Lorenzo Ruiz is the first Filipino saint. He is also the first Filipino martyred for the Christian Faith. Lorenzo Ruiz was a layman, married, and had two sons and a daughter. Born in Binondo, Manila, about 1600’s, he was educated in the school of the Dominicans there. He served as an altar boy and later was a helper and clerk-sacristan in the church of Binondo. He was a member of the Confraternity of the Rosary. He made his living probably as a calligrapher, one who renders documents in beautiful penmanship for private or official use. To be sure, that work denoted an accomplished and educated person, especially at a time when many an illustrious personage were far from excelling in this art. An adverse event made him leave the Philippines in 1636. While working as a clerk for Binondo Church, Ruiz was falsely accused of killing a Spaniard. Ruiz sought asylum on board a ship with three Dominican priests: Saint Antonio Gonzalez; Saint Guillermo Courtet; Saint Miguel de Aozaraza, a Japanese priest; Saint Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz; and a lay leper Saint Lazaro of Kyoto. Ruiz and his companions left for Okinawa on 10 June 1636, with the aid of the Dominican fathers and Fr Giovanni Yago.
The Tokugawa shogunate was persecuting Christians by the time Ruiz had arrived in Japan. The missionaries were arrested and thrown into prison, and after two years, they were transferred to Nagasaki to face trial by torture. He and his companions faced different types of torture. One of these was the insertion of needles inside their fingernails.
On September 27, 1637, he was hung from a gallows by his feet, his body falling into a pit. After two days of agony, he died of bleeding and suffocation. His body was cremated and the ashes thrown into the sea. He and fifteen companions, martyred in the same persecution, were beatified by Pope Bl. John Paul II in Manila on February 18, 1981 and elevated to full honors of the altar by canonization on October 18, 1987 in Rome. Their feast day is on September 28th.
According to early records on Filipino Catechism, Lorenzo declared these words upon his death:
Tagalog: “Isa akóng Katoliko at buong-pusóng tinátanggáp ang kamatayan para sa Panginoón. Kung ako man ay may ‘sanlibong buhay, lahát ng iyón ay iaálay ko sa Kaniyá.”
English: “I am a Catholic and wholeheartedly do accept death for the Lord; If I had a thousand lives, all these I shall offer to Him.”