Saint Pedro Calungsod
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.
St. Pedro Calungsod also known as Peter Calungsod and Pedro Calonsor, was a Roman Catholic Filipino migrant, sacristan and missionary catechistwho, along with the Spanish Jesuit missionary Diego Luis de San Vitores, suffered religious persecution and martyrdom in Guam for their missionary work in 1672.
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.
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. However, American historian and scholar John N. Schumacher, S.J. disputes the Bisaya/Pintados dichotomy claim as at that time the Pintados were also referred to as Visayans regardless of location and said Pedro “was a Visayan” and may have been but doubtfully “from the island of Cebu” or “could have come any other Visayas islands.”
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. 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.
In Guam, Calunsgod 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 people 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.
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.