reads as follows: “xxx aqui paso a Ibalon, de la provincia de Camarines, donde residio algun tiempo, bautizo a muchos indios y principales, levanto una pequeña iglesias xxx”.

            Based on the foregoing assertions, there are no reportorial accounts or records so far concerning the holding of the First Mass in 1569 by Fray Alonso Jimenez in any other place in Luzon except in Ibalon as manifested by the records of the Order of St. Augustine to which Fray Alonso Jimenez belonged. The Augustinians friars were the first missionaries who explored, landed and evangelized Luzon particularly the western coast of the present-day Sorsogon province.

            The early maps of the Philippines and the Bicol Region as well as that of Sorsogon province show that Gibalon (Ibalon) is situated at the mouth of the Gibalon River, which is located on the western coast of the present-day Municipality of Magallanes in the Province of Sorsogon. The Gibalon River derived its name from the place called Gibalon. At present, the Gibalon River is known as the Ginangra River where the present-day Barangay Ginangra is located.

            Being a fishing town/village the shore of Ibalon (Gibalon) was the more appropriate and logical site to hold the Holy Mass at that point in time in July 1569, similarly what have been done at Limasawa and Cebu when Magellan first landed on the shores of places in 1521. Surely, the shore was not a forested area and at that time it was the place where many people lived and converged for barter trading and fishing as their means of livelihood.

            Before the arrival of the De Guzman-Jimenez Expedition in 1569 in the ancient village of “Hibal-ong” (Gibalon/Ibalon), it was already a thickly populated area because Fray Alonso Jimenez baptized a lot of indios and principales (“bautizo a muchos indios y principales”).

Reported by:        Rogerio H. Escobal, Author | @ Copyright, 2006 by ROGERIO H. ESCOBAL

This article is a re-post of an existing blog entry in rhescobal.tripod.com

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