Saint Pedro Calungsod
Filipino Saint - July 21, 1654 - April 2, 1672
Feastday: April 2
Although born in the Philippines, St. Pedro Calungsod is loosely considered an American saint because he was martyred in the United States territory of Guam. Unfortunately, there is not much known about him, especially his early life.
History tells us he was one of the young volunteers who joined the Spanish Jesuit missionaries who left the Philippines for the Ladrones Islands in the western Pacific in 1668. Pedro served there, alongside his peers, as a catechist and teacher of the Faith.
As is the case in most mission lands, life was difficult. Delivery of supplies was irregular. The natural terrain and weather made the situation harsher. One can imagine life among their dense jungles, steep cliffs and storms. Faithful to the Lord’s command to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, however, these brave missionaries persevered.
Early years and missionary work.
Few details of the early life of Calungsod (spelled Calonsor in Spanish records) are known. Historical records do not mention his exact birthplace or birth date and merely identified him as "Pedro Calonsor, el Visayo". Historical research identifies Ginatilan in Cebu, Hinunangan and Hinundayan in Southern Leyte, and the Molo district of Iloilo City as possible places of origin; Loboc, Bohol also makes a claim. Of these claims, the ones from Molo, Iloilo and Ginatilan, Cebu are considered the strongest. The Cebu camp reasoned that Ginatilan contains the highest concentrations of people surnamed Calungsod and that during the beatification process, they were the original claimants to having been Calungsod's birthplace.
Proponents of an Ilonggo origin argue that in the early Spanish period, the term "Visayan" exclusively referred to people from the islands of Negros or Panay, whereas people from Cebu, Bohol and Leyte were called "Pintados". Thus, had he been born in Cebu he would have been referred to as "Calonsor El Pintado" instead of "Calonsor El Visayo"; the term "Visayan" received its present scope (i.e., including inhabitants of Cebu, Bohol and Leyte) sometime the 1700s. The Calungsod family in Iloilo also claims to be the oldest branch, based on baptismal records containing the surname "Calungsod" dating to circa 1748, compared to branches in Cebu and Leyte who possess baptismal records dating only to 1828 and 1903. Regardless of his precise origin, all four locations were within the territory of the Diocese of Cebu at the time of Calungsod's martyrdom.
Training and arrival on Guam
It is probable that he received basic education at a Jesuit boarding school, mastering the Catechism and learning to communicate in Spanish. He also likely honed his skills in drawing, painting, singing, acting, and carpentry, as these were necessary in missionary work.
In 1668, Calungsod, then around 14, was amongst the exemplary young catechists chosen to accompany Spanish Jesuit missionaries to the Islas de los Ladrones ("Isles of Thieves"), which have since been renamed the Mariana Islands the year before to honor both the Virgin Mary and the mission's benefactress, María Ana of Austria, Queen Regent of Spain. Calungsod accompanied the priest Diego San Vitores to Guam to catechize the native Chamorros. Missionary life on the island was difficult as provisions did not arrive regularly, the jungles and terrain were difficult to traverse, and the Marianas were frequently devastated by typhoons. The mission nevertheless persevered, and a significant number of locals were baptized into the faith.
A Chinese man named Choco, a criminal from Manila who was exiled in Guam began spreading rumors that the baptismal water used by missionaries was poisonous. As some sickly Chamorro infants who were baptized eventually died, many believed the story and held the missionaries responsible. Choco was readily supported by the macanjas (medicine men) and the urritaos (young males) who despised the missionaries.
In their search for a runaway companion named Esteban, Calungsod and San Vitores came to the village of Tumon, Guam on April 2, 1672. There they learnt that the wife of the village's chief Mata'pang had given birth to a daughter, and they immediately went to baptize the child. Influenced by the calumnies of Choco, Chief Mata'pang strongly opposed; to give him some time to calm down, the missionaries gathered the children and some adults of the village at the nearby shore and started chanting with them the tenets of the Catholic faith. They invited Mata'pang to join them, but he shouted back that he was angry with God and was fed up with Christian teachings.
Determined to kill the missionaries, Mata'pang went away and tried to enlist another villager, a pagan named Hirao. The latter initially refused, mindful of the missionaries' kindness towards the natives, but became piqued and eventually capitulated when Mata'pang branded him a coward. While Mata'pang was away from his house, San Vitores and Calungsod baptized the baby girl, with the consent of her Christian mother.
When Mata'pang learnt of his daughter's baptism, he became even more furious. He violently hurled spears first at Calungsod, who was able to dodge them. Witnesses claim that Calungsod could have escaped the attack, but did not desert San Vitores. Those who knew personally Calungsod considered his martial abilities and that he could have defeated the aggressors with weapons; San Vitores had however banned his companions to bear arms. Calungsod was struck in the chest by a spear and he fell to the ground, then Hirao immediately charged towards him and finished him off with machete blow to the head. San Vitores quickly absolved Calungsod before he too was killed.
