Lorenzo Ruiz is said to have uttered a most memorable quotation just before he breathed his last: “I will die a thousand deaths for Christ.” A swift blow with a bladed weapon on Pedro Calungsod’s frail body did not allow him to utter any. That difference apart, the two Filipinos share a series of remarkable similarities, of which sainthood is the latest. Both lived in the 17th century, both began their progress through the Church as altar boys, both ventured to evangelize less-than-friendly "pagans" in other lands and, of course, both were martyred. Lorenzo Ruiz was sent to Nagasaki, Japan, where he was killed in a slow and painful fashion by hostile locals. Calungsod offered himself as a human shield to a Spanish priest who was being attacked by Chamorro tribesmen while on a mission in Marianas, now Guam. Another similarity between the two was the enthusiasm that greeted their respective sainthoods. In the 1980s, the feverish festivities on a national scale that followed the announcement that Blessed San Lorenzo Ruiz was to be canonized — only six years after his beatification — was understandable. Since a full generation has passed since then, the decision on Blessed Pedro Calungsod’s sainthood was not expected to be met with as much fire and fervor. But it has been, especially in the Visayas, the central part of the Philippines where two major provinces—Cebu and Bohol—and the city of Iloilo claim the new saint as their own. So who enjoyed more publicity? It is so hard to tell, given that the landscape of mass media 25 years ago is galaxies away from today’s plethora of online and social media. The atmospheres of excitement then and now certainly feel the same. The feeling of triumph during San Lorenzo Ruiz’s canonization was unique because it was a breakthrough. Now the sainthood of Calungsod has brought a renewed sense of hope. With two Filipino intercessors in heaven, the Philippines may yet experience a miracle or two as it seeks redemption from its sins. Fort Nicolas is a newspaper editor based in Manila.
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