LIFE OF SAN PEDRO BAUTISTA

SAN PEDRO BAUTISTA



     By: Fr. Andres B. Rañoa, OFM


When he came to the Philippines in 1584 from Spain, San Pedro Bautista was assigned in Intramuros. In 1586 as Parish Priest of Lumban, Laguna, he taught church music and the manufacture and use of musical instruments. As the custos or superior of the Franciscans,
from 1587 he ministered to the Japanese outside Intramuros through the help of Fray Gonzalo Garcia and gathered the Filipinos into town settlements. In 1590 he established San Francisco del Monte as a hermitage and novitiate. He discovered the medicinal characteristics of the hot springs of Los Baños. He also strongly defended the basic human rights of the indigenous peoples of Zambales. It was his firm, moral stand that opened the people`s minds on the value of life. In 1593 San Pedro Bautista became the Philippines` ambassador to Japan. He averted the emperor`s impending invasion of the Philippines. With his first companions he then settled in Miyako and later on in Nagasaki. They founded hospitals and churches. In 1596 the emperor persecuted the Christians. San Pedro Bautista and 25 others were raised on crosses and speared to death in Nagasaki on February 5, 1597.



Early Life
San Pedro Bautista was born Pedro Blazquez in San Esteban del Valle on June 29, 1542, three centuries after Saint Francis. He studied Latin and cosmology in Mombeltran, and continued his studies with the Jesuits in Oropesa and later studied music in Avila. He served in the cathedral for two years as a choirboy. In 1560 he studied philosophy and theology in Salamanca for 6 years until he felt called to the priesthood. He was ordained deacon in Avila.

 

                                                                      The Making of a Franciscan

In 1567, the young Pedro Blazquez returned from Salamanca and entered the Franciscan novitiate in Arenas, where San Pedro Alcántara (1562) was buried. Here in the spiritual fervor and rigor of the Alcantarine reform the spirit of the young novice Pedro Blazquez was formed. He professed in 1568. Coming as a deacon with ecclesiastical studies already done, he was soon ordained priest and was assigned to preaching and formation work in the Province.


Mission Beckons
The times were conducive to missionary work. After discernment, he applied to be a missionary and was approved to join a religious group who would leave for Mexico in 1581. He
worked there for nearly three years. At that time a missionary`s ultimate goal was China and Japan with the Philippines as a stopover for refueling. He arrived in Manila in 1584 and immediately gave himself to missionary work.


His Missionary Methodology

But why was he  effective as a missionary? How was he understood as he preached to the natives? He chose the poor and needy environments. He visited them, took care of the sick, built houses, schools and hospitals. Pedro Bautista and his confreres attended to the lepers and the poor. They became the advocate for the voiceless, abused and exploited. The Mexican historian Miguel León writes: `For the natives like the Franciscans because they walk barefoot and live as poor like us, eating what we eat, settling down with us, talking with us meekly ... With their love and charity they attract both rich and poor .... Litigation or complaints were never found in the holy friars.”


First Assignments

His first assignment was to teach music to children and adults from towns and parishes around Manila. He was the first to organize a parish choir in the Philippines. He did not only organize them, but taught them how to use and make musical instruments made of bamboo. He became known for building the liturgical life of the people where ever he was assigned. He became the guardian of San Francisco de Manila in Intramuros. In 1586 he was made Parish Priest of Lumban, Laguna. Becoming Custos that same year, he was placed in charge of the Franciscans, who were spread from Bulacan to Sorsogon.


Ministry to the Japanese in Paco, Manila

At the time, there were many Japanese living in Paco near Manila. In 1587, Gonzalo Garcia, a mestizo Portuguese-Indian who had lived and worked for many years in Japan and knew the language well, was received into the Franciscan  Order in Manila. This made it possible for Pedro Bautista in his concern for the Japanese to do something for their good. With the help of Gonzalo Garcia, he formed a special group of Japanese in Paco Parish.


Organizing Towns
San Pedro continued the Franciscans` work of gathering the Filipinos into towns. To him are
due the first Franciscan buildings made of stone in the towns outside of Manila. It is interesting to note too that it was in the church of Lumban that the Franciscans first reserved the Blessed
Sacrament outside of Manila (1600).



San Francisco del Monte as a Hermitage and Novitiate

Because of his deep concern for the spiritual welfare of his friars and influenced by the Alcantarine spirituality, Pedro Bautista saw the need for a secluded place where the missionaries could revive their spiritual vigor by prayer, reflection and discipline. After a long search, he selected a site which would become San Francisco del Monte. It was opened as a house of retreat for the missionaries and as a novitiate house in 1590.


Healer of the Sick and Defender of the Poor
San Pedro is the recognized founder of the hot springs in Los Baños, Laguna. He determined its medical element. He also strongly defended the rights of the indigenous peoples of Zambales. He affirmed their basic human rights and taught the slave drivers to recognize God`s dignity in their lives. It was his firm, moral stand that opened the people`s minds to the value of life.


Japanese Expansionist Plan
In the last decades of the sixteenth century, however, the Spanish presence was seriously
threatened. In 1586 an armed encounter between a group of Japanese pirates and colonial forces took place. The victory sided with the Spaniards, but given the ferocity of the Japanese and the weapons they used, the Spaniards feared the Japanese. In 1591, the Philippine authorities received a letter of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the shogun of Japan, also known as Taykosama with the following threat: "Recognize my power, because if you would not come to bow to me and prostrate before me, without doubt I will certainly send my army and I will destroy and lay you waste."