Mata'pang took San Vitores' crucifix and pounded it with a stone whilst blaspheming God. Both assassins then undressed the corpses of Calungsod and San Vitores, tied large stones to the feet, and brought these on their proas out to Tumon Bay, dumping the bodies in the water.
The Catholic Church considers Calungsod's martyrdom as committed In Odium Fidei ('In Hatred of the Faith'), referring to the religious persecution endured by the person in evangelization.
A month after the martyrdom of San Vitores and Calunsod, a process for beatification was initiated but only for San Vitores. Political and religious turmoil, however, delayed and halted the process. When Hagåtña was preparing for its 20th anniversary as a diocese in 1981, the 1673 beatification cause of Padre Diego Luís de San Vitores was rediscovered in old manuscripts and revived until San Vitores was finally beatified on October 6, 1985. This gave recognition to Calungsod, paving the way for his own beatification.
In 1980, then-Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal asked permission from the Vatican to initiate the beatification and canonization cause of Pedro Calungsod. In March 1997, the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints approved the acta of the diocesan beatification process. That same year, Cardinal Vidal appointed Fr Ildebrando Leyson as vice-postulator for the cause, tasked with compiling a Positio Super Martyrio (position regarding the martyrdom) to be scrutinized by the Congregation. The positio, which relied heavily on the documentation of San Vitores' beatification, was completed in 1999.
Wanting to include young Asian laypersons in his first beatification for the Jubilee Year 2000, John Paul II paid particular attention to the cause of Calungsod. In January 2000, he approved the decree super martyrio (concerning the martyrdom) of Calungsod, setting his beatification for March 5, 2000 at Saint Peter's Square in Rome.
Regarding Calungsod's charitable works and virtuous deeds, Pope John Paul II declared:
- From his childhood, Pedro Calungsod declared himself unwaveringly for Christ and responded generously to his call. Young people today can draw encouragement and strength from the example of Pedro, whose love of Jesus inspired him to devote his teenage years to teaching the faith as a lay catechist. Leaving family and friends behind, Pedro willingly accepted the challenge put to him by Fr. Diego de San Vitores to join him on the Mission to the Chamorros. In a spirit of faith, marked by strong Eucharistic and Marian devotion, Pedro undertook the demanding work asked of him and bravely faced the many obstacles and difficulties he met. In the face of imminent danger, Pedro would not forsake Fr. Diego, but as a "good soldier of Christ" preferred to die at the missionary's side.
On December 19, 2011, the Holy See officially approved the miracle qualifying Calungsod for sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church. The recognized miracle dates from March 26, 2003, when a woman from Leyte who was pronounced clinically dead by accredited physicians two hours after a heart attack was revived when an attending physician invoked Calungsod's intercession.
Cardinal Angelo Amato presided over the declaration ceremony on behalf of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He later revealed that Pope Benedict XVI approved and signed the official promulgation decrees recognising the miracles as authentic and worthy of belief. The College of Cardinals were then sent a dossier on the new saints, and they were asked to indicate their approval. On February 18, 2012, after the Consistory for the Creation of Cardinals, Cardinal Amato formally petitioned Pope Benedict XVI to announce the canonization of the new saints. The Pope set the date for the canonization ceremony to October 21, 2012 on World Mission Sunday, 340 years after Calungsod's death.
On October 21, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI canonised Calungsod in Saint Peter's Square. The pope donned a pearl-studded mitre preciosa and a cream-colored, pleated Papal fanon, a special vestment reserved only for the pontiff and used on the most solemn and rare liturgical occasions. Filipino Cardinal Ricardo Jamin Vidal concelebrated at the canonization Mass, and of note is that amongst the seven new saints, Calungsod was the only one without first class relic exposed for veneration since his body was thrown into the sea. The cutlass knife used to hack Calungsod's head and neck was retrieved by Cardinal Vidal from Guam, and is currently venerated as a second-class relic. During the homily, Benedict XVI maintained that Calungsod received the Sacrament of Absolution from Diego Luis de San Vitores before his martyrdom and death.
After Saint Lorenzo Ruíz of Manila, Calungsod is the second Filipino to be declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Martyrology celebrates Calungsod's feast along with Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores every April 2, their dies natalis (heavenly birthdate). However, whenever April 2 falls within Holy Week or within the Octave of Easter, his feast is celebrated on the Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent, that is, the Saturday before Palm Sunday.
