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San Francisco del Monte vs. FPJ Avenue

/ 04:08 AM October 14, 2020

Sen. Lito Lapid’s ill-advised move to rename San Francisco del Monte Avenue in Quezon City to Fernando Poe Jr. Avenue, through Senate Bill 1822 (coauthored with Senate President Vicente Sotto III), is sad proof that we have little or no respect for street names that are mute reminders of history.

This being budget season, the representative from the National Historical Commission, called in as a resource person, could do nothing but limply express the agency’s “reservations” over the measure, because the street name has been around for almost 60 years. This prompted Sen. Imee Marcos to comment: ”if we went by that rubric that 50 years or older will never be changed, there will be no progress in this country.”

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Perhaps the good senator should be reminded that progress and the billions poured into the public works budget each year means that many new roads are built to be named after anyone or anything they please. But a street name that refers to a settlement established by a little known Catholic saint, that traces its history all the way back to 1590, should be deemed “sanctified by long usage” and preserved rather than erased.

The prewar Historical Marker on the Church of San Francisco del Monte reads:

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“The site was donated to the Franciscans on February 17, 1590 by Governor Santiago de Vera in the name of King Philip II. Chapels were built of thatch and bamboo in 1590, of wood in 1593, and of volcanic tuff [adobe] in 1599. The last was badly damaged in the Chinese uprising of 1639. Present church built from 1696 to 1699 through the generosity of Tomas de Endaya. To this site retired for prayer and recollection several Franciscans who suffered martyrdom in Japan in the XVII century and others who led missionary expeditions to Japan, China, and Cambodia. The Escuela serafica or probation school for Filipino applicants to the Franciscan order was opened here July 15, 1931.”

San Pedro Bautista is not well-known in the Philippines where he served from 1584 till he was named to head an embassy to Japan in 1593. Among his many accomplishments were the founding of San Francisco del Monte as a place of retreat and meditation; the discovery of the healing properties of the hot springs in Laguna, which explains its present name, Los Baños (the baths), and its old name, Aguas Santas (holy waters); the establishment of an apostolate for lepers, etc. He headed a group of martyrs who were executed for their faith in Nagasaki in 1597, but he was eclipsed not once but twice in the memory and history of Catholic martyrs in Japan.

In the Catholic calendar, Feb. 6 is dedicated to the Feast of St. Paul Miki and Companions, who were the first Christians executed in Japan under Hideyoshi. They were arrested in Kyoto and Osaka, imprisoned, beaten, tortured, bound, and marched all the way from Kansai to Nagasaki in the dead of winter. Part of their left ear was sliced off to permanently disfigure them, and to serve as a stern warning to other Japanese Christians along the way who held on to their faith. On Nishizaka Hill, 26 wooden crosses had been prepared; each martyr was bound to a cross and raised up, then two men were stationed at the base of each cross. At a given signal, the soldiers drove their lances through the sides of the martyr’s body, the lances exiting on the victim’s back near the shoulders to form a gruesome “X,” resulting in a slow and painful death.

Of the 26 Martyrs of Nagasaki, six were Franciscan friars (four Europeans, one Indian, and one Mexican), and 20 were Japanese (three Jesuits and 17 lay people, including three young boys: Tomas Kozaki, 14; Antonio de Nagasaki, 13; and Luis Ibaraki, 12). Beatified in 1627 and canonized as saints in 1862, the group is now celebrated in the church calendar as “Paul Miki and Companions.”

That designation makes us forget the other 25 martyrs except Felipe de Jesus, the first Mexican saint. I am sure that when the Catholic Church in Mexico celebrates the Feb. 6 Feast of Paul Miki and Companions, they focus on their patron saint Felipe de Jesus, and do not care to know the names of the other 25 companion martyrs. The same goes for “Lorenzo Ruiz & Companions, Martyrs,” executed on the same hill in Nagasaki in 1637.

Obscure and forgotten saints grant petitions faster than the popular ones, so let’s hope Frisco is retained, and FPJ be given a more fitting street.

Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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TAGS: Ambeth R. Ocampo, FPJ Avenue, Lito Lapid, Looking Back, Philippine history, San Francisco Del Monte Avenue, street names
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