Sainthood unclear for three martyrs from Pampanga
The path to sainthood for three men who served in the same missions of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and soon-to-be canonized Blessed Pedro Calungsod has not been cleared even if their martyrdom was well-documented, according to a review of the book “Kapampangan Pioneers in the Philippine Church.”
The book authored by Dr. Luciano Santiago revealed that Juan de Guerra, a seaman from Betis, was beheaded three years after Ruiz was executed in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1637. Nicolas de Figueroa of Bacolor and Phelippe Sonsong of Macabebe, on the other hand, laid their lives defending the Jesuit mission that Fr. Diego Luis de San Vitores led in the Marianas in 1668.
Santiago said De Guerra, 33, at the time of his execution, was one of two Filipinos in a crew of 70 who accompanied four Macau diplomats sent to Japan to improve diplomatic relations.
But upon reaching Japan, they were all jailed for spreading the Christian religion. For refusing to renounce their faith, 61 of them were beheaded, including De Guerra. Thirteen others were sent back to Macau to carry the warning to King Philip.
According to Santiago, the church in Manila celebrated the martyrdom of De Guerra and his unnamed Filipino companion. By 1698 in Madrid, a book documented the execution based on accounts of survivors.
De Figueroa, a boy catechist, also suffered martyrdom but died fighting. A gang of 20 native Chamorros ambushed him and three lay missionaries on April 1, 1672.
When one of the missionaries was killed, De Figueroa cut off the head of the gang’s leader to scare away the rest. He and his two companions fled, with De Figueroa ending up in a village where he was seized and thrown off a cliff. His body was repeatedly speared.
The natives killed San Vitores and his assistant, Calungsod, the next morning, said Santiago, citing Jesuit records. A Jesuit tribunal was convened in 1673 in Guam to look into the possible beatification of De Figueroa and his companion.
Acts of violence
San Vitores was beatified in 1985 and Calungsod will be elevated to sainthood on Oct. 21.
“Could it be that Nicolas de Figueroa’s acts of violence had posed a problem to the Vatican? Well, violence due to self-defense is justifiable even by the standards of the Holy See’s Congregation of Saints,” said Robby Tantingco, executive director of the Center for Kapampangan Studies, when asked about the sainthood bid for De Figueroa.
He said Ruiz was accused of killing a Spaniard in 1636 while Calungsod was armed because of self-defense. “Other great saints who fought in wars (and probably killed people in self-defense or in the name of God) were St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Society of Jesus), St. Dominic (founder of the Dominican Order) and St. Joan of Arc,” Tantingco noted.
Sonsong fought back when the Chamorros attacked the mission, dying a year later at 73 from severe wounds.
Best documented Filipino
A Jesuit priest in the mission documented the “life of heroic sanctity” of Sonsong, with historian Fr. John Schumacher saying that Sonsong’s life was the best documented Filipino in colonial history before Jose Rizal.
The governor of Guam carried the coffin of Sonsong to his grave site to honor his reputation for sanctity, Tantingco said. Devotees of the Talangpaz sisters, Mother Dionisia and Cecilia Rosa, applied for their beatification in 1999.
Born in Calumpit, Bulacan, their paternal and maternal grandparents are from Macabebe.
“Kapampangan can stake that claim [for these sainthoods], too, because after all, they produced the first Filipino priest, first Filipino nun, first Filipino parish priest, first Filipino cardinal, first Filipino Jesuit, first Filipino Recollect, first Filipino Doctor of Sacred Theology, etc. and even the first Filipino priest to become a provincial governor,” said Tantingco.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.