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On October 21, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to enlist the Visayan-born Beato Pedro Calungsod in the Canon of the Saints of the Church. Blessed Pedro Calungsod is said to have been born circa 1654 in Ginatilan, Cebu, or possibly in southern Leyte, in the Molo district of Iloilo, or even in Loboc, Bohol. No matter which of these was his actual birthplace, Calungsod’s ecclesiastical provenance is certain because the entire Visayas was under the old Diocese of the Most Holy Name (Cebu), which is now an archdiocese.
In the 1600s, the diocese conducted missionary work on islands near the Philippines, like the Ladrones Islands of Guam, which were later renamed the Mariana Islands. At the time, the Ladrones were in fact part of the old Diocese of Cebu. When he was around fourteen years old, Pedro Calungsod was sent to the Ladrones as a catechist and sacristan. Along with a Spanish Jesuit missionary, Blessed Diego Luís de San Vitores, the seventeen-year-old Calungsod was slain there in the Tumon Bay area on April 2, 1672, by natives who distrusted the missionaries. Their remains were thrown in the sea, never to be found.
A year after the death of these two missionaries, the Jesuits began the process for San Vitores’s sainthood, but it took three hundred years until Pedro Calungsod was beatified by Pope John Paul II on March 5, 2000, along with more than forty other martyrs of the church. Padre Diego’s beatification cause had been rediscovered by the diocese of Hagåtña in 1981 after it was buried by political and religious turmoil, and fortunately for us Filipinos, the memory of Pedro Calungsod was also brought to light. In 1994, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, who was Cebu’s archbishop at the time, asked the Vatican’s permission to initiate a cause for the beatification of Pedro Calungsod.
The other martyrs beatified during the same ceremony as Blessed Pedro Calungsod were from Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil, and Poland. Blessed Pedro Calungsod will be the first of that group of people to be canonized as a saint. The feast day of Pedro Calungsod is celebrated every second day of April, the anniversary of his martyrdom.
The family name of Pedro Calungsod was written in several different ways in the manuscripts of his Spanish companions and contemporaries, such as Ignacio Francisco Alcina, SJ, a missionary who lived in the Visayas from 1632 to 1670. Calungsod was called Calonsor, Calongsor, Calansor, and Calangsor in those manuscripts, but the present version of his family name is Calungsod, with the emphasis falling on the letter u.
The surname Calungsod has a Visayan origin, and it came from the Bisaya word lungsod, which can mean a town or its citizenry. With the prefix ca- (or ka-), the resulting word meant a fellow citizen of one’s town. One reason for the variations in the spelling of Calungsod’s family name may be the fact that the terminal d in lungsod is changed to r when this word is inflected into related words like kalungsoran (towns) or lungsoranon (townspeople or a town citizen). Listening to the pronunciation of many Bisaya words, one might also hear some confusion between the sounds of the vowels o and u, which probably also contributed to the spelling variations, not to mention the fact that his name was read, heard and pronounced by various people of different tongues, ears and eyes.
Because of how common Pedro (or Peter) is as a Christian name, other people here in the Visayas, particularly in Ginatilan, in Leyte, and in Iloilo City, were also baptized with the name Pedro Calungsod in the 1800s and 1900s. To this day, you can find people with the family name Calungsod in many parts of the Visayas.
No historically verified likeness of Pedro Calungsod remains, so we do not know what he in fact looked like. The painting of him that was brought to Rome for his beatification was based on Ronald Tubid, a teenaged basketball player from Iloilo. The artist of this painting was Rafael del Casal, who painted it in 1999.
Those who want to visit the Archdiocesan Shrine of Blessed Pedro Calungsod can go to the Archbishop’s Residence Compound on D. Jakosalem Street, Cebu City, where the shrine is located. Its rector, Monsignor Ildebrando Jesus A. Leyson, PC, was appointed by Cardinal Vidal in 1997 as vice-postulator for the cause of the beatification and canonization of Pedro Calungsod. Fr. Leyson was tasked with compiling the documentation that was scrutinized by the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in Rome.
Blessed Pedro Calungsod is also among the people that are depicted in the Heritage of Cebu Monument, which can be found in the Parian district. If you wish, you may Like the archdiocese-approved Facebook page of our soon-to-be-canonized Bisaya lay missionary at www.facebook.com/FilipinoSaintPedroCalungsod