In the Roman Catholic religion, the path to Sainthood involves a tedious 4-step investigative process. Not going into details, the candidate must satisfy different sets of criteria in order to pass the four stages to Sainthood and earn its corresponding titles – “Servant of God,” “Venerable,” “Blessed,” and finally “Saint.”
The Philippines is the only Asian country with a predominantly Roman Catholic population. It has produced two officially-canonized saints in a span of 25 years.
The first Filipino to be canonized as a saint is San Lorenzo Ruiz. Beatified (proclaimed “Blessed”) in February 1981 by Pope John Paul II, the same Pope would canonize Lorenzo Ruiz in 1987.
San Lorenzo Ruiz was born in Manila ca. 1600. His father was Chinese, his mother was Filipina. He first served as an altar boy, then as a clerk at the Binondo Church. In 1636, he went to Japan together with other Dominican priests; this was not the best time to be in that country because Christians were being persecuted there. San Lorenzo and his companions were arrested, imprisoned, and tortured. The Japanese offered them freedom if they would renounce their Catholic faith. They refused and their torture continued which subsequently caused their death.
Pope John Paul II canonized San Lorenzo Ruiz, together with 15 other Martyrs on Oct. 18, 1987. The saint’s feast day is Sept. 28.
The second Filipino saint is San Pedro Calungsod. Beatified in March 2000 by Pope John Paul II, Calungsod was canonized just 2 weeks ago, on Oct. 21, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.
Sept. 2 is the feast day of San Pedro Calungsod, this being the date of his death.
San Pedro Calungsod was a sacristan and a missionary cathechist. Born in 1654 in the Diocese of Cebu, Pedro was quite very young when he, together with some Spanish Jesuits traveled to the Mariana islands to spread the Gospel. Later he and a missionary priest, (Blessed) Diego Luis de San Vitores would proceed to Guam. On Sept. 2, 1672, the two would be killed by a hostile Chamorro for baptizing the latter’s newborn baby girl. Pedro was only 17 at the time of his death.
The next possible Filipino saint could be Felipe Songsong, a Jesuit missionary from Macabebe, Pampanga. He is a candidate for Beatification in Rome. He was a contemporary of San Pedro Calungsod, although he was 43 years older than the Visayan saint. [Here is an interesting trivia – Felipe was born in May 1, 1611; the University of Santo Tomas (the Philippines’ and Asia’s oldest university) was officially founded on April 28, 1611. The U.S.T was only 3 days old when Felipe was born.]