Limasawa Island: A Place of the First Mass in the Philippines

Limasawa Island: A Place of the First Mass in the Philippines

Photo by Michael Caletina of
Limasawa Island: A Place of the First Mass in the Philippines

Limawasa, an island municipality in Southern Leyte, is a small yet flourishing town being the site of the First Christian Mass in the country and in Asia. 

Photo by Ann*jjj* of
                                                               Magellan's Cross at Limasawa IslandThe First Cross and the First Mass Shrine are some of the frequently visited spots that give tourists a rare experience of retracing the historic footsteps of the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 who paved the way for the beginning of Christianity in the country.
Photo by Ann*jjj* of


“Mazaua” is the original name of this municipality. There are two assumptions how the municipality got its name:

One assumption is that before the Spanish men arrived to the island, the natives don’t really have a name of their place. Upon the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan and his men, one of the natives was asked for the name of their place. The native, unable to understand what it meant, mistakenly interpreted the question to mean as to “how many wives their Rajah has”. So he answered immediately “Lima’y Asawa”, meaning that their Rajah has five wives. The Spanish too, thinking that was the answer to his question, return to tell his companions that the island is named “Lima’y Asawa ”. And from then on, the place came to be called as “Limasawa”.

Another assumption is that when the Spanish men arrived to the island, they named it “Mazaua” for the beauty of the place. As it is their custom to add the prefix “Le” to mean a particular name, it became the tongue of everyone in the place to call it as “Le Mazaua ”. It was the local people themselves who later changed the spelling and joined the two words into “Limasawa”.
Today the island is popularly known as “Limasawa” although some elderly citizens prefer to call it “Mazaua”.

Limasawa was created into an independent municipality on June 11, 1978 by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1549. But this was not implemented due to some problems. Limasawa officially became a municipality on August 27, 1989 after the conduct of a plebiscite among the populace to ratify its independence.


The municipality of Limasawa is one of the areas in the country with high tourism potential being the site of the first Christian mass in the country. On July 25, 1994, Limasawa was declared as a tourist zone with the issuance of Republic Act 7822. With this declaration, the tourism master plan of the municipality was prepared. 

Photo by Ann*jjj* of
Today, with the support of the Provincial Government of Southern Leyte, Department of Tourism and other government agencies, various tourism enhancement projects have already been implemented in the area. The island is envisioned to become the next “Boracay Island” tourism site in the Visayas.
Photo by Ann*jjj* of
Scenic Spots

Aside from its religious and historic landmarks, Limasawa is endowed with scenic and refreshing vistas of white sand beaches and fish sanctuaries perfect for hiking, camping, snorkeling, and scuba diving. The long white beaches (Dakdak and Gamot Beaches) are located at Brgy. Lugsongan and Cabulihan. Caves can also be found in Brgy. San Agustin and Magallanes.

Its fish sanctuaries with pristine coral reefs are located in Bgry. San Agustin and Brgy. Lugsongan. Relics of giant oyster/clam shell can be also found in Brgy. San Agustin.

How to get there

From Manila, tourists can reach Southern Leyte by riding a plane via Tacloban. Local airlines from Manila have trips going to Tacloban - the gateway to Southern Leyte.  Next from Tacloban, take an FX van going to Hinunangan - one of the town in Southern Leyte. 

There are buses from Manila particularly in Pasay or Cubao that have direct trips to Hinunangan.

Maasin City is the nearest gateway to Limawasa Island. From Maasin City, the island can be reached through a 30-minute ride to the municipality of Padre Burgos and another 40 minutes banca/boat ride to the island. Maasin City is 2-3 hours van/bus ride from Ormoc City and Tacloban City.

Published on : 08/03/2018 by Puerto Parrot

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