Initial Response
The government immediately sent a party through the Dominican Father Juan Cobo in order to try to stop the expansionist impulses of Hideyoshi. But he died in Formosa, upon returning from his trip, without informing the authorities of Manila. Hideyoshi wrote a second letter as threatening as the first. The governor, aware that Manila was unprotected and indanger in case of an invasion, decided to send a second party to try to appease the irascible and ambitious shogun of Japan. The person chosen was Pedro Bautista.


Bound for Japan
After overcoming initial difficulties, the party was organized immediately and on May 26, 1593 they began the journey to Japan. Pedro Bautista was accompanied by three friars, the priest Bartolome Ruiz, the lay brother Francisco de La Parrilla, and the lay brother Gonzalo Garcia as interpreter, and several lay Spanish and Japanese. The delegation was divided into two boats. The journey was much longer and more dangerous than expected. After a series of typhoons, on July 4, 1593, after 39 days at sea, the ship of Pedro Bautista entered the port of Hirado, a modest island northwest of Japan. The second boat went to Amakusa.


 

Before Hideyoshi
The meeting between the Franciscans and Hideyoshi, for reasons of Japanese protocol,
occurred two months later, in October in Nagoya. The early moments were very tense. Hideyoshi spoke in a threatening tone, demanding that the rulers of Manila would give clear signs of submission. Pedro Bautista did not lose his composure for a moment, rejected the threats and refused to give evidence of submission. Finally Hideyoshi yielded to the peaceful attitude of Pedro Bautista. Impressed by his humility and extreme poverty, he promised to protect the Franciscans and even gave them a lot in Miyako (modern Kyoto), where they could build a convent and church. Six years earlier, in 1587, Hideyoshi had decreed the expulsion of all the Jesuits from Japan. The church in Japan was in a lamentable state, since the prohibition. He invited Pedro Bautista to visit him in Kyoto, home of the emperor, and the surrounding cities, Osaka, Sakay, Fushimi, etc. Before traveling to Kyoto, Pedro Bautista informed the Philippine authorities on the outcome of their meeting. The document would be signed two years later.


Challenge of Evangelization
The number of Christians at that time was about 6,000, from about 400,000 inhabitants. The challenge of evangelization offered Fray Pedro and his brothers was immense. Nevertheless, the missionaries were forced, for more than six months, to observe a discreet silence, limiting themselves to evangelize with their mere presence, a Franciscan method learned in their solitary convents in Spain.


Our Lady of the Angels, first Franciscan Church in Japan
In 1595 Pedro Bautista and his brothers got to work. Soon they began to receive support and
financial help from the people. He had insisted that both the church and the convent were opened on August 2, feast of the Our Lady of the Angels. But since the construction prevented the friars to spend sufficient time to pray, Pedro Bautista decided to postpone the opening to October 4, the feast of Saint Francis. Before that date, the second group of  missionaries arrived from Manila.


Hospital for the Lepers
Shortly after the inauguration of the convent and church, Pedro Bautista started to build Santa Ana Hospital especially designed to accommodate the lepers. Sometime later, to meet the  needs of the population of Kyoto, he ordered the construction of a second hospital, which he called San José.


Schools
Not satisfied with this, he decided to build a school for children to counteract the harmful influence of certain Buddhist pagodas. Not all were happy with the uplifting of the poor Japanese. Buddhists monks and merchants became wary of the friars` evangelizing works.


Founding of the Convents of Nagasaki and Osaka
Pedro Bautista was not discouraged by the negative reactions to their selfless activities. In
December 1594 Pedro Bautista started to build a convent in Nagasaki which served as the contact point with the Philippines. By March he met a very strong opposition in certain sectors of the city. With calm partially recovered, he returned to Kyoto in September, leaving behind some friars. In June 1596 another group of friars came. A small residence was established on Osaka named after Our Lady of Bethlehem.

Toward Martyrdom
The wreck of a Spanish galleon in Tosa Bay was used by those against the Franciscans. Pedro Bautista tried to save the ship`s merchandise and to help the passengers. They gave false accusations to Hideoshi, who believed them. On December 8, 1596 Hideyoshi ordered the house arrest of Pedro Bautista and his friars in Japan.


Kyoto to Nagasaki
On January 3, 1597 Pedro Bautista and his friars, along with catechists and helpers of the convent, to which Paul Miki, catechist of the Jesuits and two other assistants joined, were taken to the public jail of Kyoto and subjected to punishment cutting part of their left ears asa sign of shame. They were made to march through the cities of Kyoto, Fushimi, Osaka and Sakay and, in the Japanese winter, with tremendous snowfall, sometimes on foot, on horseback and on boats for a long journey of about 800 miles to the place of execution on top of the hill Nishizaka in Nagasaki. On February 5, 1597 before thousands of people, the veracity of the prophetic words of Pedro Bautista to one of the friars was confirmed: "Brother, when we will be martyred for the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, then we will be truly evangelical preachers, and a dead martyr will do much more than many living preachers."