San Lorenzo Ruiz: First Filipino Martyr and Saint

Filipino Proto-Martyr

As the University of Santo Tomas hosts the  Philippine Conference On New Evangelization (PCNE 4) 2017 on July 28-30, 2017, it is fair to ask: How would a Filipino Catholic face the same test of faith that some 30,000 Japanese martyrs and several hundred Korean converts in Japan had willingly faced?

We have only one example – San Lorenzo Ruiz (c1600–1637) who tried to flee Manila on board a ship with three Dominican priests who were purposively going to Japan to proselyte, and Lorenzo just to get away from Manila.

All were arrested upon landing, and after two years in prison, martyred in Nagasaki.

Little is known about San Lorenzo. He was born around the year 1600 in Binondo, Manila – the traditional district for Chinese Christians. He was the son of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. Both were Christians and took care to raise Lorenzo as a Catholic. He served in his parish church as an altar boy and calligrapher. He was listed as a member of the Dominican Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary.

Lorenzo married a woman named Rosario. The couple had three children —  two sons and one daughter. By Dominican accounts, the family was ordinary and happy.

In 1636, Lorenzo was accused of murder. Allegedly he killed a Spaniard – and in Manila, justice would have been stacked against him, a Chinese mestizo. There are no details of this alleged crime other than a journal entry by two Dominican priests, that he joined their group bound for Japan to escape possible arrest.

The ship departed the Philippines on June 10, 1636, bound for Okinawa. Lorenzo and the Dominican missionaries were arrested by Japanese officials for the state crime of being Christians and ordered to recant their faith. When Lorenzo refused he was imprisoned for two years. On Sept. 27, 1637, Lorenzo and his companions were taken to Nagasaki to be tortured and killed if they would not recant their faith. Despite the painful torture, the men refused to abjure their Catholic religion.

Following this, Lorenzo was hanged upside down, with a rope around his ankles. This method of torture was known as tsurushi, or “gallows and pit.” The torture forces a person to be hanged upside down with a gash cut in their forehead to prevent too much blood from gathering in the head. The gash also causes the victim to bleed to death over an extended period of time. One hand is left free so the victim can offer an agreed symbol that will represent their desire to recant their faith. But Lorenzo refused to recant.

According to the record of his death, his last words were, “I am a Catholic and wholeheartedly do accept death for God. Had I a thousand lives, all these to Him I shall offer. Do with me as you please.”

Lorenzo Ruiz  was in good company: St. Antonio Gonzalez, St. Guillermo Courtet, and St. Miguel de Aozaraza; a Japanese priest, St. Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz; and a lay leper, St. Lázaro of Kyoto.

Lorenzo was beatified by Pope John Paul II on February 18, 1981 in Manila – a first! The beatification ceremony was held in the Philippines making it the first beatification ceremony ever held outside the Vatican. It was the revered statue of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (known in Manila as “La Japona”), brought back by Lord Justo Takayama Ukon from Nagasaki in 1614 that “presided over the Beatification Ceremonies of ‘Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions’ in 1981.”

His canonization took place at the Vatican on October 18, 1987. His feast day is September 28. ◘

Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro, Managing Trustee
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation

Prayers for a Very Desperate Case – Baby Charlie Gard

Only a Miracle Will Help!

The world has been riveted by the case of the baby Charlie Gard, and the decision of a British hospital, a British court and the highest court in the European Union – to switch off the life-giving apparatus that is keeping the less-than-one-year-old baby alive. The world has responded by raising funds to make treatment in America possible.

On July 4, Francis McKinney  contacted Blessed Takayama Canonization Movement asking for prayers for the desperate baby, Charlie Gard.

