PHILIPPINES - As thousands of Filipino Catholics troop to Rome, millions more across the Philippines are gearing up to celebrate the canonization of the country's second saint, a missionary killed 340 years ago who is being promoted as a youth hero.
The Catholic faithful are expected to gather in different church events as the nation's major television networks broadcast live Sunday's ceremony at the Vatican during which Pedro Calungsod, who was hacked to death while trying to convert locals on the Pacific island of Guam, will be made a saint.
Pope Benedict XVI will formally raise Calungsod to the altar.
According to the church website sanpedrocalungsod.com, more than 1,000 young people from across Metro Manila will gather at the Sto. Niño de Tondo Parish in Manila from 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday to watch the canonization.
Around 600 young people are also expected to gather at the Good Shepherd Cathedral Covered Court in Novaliches while the Federation of National Youth Organisation (FNYO) will also celebrate the event in Makati.
Dubbed "Pedro at Ako," the FNYO event will be held at the Savio Dome of Don Bosco Technical Institute-Makati from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In Cebu, the Commission on Youth of the Archdiocese and the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue have invited Catholics to watch a live telecast of the events in Rome.
The gathering, which includes a drama on the life of the second Filipino saint, talks and trivia games, will be held at the Mandaue City Cultural and Sports Complex.
5,000 Filipino pilgrims
About 5,000 Filipino pilgrims are expected to accompany the Philippines' Roman Catholic Church leaders to the Vatican for the ceremony.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, who arrived Friday in Rome, will lead the Filipinos who will witness the canonization of Calungsod.
Binay was designated by President Aquino to head the official Philippine delegation to the ceremony. He will attend the Holy Mass at Saint Peter's Square that will signal the start of the canonization rites for Calungsod and six others.
Calungsod is the second Filipino saint after St. Lorenzo Ruiz who was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1987.
A procession of the new saint's icons will be held at the Basilica of Santa Pudenziana later in the evening.
"The presence of the thousands of Filipinos here and the millions more around the world who are eagerly awaiting Blessed Calungsod's canonization as the second Filipino saint reaffirms our faith as a nation. I hope his dedication and sacrifice will serve as an example for the Filipino youth to emulate," Binay said in a statement released by his office in Manila.
At home, devotees have begun flocking to Ginatilan on the central island of Cebu, a small farming town that claims Calungsod as its own, while saint souvenirs have become popular items across the nation.
Wood carvers were reporting an increase in the demand for statues of the would-be saint, according to a report on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website.
1,000 statues a week
"There are many orders coming from different provinces … from old and new clients," said Kevin Cagayat, whose father Justino was commissioned by the Jesuits to carve the official statue of Calungsod.
The statues, ranging from eight inches (worth P350) to four-feet tall (P40,000), are made of either resin or wood.
"Since August, high demands and orders forced us to produce around 100 statues a week," Cagayat added.
"Also, in times like this where the demand is very high and there are rush orders, we also outsource workers to do the carving and finishing touches," he added.
Limited edition stamps
The Philippine Postal Corp. (PHLPost) will also inaugurate a stamp at the Edsa Shrine in honour of Calungsod during the noontime Mass on Sunday.
"The single stamp design illustrates Blessed Pedro holding a palm leaf on his left hand and his right hand at the chest signifying his deep Roman Catholic faith. On the right side is the missionary route to the Marianas Island," PHLPost said in a statement.
The postal service said it was issuing 50,000 of the "limited edition" stamps worth P9 each. They will be available from Oct. 22 to Oct. 20 next year at selected post offices nationwide.
Those interested could also call the PHLPost postage and philatelic department at 527-01-32.
"There is something about him that touches the heart of the Filipino Catholics," Fr. Francis Lucas, a media officer with the CBCP, told Agence France-Presse.
Calungsod will be made a patron saint for young people, partly in recognition of his age-believed to be just 17-when killed in 1672.
According to the official account of his short life, hostile tribesmen hacked Calungsod and a Jesuit priest he was assisting to death in Guam where they were trying to convert locals to the Catholic faith.
He qualified for sainthood last year after the Vatican officially recognised a 2002 "miracle" in which a woman in the Philippines already declared dead from a heart attack was revived after a doctor prayed to Calungsod for help.
The Philippines is regarded as Asia's bastion of Catholicism, with 80 per cent of the population adherents to the faith, thanks to more than three centuries of Spanish rule that began in the 1500s.
Migrant workers' saint
Calungsod will become only the second Filipino to be canonized after Lorenzo Ruiz, another missionary, who was killed in Japan in 1637 and made a saint in 1987.
Lucas said Calungsod's youthfulness and travel to a foreign land held special resonance in the Philippines, where the average age is 24 and 10 per cent of the population have gone abroad to work.
"We consider him to be a saint of migrant workers because he went abroad to represent the Philippines," Lucas said.
The church has sought to maximize Calungsod's appeal to young people with an Internet campaign that includes a website showcasing his life and featuring music videos, as well as a social media drive.
One Facebook site on Calungsod has more than 8,000 "likes" and streams of positive comments, as well as appeals to him for help.
"Dear Saint Pedro, please take care of my good friend Julie who is fighting cancer," one comment on the page said.
Although Calungsod's birthplace is unknown, he is listed as coming from the central Philippines and Ginatilan residents point to the many people surnamed "Calungsod" who have lived in the town over the centuries.
"We have death records, marriage records and birth records … so we believe, 80 per cent, that he is from our town," Ginatilan Mayor Antonio Singco told Agence France-Presse.
Parish worker Salvi Cadungo, 56, said the link to Calungsod was a major source of pride, comfort and hope to residents who largely make their living growing coconut, bananas and corn.
"We are all so happy here. We are a small town in a corner of the Philippines, but now everyone knows we produced a saint," she said.