PEDRO CALUNGSOD was a young native of the Visayas region of the
Philippines. Very little is known about him. He was just one of
the boy catechists who went with some Spanish Jesuit missionaries
from the Philippines to the Ladrones Islands in the western Pacific
in 1668 to evangelize the Chamorros.
Life in the Ladrones was hard. The provisions for the Mission did
not arrive regularly; the jungles were too thick to cross; the cliffs
were very stiff to climb, and the islands were frequently visited
by devastating typhoons. Despite all these, the missionaries persevered,
and the Mission was blessed with many conversions. Subsequently,
the islands were renamed Marianas by the missionaries
in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of the Queen Regent of Spain,
María Ana, who was the benefactress of that Mission.
But very soon, a Chinese quack, named Choco, envious of the prestige
that the missionaries were gaining among the Chamorros, started
to spread the talk that the baptismal water of the missionaries
was poisonous. And since some sickly Chamorro infants who were baptized
died, many believed the calumniator and eventually apostatized.
The evil campaign of Choco was readily supported by the Macanjas
(sorcerers) and the Urritaos (young male prostitutes) who, along
with the apostates, began persecuting the missionaries.
The most unforgettable assault happened on 2 April 1672, the Saturday
just before the Passion Sunday of that year. At around seven oclock
in the morning, Pedroby then already about 17 years oldand
the superior of the mission, named Padre Diego Luís de San
Vitores, came to the village of Tomhom, in the Island of Guam. There,
they were told that a baby girl was recently born in the village,
so they went to ask the childs father, named Matapang, to
bring out the infant for baptism. Matapang was a Christian and a
friend of the missionaries, but having apostatized, he angrily refused
to have his baby baptized.
To give Matapang some time to cool down, Padre Diego and Pedro
gathered the children and some adults of the village at the nearby
shore and started chanting with them the truths of the Catholic
Faith. They invited Matapang to join them, but the apostate shouted
back that he was angry with God and was already fed up with the
Determined to kill the missionaries, Matapang went away and tried
to enlist in his cause another villager, named Hirao, who was not
a Christian. At first, Hirao refused, mindful of the kindness of
the missionaries towards the natives; but when Matapang branded
him a coward, he got piqued and so he consented. Meanwhile, during
that brief absence of Matapang from his hut, Padre Diego and Pedro
took the chance of baptizing the infant, with the consent of the
When Matapang learned of the baptism, he became even more furious.
He violently hurled spears first at Pedro. The lad skirted the darting
spears with remarkable dexterity. The witnesses said that Pedro
had all the chances to escape because he was very agile, but he
did not want to leave Padre Diego alone. Those who knew Pedro personally
believed that he would have defeated his fierce aggressors and would
have freed both himself and Padre Diego if only he had some weapons
because he was a very valiant boy; but Padre Diego never allowed
his companions to carry arms. Finally, Pedro got hit by a spear
at the chest and he fell to the ground. Hirao immediately charged
towards him and finished him off with a blow of a cutlass on the
head. Padre Diego gave Pedro the sacramental absolution. After that,
the assassins also killed Padre Diego.
Matapang took the crucifix of Padre Diego and pounded it with a
stone while blaspheming God. Then, both assassins denuded the bodies
of Pedro and Padre Diego, dragged them to the edge of the shore,
tied large stones to the feet of these, brought them on a proa to
sea and threw them into the deep. Those remains of the martyrs were
never to be found again.
When the companion missionaries of Pedro learned of his death,
they exclaimed, Fortunate youth! How well rewarded his four
years of persevering service to God in the difficult Mission are:
he has become the precursor of our superior, Padre Diego, in Heaven!
They remembered Pedro to be a boy with very good dispositions, a
virtuous catechist, a faithful assistant, and a good Catholic whose
perseverance in the Faith even to the point of martyrdom proved
him to be a good soldier of Christ (cf. II Tim 2:3).
Padre Diego Luís de San Vitores was beatified in 1985. It
was his beatification that brought the memory of Pedro Calungsod
to our day. On 5 March 2000, Pope John Paul II beatified Pedro Calungsod
at Saint Peter's Square in Rome.
2003 Fr. Ildebrando A. Leyson
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