“About four months ago, I discovered Blessed Takayama. I pray to him as often as I can.  Now, I am not sure if you are aware, but a 10-month old baby by the name of Charlie Gard was to be taken off of life support today for a terminal illness. The European Court had ruled that today was his last. Last night, my family and I knelt down and said a Rosary and prayed the prayer of Blessed Takayama. We asked him that if it was the Lord’s will, to let Charlie live. We asked that someone in power speak out — either Pope Francis or Donald Trump — so that they may influence the concrete decision. As we speak, Charlie Gard is supposed to have been dead.  Both Donald Trump and Pope Francis have made a statement regarding poor Charlie within hours of each other.

“I feel in my heart that Blessed Takayama, through the grace of our Lord, intervened and helped Charlie Gard.  If you need proof of my prayers, I took screenshots of my Twitter last night saying that I was praying to Blessed Takayama…”.

Immediately, an email was sent out to Prayer Warriors of Blessed Takayama — both lay devotees and religious congregations — in the Philippines and abroad, asking for prayers. Nothing elaborate, The Prayer formulated by Fr. Johannes Laures, SJ – which appears on the Takayama website ( — will do, followed by “Our Father” and “Hail Mary.”

But the situation remains desperate. Baby Charlie Gard is still in England, waiting for clearance to reach America – and a possible cure.

Please continue to pray for him. ◘

Dr. Ernesto A. de Pedro
Managing Trustee
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation

Exiled for the Faith

Even Before the Mayflower

In Western annals, the most celebrated voyage of people fleeing religious persecution is that of the Mayflower Pilgrims in September-November, 1620. The Mayflower has occupied a prominent spot in American tradition as a symbol of the indomitable English settlers’ quest to build “a beacon for Christians around the world” in a New World.

Yet Lord Takayama Ukon’s exile voyage to Manila in November-December 1614 antedated the Mayflower — by six years. Though half-a-world apart, the two voyages shared many uncanny similarities and parallels.

  • Takayama’s exile ship – actually a Portuguese-captained Chinese junk — left Japan with the consent of the Tokugawa Shogunate to bring Japanese Christians “too prominent to crucify” (and their families) to exile – and religious liberty — in Manila. Likewise, the “Mayflower” left England, with the permission of King James I, with Protestant refugees and migrants seeking to worship in freedom in a settlement they were going to build.
  • Takayama’s exile ship left Nagasaki, Japan with “300” Christian exiles – suffering one death (Fr. Antonio Francisco Critana, SJ) on board. The Mayflower left Plymouth, England with 102 passengers — suffering one death (William Butten) on board.
  • Takayama’s exile ship managed the Nagasaki-to-Manila voyage, which normally took 20 days — in 43 days, double the usual duration. The Mayflower navigated the Plymouth-to-Cape Cod voyage, which should have lasted 33 to 40-days – in 66 days, also double the duration.
  • Takayama’s exile ship suffered a broken main mast, disabling the ship (which was then already in Bataan waters, some “39 to 52 nautical miles” from Manila) from sailing further. Spanish Governor-General Juan de Silva had to send a Spanish man-of-war, partially propelled by sails, but powered mainly by rowers, to tow Takayama’s stricken ship to the Governor’s Landing (now the Postigo Gate) in Manila. The Mayflower similarly suffered a broken main beam amidships – which was repaired with metal braces and tools brought to build the Pilgrims’ new settlement.
  • In brief: Takayama’s exile ship left Nagasaki on Nov. 8, 1614 and arrived in Manila on Dec. 21, 1614. The Mayflower left Plymouth, England on Sept. 6, 1620 and anchored in Plymouth Rock on Nov. 11, 1620.

By Ernesto A. de Pedro
Managing Trustee
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation

All We Need Now Is A Miracle!

Needed: A Validating Miracle!

Only two months into Facebook, we have finally renewed contact with Rev. Gary Barbaree and Rev. Nobuaki Hanaoka, both American Methodist ministers who participated in the First Takayama Symposium at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila in 1990, to mark the 375th Anniversary of Takayama Ukon (1552-1615). They were researching in Tokyo on Takayama – and how Takayama Ukon blended Christian ethics and the Japanese point of view to help them in their own evangelization of Japanese Americans — but were told to proceed to UST which was the center for Takayama Studies. THANK YOU, U.S.T. GRADUATE SCHOOL!

