In 1584, Pedro Bautista y Belasquez arrived in the Philippines at the age of 42. He was a man of many talents:he was a famedorator in his native Spain, a philosophy professor, and an excellent musician.
His first assignment was to teach music the town of Sta. Ana, Manila (then called Namayan and later Sta. Ana de Sapa). His lessons brought togetherboth children and adults alike from the surrounding towns and parishes. He later served as Guardian of San Francisco de Manila and as parish priest of Lumban, Laguna. By 1586, he was electedCustos or superior of all Franciscans in the Philippines.
During his term, Pedro Bautista and his friars spread over hundreds of kilometers from Bulacan to Sorsogon preaching the Gospel, evangelizing, and building up Christ’s Church.
He was the moving spirit behind the founding of many towns in Morong, Camarines, Laguna, and Bulacan.He also rebuilt a stone church in Lumban, Laguna, formed a special group for the evangelization of the Japanese in Paco, Manila, built a novitiate and convent called NuestraSeñora de Monteceli (then more popularly know as San Francisco Del Monte, and know renamed as Santuario de San Pedro Bautista in Quezon City), built hospitals in Los Baños and Cavite, and helped establish Colegio de Santa Potenciana in Intramuros, Manila. Under his term as Custos was the Philippines erected as the Franciscan Province of St. Gregory the Great by Pope Sixtus V. His termasCustosended in 1591 and he was assigned again as Guardian of Francisco De Manila. He later on resigned from his post but continued on as preacher of the convent.
Pedro Bautista proved to be a very passionate and effective preacher. His preaching ignited the desire of many men to serve God as priests, even inspiring a member of the Governor General’s household who later on became the first Chronicler of the Province. He once stood on a stone bench and while holding a wooden cross in his hand asked the crowd, “Does anyone want to be a soldier of this band? The Captain is Christ. The Lieutenant is St. Francis, the war is with hell, the wages – Glory.”
He was also actively involved with many of the issues that plagued Philippine society such as those of the taxes or tributes to the colonial government from the natives, reports of government abuses, and was consulted by the Governor General on different occasions regarding violent civil outbreaks and the like. He even“preached a scathing sermon on the injustices being committed by the government, stating that unless the government policies were changed, it would lead to open rebellion (Schoenstein).” In 1593, he was sent as a missionary to Japan where he and his fellow catechists and missionaries were eventually martyred in 1597. We celebrate his feast day on February 5.
San Pedro Bautista spent nine years in the Philippines and in that time, he dedicated his life to building up the Church of Christ in as many ways as he could. Let us pause and reflect on how we too are building, contributing, and sharing the Church with those around us and for the future generations.
Sources: “San Pedro Bautista in the Philippines” by Fr. Erwin Schoenstein, OFM; “The Life of San Pedro Bautista” by Fr. Andres B. Rañoa, OFM