A hug for PedritoCebu Daily News
There’s a mini-furor over the mini-version of Pedro Calungsod as the stuffed doll “Pedrito”.
Before pious adults start calling down divine wrath reserved for acts of sacrilege, we hope they calm down and remember who the project is for and why it came to be.
The 15-inch doll was conceptualized by young volunteers in the National Commission for the canonization of Pedro Calungsod seeking to reach out to their social media-savvy peers.
Eilleen Esteban, head of the New Media team, said she thought up Pedrito and brought it to life, hoping that through the dolls , “[kids would] someday dream of becoming a saint rather than a super hero.”
Pedrito the doll was supposed to aid an online geo-tagging scheme that would track the itinerary of Calungsod’s official image around Rome in the days leading up to the Oct. 21 canonization and eventually, when it flies back to the Philippines for the Duaw Nasud, where St. Pedro’s statue would visit dioceses across the country.
For the Facebook crowd, it’s a familiar adventure to plant one’s favorite mascot – a stuffed toy or yourself – in a photo of each destination of a tour to memorialize a visit.
For now, the online “Where is Pedrito?” travelogue has been overshadowed by online orders for Pedrito the doll. The website is being swamped with pre-Christmas orders for the P650 sutffed toy.
Some critics have lamented that Pedrito trivializes sainthood and packages the Visayan martyr like a Barbie doll.
That’s hardly a comparison. Barbie is a pricey, fashion-conscious icon with a much better wardrobe and is more fun to dress up. Ask any girl who spent childhood longing to own an original blonde Barbie.
Unlike the commercialized, fashion-conscious Barbie doll which fanned many girls’ fantasies of Western ideals of white-skinned, busty Caucasian beauty, Pedrito has a humbler appeal.
With his saucer eyes and open smile, the chubby brown boy carrying a palm frond and iPad version of the Docrtina Christiana is disarming in his simplicity.
If Pedrito makes Pedro the saint more approachable to youths, if it leads them to be more curious about his life (What’s a green branch doing on his shirt? What’s the fuss over a boy who died 300 years ago?), what’s wrong with that?
If the doll invites a hug, and becomes the object of a pre-teen’s affection, what deadly offense in the 10 Commandments has been violated?
Esteban, in an interview, cautioned that the dolls are not to be mistaken for religious images that can be venerated on altars. No problem there.
Her warning was not meant for kids. It was for generations of adults who expect canonized saints to be somber faced “santos”, the sight of whom is supposed to inspire sacrifice, suffering and repetitions of the mysteries of the Rosary.
There would be mixed signals indeed, if a parent confiscated a child’s Pedrito doll to be placed in a glass cabinet where one could look but not touch this mistaken object of reverence.
No wonder the Catholic church is struggling to be relevant to the youngest of their flock.
In an era where Facebook and the Interent swallow up the time of anyone under 18 years old, the Catholic church is hard put to compete for the attention of Generation Y, let alone find a common ground.
Elders of the church have the right idea in staying open to non-traditional ways of connecting to the youngest of their flock.
Pedrito is a novel way of introducing a saint for the Internet generation, a small step in the complex process of evangelization in a modern world. After the appeal to the heart must follow a deepening of faith “of the head and the hands”, as Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma often tells others.
Even if Ricardo Cardinal Vidal blesses the doll with holy water, which he reportedly did in Rome, no harm has been done as long as meanings are clear.
Pedrito is not a sacramental, no matter how many times the doll is blessed, nor a religious relic.
It’s a doll.
Give it a hug and think of the real Bisdak boy who occupies a part of eternity where, according to cherished Catholic beliefs, Pedro is a friendly advocate.
May he lead the lucky owner to view the Creator as a source of tender love.
At least, Saint Pedro doesn’t come in ivory.
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