Barkada ni PedroBy Malou Guanzon-Apalisok
Cebu Daily News
Beato and soon-to-be Saint Pedro Calungsod is being depicted as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) because in life he went to faraway places to work and support his family.
In his time, the work of a helper to a half-blind Jesuit missionary spreading the faith in the land of the Chamorros in the Marianas Islands may not be compared to the grueling work of a caregiver attending to a bedridden master in Europe or Canada but the challenges would still be the same in the sense that they can be unrelenting.
In “Saint” (Kinutil/Oct.12), Cebu Daily News colleague Raymund L. Fernandez said Pedro’s representation is drawn “in the colors of our own culture,” implying that the 3,000 young Filipinos who leave the country daily to seek their fortunes in foreign countries should take their inspiration from the “bisdak,” whose diligence, fortitude and compassion have elevated him to the elect in heaven.
Whether as domestics in Hong Kong, nurses in Europe and North America, or as engineers in the Middle East, OFWs can become instruments of spreading the faith just by their practice of traditional values. While they work hard for their families, the sacrifices they offer also cascade to the national economy. Dollar remittances by OFWs amounting to more than P15 billion according to latest data have kept the economy afloat for many years.
However, the reality of the Filipino diaspora or migration of Filipinos to work and live in other countries imperils the Church’s agenda of making them instruments of evangelization. In their desire to adjust to a foreign country and different culture, Filipinos tend to supplant their ethnic tradition with the new way of life that the host country offers.
In de-Christianised Europe for example, where less and less people go to churches to attend Sunday Mass, Filipinos will find it difficult to stick to tradition in a society that subliminally frowns on religious beliefs and practices.
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In Pedro’s time, the concept of looking for greener pastures meant earning one’s keep through practical jobs which guaranteed three meals a day. Because his family had barely anything to eat, the Calungsods were forced to entrust the young Pedro to a missionary. The prospect of having one less mouth to feed was the short term benefit; getting him a good practical training and education as the long term profit made the separation less painful for the family.
As we know, Pedro and then Jesuit missionary now Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores were both killed in the hands of villagers who were resentful of Catholic religion.
Pedro’s name appears only in the documents on the martyrdom of Fr. Diego, who was then the Spanish superior of the Marianas mission.
On April 2, 1672 at the village of Tomhom on the island of Guam in the Marianas, two natives killed Pedro and Fr. Diego with spears and cutlass—first Pedro, then Fr. Diego.
The documentation about San Vitores’ mission work in Guam became the basis for his beatification and canonization. The efforts of the Society of Jesus eventually led the Archdiocese of Cebu through then Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal to look into the life of the mission helper, what we call tsimoy in Pinoy slang. The local archdiocese had to start from scratch because Pedro seemed faceless and nameless in the documents unearthed by the Jesuits. His ethnic origin is even vague.
When I think about Pedro’s circumstances, I remember the Tagalog phrase “mga batang yagit.” The title of the 1984 Tagalog tearjerker eventually found its way in everyday use, broadly referring to marginalized young people living outside the mainstream of society —powerless, faceless, and nameless—very much like Pedro when he set out for mission work in the company of the Jesuit missionary more than three centuries ago.
In that sense, young people who are marginalized because of lack of education, live under flyovers and bridges, children of displaced families in rebel infested areas, victims of natural calamities, exploited by unjust social structures, they are all barkada ni Pedro.
This is not to put down the Jesuits, but I wonder why the congregation didn’t claim this soon-to-be saint as one of their own after it was confirmed that he died defending Fr. Diego. Shouldn’t Pedro be deserving of some conferment like, Brother Pedro of the Society of Jesus? I will belabor this issue because I believe God works in mysterious ways.
I hope that the millions of Filipino youth mired in poverty, hopelessness and rejection will not be worn down by the bleakness of their situation. God has bestowed us with faith and perhaps it is time to rediscover it as we reflect on Pedro’s canonization.
In him, the youth has a model and champion.
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- Lessons from Danao
- Lapu-Lapu Liberals and a pocket paradise