A GREAT but little known saint, illustrious leader of 25 protomartyrs who were executed on the cross in Nagasaki, Japan, on February 5, 1597, Titular Patron of the Archdiocese of Caceres, St. Peter Baptist is one of three saints hailing from the diocese of Avila.
Pedro Bautista Blasquez y Villacastin was born on June 24, 1542 in San Esteban del Valle, Avila, Spain. Equipped with a solid and well-rounded scholastic foundation first received in his native town and in the City of Avila where he excelled in singing and playing the organ, he took up philosophy and theology in the renowned University of Salamanca. At twenty he joined the Franciscan Order in the convent of San Andres del Monte de las Villas de Arenas. Here he began a life of total dedication to Christ for whom he would lay down one moment of his life.
He taught philosophy in Merida and had become a much sought professor in theology before he volunteered for an expedition to Mexico in 1581.
After three years of active missionary work in Mexico, Fray Pedro Bautista was sent to the Philippines as Commissary Visitor for the Franciscans. Arriving in the Philippines with the fourth group of Franciscan missionaries in 1584, he found that the Chapter of the Custody he was to have presided was already finished. Tactfully evaluating the situation, he checked on the proceedings, the decisions taken and, finding them right, approved the same, and was quiet about his own extraordinary powers, inclined merely to enter the ordinary life of a friar.
Living up to the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, he studied and learned the language of the natives, travelled hundreds of kilometers from Palanan (now Isabela) to the San Bernardino Straits, making regular visit to the newly created doctrineas or communities. He was the moving spirit behind the formation of many towns in our region: San Bartolome de Bao (Baao), Buhi and Libmanan in Camarines Sur, Cagsawa, Oas and Ligao in Albay.
They were crucified on a hill called Tateyama, now known as the Holy Mountain, overlooking Nagasaki on February 5, 1597. Being the leader of the group and the last to be executed, Fray Bautista suffered not only one martyrdom but many martyrdoms because he died in spirit twenty-five times as he witnessed each of the deaths of his beloved companions.
In 1627, these martyrs were beatified, and on June 8, 1862, a few years after Japan was reopened to foreigners, Pope Pius IX solemnly canonized St. Peter Baptist.