Calungsod sainthood inspires performersBy Cris Evert B. Lato
GINATILAN, Cebu—Wilmark Recomes was only 16 when he first portrayed the role of Pedro Calungsod, the Visayan teenage martyr who was elevated to sainthood in a Vatican ceremony on Oct. 20.
Now 30, Recomes played the part again, this time before devotees who gathered at the St. Gregory The Great parish church in Ginatilan town, a coastal municipality 135-kilometers southwest of Cebu City.
Although he was much older than the 17-year-old Pedro, the crowd was not disappointed at his performance with a volunteer group during the festivities that capped a four-day celebration of the canonization of someone Ginatilan residents believe as one of their own.
Recomes is one of the original members of Deboto ni Pedro Calungsod (Devotees of Pedro Calungsod), a performance group formed in late 1999 even before Calungsod was officially beatified on March 5, 2000. The group is composed of friends from Barangay Pardo in Cebu City, who want to share the life of the young catechist to the public through plays.
Organizing a performing group was the idea of stage director Aljin Abaquita, now a radio and TV personality, who saw it as an opportunity to make Calungsod known to many people awaiting his beatification. Abaquita had researched the subject and wrote the script of the play.
At first, the Deboto had 30 young members from various groups under the Sto. Tomas Parish Youth Coordinating Council in Pardo. They had been performing in passion plays during Holy Week.
Msgr. Jose Montecillo supported the members when he was parish priest of Sto. Tomas de Villanueva, providing them snacks and money for transportation and costumes.
Abaquita handpicked Recomes to play the role of Calungsod because of their similarity in built and facial features. The actor was ecstatic because it gave him the “rare privilege” to experience the life and martyrdom of the young missionary catechist who was killed in Guam on April 2, 1672.
“I realized how great this young man was. How brave he was for going out (of his hometown) and spreading the word of God,” said Recomes, a purchaser of a Cebu-based pharmacy.
He said that “playing Pedro now has more depth because I have more life experiences and intercessions granted by Pedro.”
For instance, he said, he asked for Calungsod’s help two weeks ago when he lost his wallet in a taxi containing P4,000 while heading to Mandaue City in Cebu. The money was not his but belonged to a distributor, who asked him to process some government papers.
A few minutes after he prayed in front of St. Calungsod’s statue at the St. Joseph Parish in Mandaue, the taxi driver called him by cell phone and told him to pick up his wallet in the company office.
Recomes acknowledged that staging a play about the life of a saint was not a walk in the park.
“It required so much sacrifice of our time. There were weeks when we practiced even on school days. Kuya Aljin was very strict. There was very little room for mistakes. You have to be dedicated,” he said.
“That helped us because people saw that in our performances. We really did it well. We practice hard,” he added.
Deboto has been receiving invitations from all over Cebu to perform in chapels and churches, and as part of religious festivities during fiestas. Its first performance in 2000 was in its very own parish of Sto. Tomas de Villanueva.
In 2006, it stopped performing, as most members got married and had their own families while others were preoccupied with work.
In the first week of August, Abaquita received an invitation from Fr. Gerardo dela Victor, parish priest of St. Gregory The Great, for the group to stage the play on Calungsod in Ginatilan on Oct. 20, the eve of the canonization.
“I requested that he (Abaquita) let me reprise the role even if I was not as fit as before,” Recomes said. Subsequently, the actor went on a diet and exercised every morning to achieve a leaner body that would make him look more convincing as Pedro.
Since production required funding, group member Grace Oberes said the group asked for donations from members, even those who were working abroad. “It is such a blessing that the members committed to join this play,” said Oberes, 29.
Rennedy Cabaluna, 38, a Deboto member, had been playing the role of Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores for the past 11 years, and this inspired him to enter priesthood when he was 28 years old. San Vitores, a Jesuit priest, was killed with Calungsod on Marianas Islands in 1672.
“Although we are not known or famous, we feel that we are part of Pedro’s journey to sainthood,” said Cabaluna, a sophomore theology student.
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