Calungsod nameless in Guam death marker

Posted at 10/15/12 11:47 PM

TUMON BAY, Guam - While there is much revelry in the predominantly Catholic Philippines for the upcoming canonization of a Filipino martyr -- the second saint ever to hail from the Filipino race -- there is much silence about him at his death marker in this Pacific island territory.

Perhaps the absence of any reference to Blessed Pedro Calungsod at the 72-year-old marker that sits behind a posh resort hotel here facing the Philippine Sea is part of the partial anonymity that characterizes his life.

Calungsod, who was killed here by the native Chamorros on April 2, 1672, while helping Blessed Diego Luis de Sanvitores of Spain baptize a Chamorro baby, will be declared a saint by the Catholic Church on Oct. 21.

But despite his status, key elements in Calungsod's life remain mysterious to this day, particularly his date of birth and specific place of origin.

And even at his place of death, the marker only bears the name and image of Sanvitores under whom Calungsod served for the propagation of Catholicism in Guam during the 17th century.

No reference by name or image can be found for Calungsod.

The two Catholic missionaries were killed together here by spear and machete, and their bodies were cast into the sea and never found.

The Catholic Church beatified Sanvitores in 1985 and Calungsod in 2000. For now, there is no schedule yet on the former's canonization.

The first death marker for Sanvitores was erected in Tumon Bay in 1940, and another monument followed in 1968 in observance of the tercentenary of the missionaries' arrival in Guam.

The marker includes a recreation of the scene showing Sanvitores baptizing a baby girl and his killers behind him.

"Nobody expects that the name of Blessed Pedro would appear in any marker for that matter. He was just an assistant and ordinary catechist to be given much attention," Philippine Catholic bishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal explained when asked about the absence of any reference for Calungsod at the death marker.

Vidal, who worked for Calungsod's beatification and canonization, travelled to Guam in 2000 at the Guam archbishop's invitation to see the place of Calungsod's martyrdom.

Aside from offering then the Philippines' national flower of sampaguita at the sea off Tumon Bay, Vidal brought an image of Calungsod, which is now installed inside the Blessed Diego Catholic Church located a few kilometers away.

"With his beatification and coming canonization, there will be some changes in the way people will treat this martyr," Vidal said.

He recalled that Catholics in Guam were in fact enthusiastic with Calungsod' beatification. "It was good news to them."

Calungsod was a 14-year-old altar boy and catechist from the central Philippines who joined Sanvitores in heading to the Mariana Islands to Christianize the locals starting 1668.

The full recovery of a Filipino woman from a deadly condition due to lack of oxygen in the brain after a doctor's prayer through Calungsod in 2003 was recognized by Vatican as a miracle, qualifying him for sainthood.

"Even if Blessed Diego is not yet becoming a saint, at least, one of them, Blessed Pedro Calungsod, has been recognized by the church, that whatever actions he took with Blessed Diego was meaningful and was spiritual," John, a 53-year-old Guamanian Catholic, told Kyodo News.

Taking Calungsod's canonization as possible consideration for the sainthood of Sanvitores at a later time, John expressed gratitude to the two martyrs, whose death, he said, "emboldened our people to know the Catholic faith."

As a Chamorro, John does not resent his ancestors' killing of Calungsod and Sanvitores, saying he understands the situation then.

"They had to kill them because of the fact that they felt that the faith of the church will be taking over the life of the Chamorros. They kind of didn't like that. But they learned after that," John said.

"As soon as Pedro Calungsod and Blessed Diego died, there were more missionaries who came to Guam. And that started the faith. In Guam now, we have so many Catholic churches. So in that respect, we understand our faith now."

Vidal said he is very inspired all the more as a Christian and proud as a Filipino for the canonization of Calungsod as it highlights "what a fellow Filipino faithful did for the Church and for the faith in Christ."

Calungsod will be the second Filipino saint, next to Lorenzo Ruiz, a Catholic missionary martyred in Japan in 1637 and canonized in 1987.