Records don’t pinpoint this Bisaya’s family rootsBy Trizer D. Mansueto
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Some accounts of Blessed Pedro Calungsod’s origins point to his Visayan lineage. But historians have difficulty confirming which part of the Visayas he truly came from in the absence of material proof.
Since he was beatified in 2000, many Calungsods have surfaced, particularly those from Cebu, Leyte and Iloilo, claiming kinship. Without a doubt, Calungsod came from the ecclesiastical territory of Cebu, which, during his time, covered the entire Visayas and Mindanao, as well as the Marianas. The term “Bisaya,” however, is a generic term that may refer to a person who comes from any town in the Visayas.
Without baptism records, the surname Calungsod does not provide a lead in tracing his origins. The fact that he was an “indio” and lay helper was enough for him to merit a mere footnote in the account of the martyrdom of the Spanish Jesuit priest Diego Luis de San Vitores, founder of the mission to the Marianas.
From the beginning, Calungsod was already consigned to the sidelines even if the act of sacrificing his life for the faith was considered the ultimate Christian sacrifice. Thus, it was not surprising that he was not even included in the beatification of San Vitores in 1985, supposedly so as not to delay the cause of the priest.
The beatification of San Vitores was initiated in January 1673, nine months after their martyrdom. This can be deduced from the title of the process of beatification itself.
A simple adjective or, at most, a sentence or two in the documents was enough consolation for the teenage Visayan martyr.
And this is where the problem started.
Likely places of origin
Based on inference, only four areas in the Visayas may qualify as his likely place of origin—Ginatilan in Cebu, Hinundayan and Hinunangan in Leyte, and Molo in Iloilo. Families bearing the Calungsod surname have been documented in these areas.
Calungsod, a habitational name in Cebuano, means “one’s townmate” or “of the same town.” Could it be possible that Pedro Calungsod was indeed from Ginatilan because the Calungsods of Cebu were from that town?
Ginatilan, situated southwest of Cebu, was identified as “Ynatilan” on Fr. Murillo Velarde’s map of 1744. It appears to be right across Tanhay on the same map.
According to Fr. Ildebrando Leyson, vice postulator of Calungsod’s cause, the first Calungsod to be baptized in Ginatilan was Mariano Calungsod in 1852. It is possible that even before the Claveria Decree of 1849 was enforced, this family in Ginatilan was already using the surname.
(Spanish Gov. Gen. Narciso Claveria issued the decree in 1849 requiring Filipinos to use Spanish surnames and other Spanish words as surnames. At that time, most Filipinos did not have surnames.)
It is important to determine the earliest Calungsod in Ginatilan in order to safely conclude that Pedro could not have come from anywhere else in the Visayas but Cebu. In the “libro de difuntos” (burial records), the earliest was a certain Luciano Calungsod, who died on Aug. 2, 1852, at the age of 67.
It can be deduced that the Calungsods might have lived in the area since 1785.
If Calungsod was really from Cebu, had the Jesuits ever been in or near Ginatilan for them to have recruited Pedro from the town?
There are two plausible ways: One, Pedro was brought to the Jesuit residence in Cebu or to the nearby Jesuit mission station in Tanay, Negros, which was established in 1599. Being itinerant missionaries, the Jesuits from their Tanay station could have sailed to southwestern Cebu, where Ginatilan is situated, across the Tañon Strait.
The closest parish on the western part of the island was Barili town, a long distance from Ginatilan. It would have been more convenient for the Jesuits in Tanay to include the southern tip of Cebu as mission territory.
The other possibility was that the Jesuits were able to recruit Pedro when Barili was covered by Jesuit administration. It is little known that the Jesuits of Cebu were able to reach Barili, but indeed they administered the parish, probably for some time. Jesuit presence in the area was documented by the chronicler Fr. Pedro Chirino, S.J.
Around the 1600s, the parish of Barili (which encompasses the modern-day towns of Tuburan to Samboan) came under the control of the Jesuits when its parish priest escaped due to frequent Moro incursions.
“His villages were in western Cebu island in the same strait fronting Tanay,” Chirino wrote. “Because of his absence, these people had been without pastor, and accordingly, without help.”
Worried that his flock would be without a shepherd, the “saintly bishop” (Fray Pedro de Agurto, O.S.A.), found “a good solution in Fr. Pedro Martinez, whom the Father Vice-Provincial had brought from Manila … sought to have him assigned to him as a remedy.”
Accompanied by Fr. Valerio de Ledesma, Martinez walked great distances in order to administer the sacraments to what seemed to be carefree natives, who were later transformed and “became civilized and gentle like little lambs.”
Granting that the Jesuits did stay long enough in either Tanay or Barili, it could be possible that Pedro was from Ginatilan.
So how did Calungsod end up in the Marianas?
It could be that after he was assessed fit for mission work, Calungsod was either brought to Manila or Cavite, and from there was recruited for the mission to the Marianas, as pointed out by the historian, Fr. John Schumacher, S.J.
From the port of Cavite, Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores’ group first headed to Acapulco, Mexico, to pick up more Jesuit volunteers before sailing back to the Marianas. They eventually landed in Agana on June 16, 1668, and started to evangelize the Chamorro people.
After more than three years, Calungsod was martyred together with Father San Vitores on April 2, 1672, “in hatred of the faith” after they baptized the daughter of the native Chamorro named Matapang in the shores of Tumon, Guam. Their bodies were later tied with stone sinkers and thrown out to the sea.
The author obtained his Master of Arts in History degree from Silliman University in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.