On June 8, 1994, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints conferred the title “Servant of God” on Takayama. A second Takayama Symposium was sponsored by UST in 1995 to discuss that encouraging development. Without passing through the prescribed second step — “Venerable” — Takayama was beatified (declared BLESSED) on Feb. 7, 2017.

The fastest progression for Japanese martyrs from BLESSED to SAINT was the Sixteen Martyrs of Japan (1633-1637) — beatified 1981, and canonized 1987. Only six years! Just 30 years ago!

February 3 has been designated as the feastday of Blessed Takayama in the Universal Church. With the concerted prayers of Catholic devotees worldwide, we could aspire for canonization in six years too! IF there is a validating miracle.

By Dr. Ernie A. De Pedro, Managing Trustee
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation

Are There Takayama Descendants in the Philippines Today?

Where Are They Now?

When their patriarch, Lord Justo Takayama Ukon died on Feb. 3, 1615, the Spanish Governor General, Juan de Silva, was worried about the future of Takayama’s family who remained as houseguests of the Philippine Jesuits at their “Casa San Miguel” in Intramuros.

He offered a royal pension to the widow, Dona Justa Takayama. But she declined the offer. The family will be alright, she said. She had other plans.

Mrs. Justa Takayama, returned to Japan in the first semester of 1616 with her daughter, Lucia Yokoyama, and her eldest grandchild – a development reported on July 18, 1616 by the Jesuit Vice Provincial Jeronymo Rodriguez, SJ.

She had brought a finger bone of Ukon to be buried on home soil in Kanazawa. By tradition, the eldest son of the Takayama family in Kanazawa – there is an unbroken line to this day — is tasked to care for the memorial in a nearby forested area where a concrete cross has been erected.

Dr. Ernesto De Pedro at the burial site of Lord Takayama Ukon's finger.

Ukon’s daughter, Lucia Yokoyama, returned to her husband, Yokoyama Daizen Yasuharu (1590-1645), a general of the Maeda clan in Kanazawa after a 28-month separation. According to the Yokoyama family tree, Baron Yokoyama remarried in 1624 – this time, to a daughter of Imaeda Nimbu Naotsune — which indicates that by that year, Ukon’s daughter Lucia had passed away.

It appears that the four other Takayama grandchildren had joined the Japanese Christian community in San Miguel district, which was also a Jesuit parish.

Ambassador HASEKURA Rokuemon Tsunenaga (支倉六右衛門常長, 1571-1622), a retainer of Lord Date Masamune, daimyo of Sendai, who led the first Japanese embassy to Europe (1582-1590), stopped over in Manila from June 1618 to August 1620 on his return home to Japan. He recalls seeing a grandson of Takayama dressed as a foppish Spanish grandee. Instead of wearing traditional Japanese clothes, the young millennial preferred to don Spanish-style garments.

In a letter dated Oct. 6, 1621, Fr. Johannes Battista Porro, SJ, writes that Mrs. Takayama, using the name Rocuzaimon – (Rokuzayemon?) — had settled in far-away Oita Prefecture. Her other grandchildren returned to Japan in 1621 but preferred to proceed to Sakai City. This is the same year Manila Archbishop Miguel Garcia Serrano, OESA, reported to the king of Spain that there are “more than 1,500 [Japanese] Christians … in Santiago, and in the villages of Dilao [the first Japan town] and San Miguel [the district reserved for Japanese exiles] — but this was not a fixed population “because the [Japanese] are a people who go to and fro” to Japan.

In 1802, the Takayama family in Oita Prefecture erected a memorial tombstone for Takayama Ukon at the Oita city cemetery. (Note that in 1802, Christianity was still officially proscribed with the death penalty. But nevertheless, the Takayama family proclaimed their descent from Takayama Ukon.) Eimei Takayama, a former mayor of Oita made the claim in an English pamphlet that was widely distributed in Manila during the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress.

