Lessons from a canonizationBy Jobers Bersales
Cebu Daily News
ROME — I know the people in the Vatican will never read this column nor will they ever heed what I have to say here. Still, it is worth our while for those who in the future might want to come to St. Peter’s Square for another canonization.
The first thing to learn is that it would be unwise to canonize a Filipino saint and join him or her with candidates from other countries. The sheer number of Filipinos, both already here as migrant workers all over Europe or those coming from the Philippines just for the event, will overwhelm all other nationalities. The shrieks and claps plus the number of Philippine flags—some as large as those used in schools and offices in the Philippines—waved or held aloft during times when the name “San Pedro Calungsod” was announced are evidence enough that Filipino expressions of faith and pride of country surpass those of other nationalities. There was a Frenchman and a Spaniard as well as a German from among those that were canonized that day, but there was barely a crowd rooting for them or praising high heavens for the gift of sainthood.
Or maybe perhaps the Filipino is just boisterous, loud, and deeply expressive in the most creative ways possible. Be that as it may, one can just imagine what would happen if not just one but maybe three or four Filipinos are canonized at the same time! (And indeed there are three or four whose causes are now being pursued either at the level of the local bishop or here at the Vatican’s Pontifical Congregation for the Causes of Saints.)
The second is that although many Filipinos will brave the early morning cold (six to eight degrees Celsius!) waiting to get the closest seat possible, many of them are far too advanced in age to go through such discomfort, to say the least. The hotel where I am fortunate to stay in is barely 100 meters from St. Peter’s Square and the din and noise that emanated just below my room at 4 o’clock in the morning that fateful dawn of Oct. 21 was clearly a babel of different Filipino languages. And when I looked down to see what was going on, I saw a lot of old Filipino women already out near the gates at such a cold, unholy hour. Surely, there must be a way to allow these old folks some privilege of seniority in getting the choicest seats. After all, they may not make it to the next canonization.
The third is that the Pope and the Vatican clearly see the overwhelming number of Filipino Catholics and their thirst for more saints. Now mind you, the making of saints is no easy task—and I am told, is quite an expensive endeavor involving priests, doctors and scientists of every persuasion—but the fact that the Pope recognized and thanked the Filipinos first before all the others during the Mass, was seen by many as a tacit admission that it is not here in Rome but in there in faraway Philippines that Christianity is alive and well. This begs the question of when the Philippines will once again have her two reigning cardinals, following the mandatory retirement of Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and the passing on of Jose Tomas Cardinal Sanchez early this year.
* * *
I must express my admiration for Filipino migrant workers here in Rome. The few days that I have been here I have heard a lot from priests about the “kayod,” the diligence, the striving that they do just to earn a living to send back home. None of those selling counterfeit bags or shawls and other what-have-yous to tourists are Filipinos, which tells you that they are doing far more respectable jobs.
This helps explain why Filipinos are still the preferred workers here, despite the low wages asked of by migrant workers coming from the former Easter European countries. Nevertheless, the price our “katagilungsods” do here, in leaving behind their children and spouses cannot be pegged in monetary terms. Life is difficult here and I can just imagine how Filipinos here welcome the opportunity to be part of the historic canonization of San Pedro Calungsod, referred to by many as the first migrant worker from the Philippines.
Incidentally, I was told that the oldest Filipino Catholic community that bears the name of Pedro Calungsod is here in Rome, established in his honor even before the process for his beatification began to take shape. Apparently the members of this community heard of the young man’s martyrdom via the beatification of the Jesuit priest Diego de San Vitores in the mid-1980s. San Pedro Calungsod’s fate was forever intertwined with that of Fr. San Vitores that fateful day of April 2, 1672. And now this community named after him shall continue to bear witness in his name.
More from this Column:
- Rejoinder from non-pigs in the pigsty
- Cebuanos in a pigsty
- Culture and heritage: The unfinished agenda
- Ka Bino’s diapers
- Digging San Remigio anew