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Born in 1576, barely five years

after the Spaniards first landed in

1587. After a four-month stopover


in Mexico, they sailed across the

Manila and Pampanga, Martin


Sancho
had
delighted
the
missionaries by

Atlantic and reached


December 1587.

reciting the entire Catechism in


Spanish. He was brought to Manila
where
he created quite a sensation
among the Spaniards. They agreed
to ship
him all the way to Spain and
present him before King Philip II
himself,
as proof that the natives in the new
colony were capable of
evangelization
and
could
be
worthy, even spectacular, vessels
of

Spain

in

On December 15, barely a few days


after arriving, the priest and the
boy
were ushered in at the court of
King Philip II. Martin Sancho was
introduced, and as the King and
other dignitaries leaned forward,
the
10-year-old Kapampangan with his
tiny voice breathlessly recited
prayers, articles of faith, Church
doctrine and the rest of the
Catholic
Catechism in impeccable Spanish.

European erudition.

More significantly, the child prodigy


would be presented as the best
argument to convince the monarch
not to abandon the Philippines.

And so Fr. Alonso Sanchez and his


protg, Martin Sancho, left Manila
in
May 1586, aboard the ship San
Martin. They reached Acapulco in
January

When he was ushered out of the


hall amid thunderous applause, Fr.
Alonso
Sanchez
stepped
forward
to
present his case for the Philippines,
confident that the King's favorable
response had been secured by the
boy's performance.

Today, Martin Sancho remains


unknown and unrecognized. Were it
not for

his appearance in the court of


Philip II, Spain would probably have
left
the Philippines in 1587, not 1899,
and the whole canvas of Philippine
colonial history would have been
wiped out completely.

The Jesuits in the Philippines do


acknowledge Martin Sancho as the
first
Filipino to enter the Society of Jesus
(not as an ordained priest,
though, because natives were not
allowed to become priests in those
days).
After
his
sensational
appearance in the royal court, the
boy was
no longer returned to his parents in
the Philippines, but was raised by
Fr. Alonso in Spain. When he was
17, he was taken to Rome to join
the
Jesuit novitiate.
Afterwards, he returned to Spain
and lived in the province of Toledo,
finishing college in Murcia. He
traveled to Mexico in 1599. By this
time,
his
health
had
been
deteriorating because he had
contracted

tuberculosis in the poorly heated


Jesuit house in Rome.
In 1601, he finally returned to the
Philippines with a group of Jesuit
missionaries headed by Gregorio
Lopez,
reuniting
with
his
Kapampangan
parents whom he had left when he
was only 10. Tragically, he died one
month later. He was only 25.

His story remained hidden for


centuries until historian Fr. Horacio
de
la Costa, SJ unearthed it. Dr.
Luciano Santiago wrote about it in
his
book Kapampangan Pioneers in the
Philippine Church, published by the
Holy Angel University four years
ago.
Jose Rizal, Juan Luna, and the
Propagandists impressed Madrid
with their
brilliance and patriotism in the
1800s, but the highest forum they
could
reach was the Spanish Cortes.
Three hundred years before them,
a

10-year-old Kapampangan came


within spitting distance with the
King of
Spain himself, and even made the
royal jaw drop.
But the amazing Martin Sancho, for
all his talent and luck, was a sad,
lonely boy who was plucked out of
his parents' home and spirited
away

from his land of birth at the age of


10, and made to live among
strangers in a strange, cold
country. The fact that he graciously
shed
off his glory days and shook off his
huge heartache, to become the
first
Filipino Jesuit, is what makes Martin
Sancho truly great.