Visayans troop to churches to celebrate St. Pedro Calungsod's canonization
Pilgrims flock St. Gregory The Great Parish church in Ginatilan, Toledo, Cebu which is the believed birth town of Pedro Calungsod (TONEE DESPOJO)
GINATILAN, Cebu, Philippines — Even before sunrise, the sleepy town of Ginatilan
was already buzzing with activities.
The bells of St. Gregory The Great Parish Church pealed at 4 a.m. to wake up the residents and remind them of the
historic day ahead: the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod as a saint whom they believe came from this coastal municipality, 135 kilometers southwest of Cebu City.
The residents rose from sleep and prepared for the fluvial parade that started from and ended at the small port located behind the town
public plaza, about 500 meters from the church.
But it was not just Ginatilan that was busy with activities to celebrate the canonization of Calungsod.
In Toledo City, devotees braved the rains to flock to Blessed Pedro Calungsod Parish Church in Barangay Cantabaco where four masses were lined up to celebrate Calungsod's canonization.
More than 2,500 devotees also flocked to the Calungsod Shrine inside the Archbishop's Palace in Cebu City, filling it to capacity, as early as 11
a.m. for the 1:30 p.m. Mass.
In the otherwise sleepy town of Ginatilan, the atmosphere can be likened to a fiesta celebration.
Residents were busy putting finishing touches on the different booths of the barangay (villages) that would be used for the barrio fiesta
celebration later at noon.
The booths, which looked like nipa huts, were made of bamboo and coconut leaves and were decorated with fruits and vegetables.
Buntings and colorful flaglets decorated the entire town. Tarps bearing greetings from different people and families are placed in all streets.
Of course, there were vendors hawking different souvenir products from t-shirts to prayer booklets.
William Jabin, 27 of Barangay Planas, said Calungsod's canonization was good news to Ginatilan, about 135 km southwest of Cebu City.
"We did not get to be featured in the news that often and now, suddenly we are the center of attraction. The last time we were in the news was during the funeral of Captain Bahinting...that was not good news," he said.
Captain Jessup M. Bahinting was the pilot and owner of the plane that crashed off Masbate in August, killing Bahinting, his co-pilot and Interior Secretary
Jesse Robredo. Bahinting was buried in Ginatilan, the hometown of his wife Margarita.
At 8 a.m., about 500 fishermen on board 20 pumpboats joined the fluvial procession. The boats sailed for close to two hours starting from Ginatilan to the boundary of neighboring town of Malabuyoc, about seven kilometers by distance.
Drumbeats accompanied prayers on its way back to Ginatilan. The procession then proceeded to the church, which was about 500 meters away.
Devotee Anastacia Gomez of Daanbantayan town travelled for eight hours just to get to Ginatilan and attend the fluvial parade
She was not disappointed. "There was not much fanfare. It was very solemn and I really felt the devotion," she told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Gomez, 56, said she asked St. Pedro Calungsod to soften the heart of her son, who has been giving the family problems.
"I know Pedro is the patron of the youth so I know he is the right blessed person to ask help from. Now that he is a saint, I am more confident that he will grant my wish completely because my son is slowly changing now," she said in Cebuano.
About 1,000 devotees filled the St. Gregory The Great parish church for the 10 a.m. Mass.
They laughed when Msgr. Danny Sanico, Episcopal vicar and former Ginatilan parish priest, said in jest that several towns had also claimed St. Pedro Calungsod as their own.
"People from Loboc (Bohol) will say Pedro Calungsod because there are many surnames there that starts with ''Cang.''
Those from Leyte, Bacolod and Iloilo also claim (the same)...but Pedro's sainthood is not just about pride but a challenge to all of us...to continue what he started," he said.
Then he poised a question to the parishioner: "Are you willing to follow Pedro, knowing everything that he went through? Maybe you would say he is from Iloilo."
Most churchgoers wore pink, yellow, white and black Pedro Calungsod T-shirts. Drumbeats and music ended the close to two-hour concelebrated mass.
After the Mass, the devotees converged to the nipa huts to share their lunch "barrio fiesta style."
In the afternoon, wide screen set up near the church showed the live telecast of the canonization rites in Rome. The festivities were capped by
thanksgiving concert in the evening.
In Toledo City, the morning rain didn't stop devotees from going to the Blessed Pedro Calungsod Parish Church in Cantabaco "the
first church in Cebu named after the Visayan martyr.
Some of the church-goers brought their own chairs. Others stood outside with their umbrellas as the church filled with people. The church could only
accommodate 1,500 people.
SPO3 Socrates Aparicio of Lutopan police said at least 20,000 devotees attended the four masses "7 a.m., 9 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.
Some songs in the Masses were in Latin. The consecration was also in Latin to make the celebration more solemn, said parish priest Russel Sungcad.
After every Mass, devotees shouted "Viva San Pedro Calungsod" and raised their hands in celebration.
Aparicio led four policemen in manning the peace during the celebration. Road sides in Cantabaco virtually became parking areas of vehicles of devotees "some came from other provinces.
Among them was a group of law students from the Negros Oriental State University who traveled for six hours from Negros Oriental just to attend Mass in Blessed Pedro Calungsod Parish.
"We heard about the miracles that Calungsod has given to those who believe and come to him. We are here to pray that we can pass the bar exam when we take it next year," said Ritchie Diamano.
They will graduate this march.
A mother from Barangay Bacayan in Cebu City brought 12-year-old son Winzel during the healing Mass at noon.
Ailene Arcilla said St. Pedro Calungsod answered her prayers 12 years ago when he healed Winzel.
"My son was supposed to undergo operation because of some illness in his blood. But when we prayed to Calungsod, the doctors said that my baby was all well," she told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
"Calungsod was still blessed at that time. I promised him that I will dedicate Winzel to him for making him grow healthy," said Arcilla.
A group of teachers from Mandaue and Cebu cities also went to the Blessed Pedro Calungsod Parish City. They brought their own food and had lunch outside their vehicle along the road.
"We all agreed to take part in the celebration because this is once-in-a-lifetime experience," said Leo Daculan.
Father Sungcad said they were overwhelmed by the number of devotees who attended the Masses even if the church was not yet completed. It didn't have the proper sound system and lighting, ceiling, convent, and belfry.
"I was used to celebrating Mass with less than 20 people attending it. I'm glad that Calungsod brought in a lot of his devotees," he said.
Sungcad said they remained hopeful that they would receive more donations to finish the church by December next year.
He added not to cut his hair until the church was completed. Sungcad's hair was five inches below his shoulder.
He started growing it when he was assigned in Cantabaco last 2004.
In Cebu City, more than 2,500 devotees filled the Calungsod Shrine inside the Archbishop's Palace on D. Jakosalem Street to attend the Mass. After the Mass, they proceeded to the covered court behind the shrine to watch the film about the life of Visayan martyr and later, the live telecast of the canonization rites in Rome.
One of the pilgrims was Lily Martin, 70, who attended the celebration to give thanks to St. Pedro Calungsod for saving the lives of her sister and niece,
who were both diagnosed with colon cancer.
Martin said her sister, Helen Paclibar, 63, was diagnosed last July with stage 4 colon cancer while niece, Rowena Cantal, 32, was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer.
Both Paclibar and Cantal were healed after they prayed to St. Pedro Calungsod, said Martin. / INQUIRER