Saturday has been designated as the day of devotion and novenas in his honour.
Various areas in the Visayan islands make the claim from which Pedro Calungsod was born and raised. An extensive research provided by the census research of Ginatilan, Cebu provided a longstanding record of Calonsor and Calungsod natives from their area, from which a strong claim had the most Calungsod natives originating since Filipino-Spanish era since the late 1700s. According to the Parish Pastoral Council William Pancho of Ginatilan, Cebu, there is a strong claim that in the mid-1600s, there were three Calungsod brothers:
- Valerio Calungsod who migrated to Iloilo
- Casimiro Calungsod who migrated to Bohol
- Pablo Calungsod who remained in Ginatilan, Cebu and was the father of Pedro Calungsod.
In a public televised interview with ABS-CBN chief correspondent and newscaster Korina Sanchez, Cardinal Ricardo Jamin Vidal emphasized his dismay that when the original beatification of Pedro Calungsod began in 1980's, no province except for Ginatilan, Cebu wanted to make a claim on his place of birth. Consequently, when the canonization was approved, Catholic bishops from the provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, Samar, and Iloilo and various Mindanao provinces wanted to claim Calungsod's official birthplace.
As a result, Cardinal Vidal ruled that he will not establish a definitive judgment on his birthplace, since Spanish records only indicate the words "Pedro Calonsor, El Visayo" as his native description. Furthermore, he stated that all Visayan provinces were under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Cebu during the Filipino-Spanish era.
It is not known exactly what Calungsod looked like, as no contemporary depictions survive. The writer Alcina, who was a contemporary of Pedro Calungsod, described the male Visayan indios of his time as usually more corpulent, better built and somewhat taller than the Tagalogs in Luzon; that their skin was light brown in color; that their faces were usually round and of fine proportions; that their noses were flat; that their eyes and hair were black; that they— especially the youth—wore their hair a little bit long; and that they already started to wear camisas (shirts) and calzones (knee-breeches). Pedro Chirino, S.J., who also worked in the Visayas in the 1590s, similarly described the Visayans as well-built, of pleasing countenance and light-skinned.
Calungsod is often depicted as a teenaged young man wearing a camisa de chino that is sometimes bloodied, and usually dark loose trousers. His most popular attributes are the martyr's palm pressed to his chest and the Doctrina Christiana. To indicate his missionary status, he is depicted in mid-stride, occasionally also bearing a rosary or crucifix. In some early statues, Calungsod is sometimes shown with a spear and catana (cutlass), the instruments of his death.
The first portraits of Pedro Calungsod were drawings done by award-winning artist, sculptor, and designer Eduardo Castrillo in 1994 for the Heritage of Cebu Monument in Parian. A bronze statue of Calungsod was made and now forms part of the monument. Sculptors Francisco dela Victoria and Vicente Gulane of Cebu and Justino Cagayat Jr. of Paete, Laguna, created statues of Calungsod in 1997 and 1999 respectively.
When the Archdiocese of Manila in 1998 published the pamphlet Pedro Calungsod: Young Visayan "Proto-Martyr" by Jesuit theologian Catalino Arevalo, the 17-year-old Ronald Tubid of Oton, Iloilo, then a student-athlete at the University of the East, was chosen to model for a portrait of Calungsod. This then became the basis for Rafael del Casal's painting in 1999, which was chosen as the official portrait for Calungsod. The Del Casal portrait is the first to feature a Christogram, the seal of the Society of Jesus with which he was affiliated. The original painting is now enshrined at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Saint Pedro Calungsod in Cebu City.
Several statues of Calungsod were also commissioned for the beatification, with one brought to Rome and blessed by John Paul II. This became the "Pilgrim Image", now enshrined at the Archdiocesan Shrine of the Black Nazarene of the Society of the Angel of Peace in Cansojong, Talisay City, Cebu. Another image was enshrined at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Saint Pedro Calungsod in Cebu City. Both images also depict Calungsod wearing a white camisa (shirt) and trousers, with his characteristic palm, a rosary, and a crucifix pressed to his breast. During the novena before his feast day, a replica of the catana used to kill him is set into the arm of the statue.
For the Canonization celebrations, the sculpture by Justino Cagayat Jr. depicting Calungsod in midstride and carrying the Doctrina Christian and the martyr's palm pressed to his chest was chosen. This image was brought to Rome for the Canonization festivities. Upon its return to the Philippines, the image toured the country. These visits are currently ongoing to promote devotion to Calungsod. When not on a pilgrimage tour, the image is enshrined at the Cebu Archdiocesan Shrine of St. Pedro Calungsod inside the Archbishop's Residence Compound, D. Jakosalem Street, Cebu City.