Today it is known that there are descendants of Takayama Ukon in Kanazawa, Noto, Oita, Sakai – and in one case we know of, in Tokyo too. With the mobility of the Japanese population in the past 400 years, other Takayama descendants may be in other cities as well. During the Beatification Rites at Osaka in 2017, two Takayama descendants — from “near Kanazawa” – attended the religious event.


By Dr. Ernie A. De Pedro, Managing Trustee
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation

UST unveils historical marker for Samurai martyr

MANILA–The University of Santo Tomas (UST) unveiled a historical marker on campus Tuesday to memorialize the first lay Japanese Christian missionary in the Philippines.

The unveiling took place in front of the Thomas Aquinas Research Complex (TARC) more than a month after Justos Takayama Ukon, a 17th century Catholic Samurai and martyr, was beatified. Continue reading “UST unveils historical marker for Samurai martyr”

Thanksgiving Mass for the Beatification of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon at the Ateneo De Manila

The Jesuit community at the Ateneo de Manila celebrated a Thanksgiving Mass for the Beatification of Blessed Justus Takayama Ukon at the chapel of the Loyola School of Theology on Saturday, March 18 at 5:30PM.

Thanksgiving Mass for the Beatification of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon at the Ateneo De Manila University.

Rev. Fr. Antonio F. Moreno, Jesuit Father Provincial, officiated at the Continue reading “Thanksgiving Mass for the Beatification of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon at the Ateneo De Manila”

Sacred Relic of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon

Sacred Relic


On center stage, a piece of fabric from Ukon’s vest was displayed as a sacred relic as Archbishop Takeo Okada of the Archdiocese of Tokyo made a formal plea for the beatification of Ukon.

Vest relic of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon


Post-Beatification Notes

Hundreds of nuns from various religious women’s congregations from around theworld were also present, but the CBCJ Secretariat did not have the actual count.They were also representatives from the Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist Churches.

Fr. Albert Fuyuki Hirabayashi, SJ, secretary of the CBCJ Committee for the Promotion of Saints, confirms there were some Buddhist monks too.

Justo Takayama Ukon Beatification, Osaka-jo Hall, Osaka, 7 February 2017 - Fr. Albert Fuyuki Hirabayashi, secretary of the CBCJ Committee for the Promotion of Saints
Fr. Albert Fuyuki Hirabayashi of the CBCJ Committee for the Promotion of Saints


Two descendants of Takayama Ukon from “near Kanazawa” also attended.

Catholic Online reported: “Over 12,000 people crowded a Catholic Church in Osaka, Japan.”  The venue of the Beatification Ceremonies was not a church – but the Osaka-jo Hall, a multi-purpose concert hall with seating for 10,000 persons, with ticketed entry for audience control.

Crowd outsite Osaka-Jo Hall for the Beatification of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon

Crowd outsite Osaka-Jo Hall for the Beatification of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon

Crowd outsite Osaka-Jo Hall for the Beatification of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon

Crowd inside Osaka-Jo Hall for the Beatification of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon


By Dr. Ernie A. De Pedro, Managing Trustee
Lord Takayama Jubilee Foundation

UST Celebrates Thanksgiving Mass for Takayama Beatification

At the University of Santo Tomas (UST), center of the Philippine participation in the Takayama Beatification Process, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo celebrated the Thanksgiving Mass for the Beatification of Blessed Justo Takayama Ukon on the same afternoon as the Beatification Rites in Osaka. It was concelebrated by Fr. Jose Antonio Aureada, OP, Regent of the UST Graduate School, which is the home of the Lord Takayama Professorial Chair for Philippine-Japanese Studies since 1989.

Takayama Beatification Thanksgiving Mass - 7 February 2017

Continue reading “UST Celebrates Thanksgiving Mass for Takayama Beatification”