by Msgr. Ildebrando Jesus Aliño Leyson
The writings of the companion missionaries and contemporaries of Blessed Pedro Calungsod describe him as only a youngster – a mozo, a mocito, a mancebo, a mancebito, a iuvenis, a jeune home, a muchacho, a niño – when he was martyred on April 2, 1672.
The boys who assisted Blessed Fr. Diego Luís de San Vitores at the start of the Mariana Mission in 1668 were between 12 and 15 years old. Of those boys, we know the exact age of only two because they were explicitly mentioned in the manuscripts: Diego Bazán from Mexico who was only 14 years old in 1668, and Ambrosio Hagman, a native of Apurguan in Guam, who was only between 14 and 15 years old in 1673. That may not be surprising as even the Jesuit missionaries in the Visayas at that time used to employ young boys between 12 and 14 years old as their mission assistants.
The descriptions given to Blessed Pedro – mozo, mancebo, iuvenis, jeune home and muchacho – can be applied to young males of different ages. Yet, the diminutives mocito, mancebito and niño reveal that he was very young, just in his teens.
It was the Spanish Jesuit Fr. Pedro de Casanova who described Blessed Pedro as only a niño. The two were together in the Mariana Mission from 1668 until 1671 when Fr. de Casanova had to leave for the Philippines to continue his studies. The Spanish term niño can refer to an infant boy up to a boy of 16 years of age at most. If Fr. de Casanova’s last memory of Blessed Pedro was that he was only a niño (at most 16 years old) when they parted ways in 1671, it is very likely that Blessed Pedro was only about 17 years old the following year 1672 when he was martyred. It was not very hard for Fr. de Casanova to remember Blessed Pedro because they were together for three years and there were only a few (at most 20) Filipino lay assistants in the Mariana Mission. Moreover, it is very probable that Fr. de Casanova’s memory was not yet faulty at that time since he was only 29 years old when he last saw Blessed Pedro in 1671, and was only 35 years old when he gave his description of Blessed Pedro on November 12, 1676 in Cebu.
The annual letter of the Philippine Jesuit Province in 1672, the year when Blessed Pedro died, uses the diminutive terms mocito and mancebito to describe Blessed Pedro at the time of his martyrdom.
If Blessed Pedro was only about 17 years old when he died in 1672, he may have left the Philippines for the Mariana Mission in 1667 at around the age of 12. His probable year of birth would be around 1655.
Blessed Pedro was a valiant energetic teenager. As his companions would put it, he was “animoso”, “tenia alentados espíritus”. Those who witnessed his martyrdom remarked how agile he was in skirting the first spears that were hurled at him. They believed he would have defeated all by himself his two fierce aggressors if only he had some weapon.