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PPN Explains the Parroquia’s Mural of St Philip of Jesus

By Cheryl Young

The martyrdom of St Philip of Jesus is a tale of an individual who was swept up in the larger forces of history playing out around him. He was born in New Spain but likely not to a ruling Spanish-born family, otherwise he probably would have never left his comfortable existence, only to find himself a few years later arrested and imprisoned in Japan.

Early on, Philip became a Franciscan monk, but he abandoned his vows, traveling to Manila in the Philippines to live, as one writer coyly put it, “a life of pleasure.” In the seventeenth century, Manila was the critical trade hub between the economies of Europe and China. Every spring, one great Spanish ship would start from Acapulco and cross the Pacific to Manila, loaded down with silver from the enormous mine of Potosi in Peru. At the same time, from China to Manila, came 30 to 40 junks crammed with fine silk fabrics, blue & white porcelain, gunpowder, sulfur, and metals like iron, steel, and copper. It was a one-way cash transaction since there was nothing of European origin that the Chinese thought was worth buying. It was a dangerous journey for the Spanish: it took two to three months to reach the Philippines and longer on the return east, and many ships were lost due to typhoons that wrecked them in treacherous channels.

It was on such an eastern return journey that Philip (once again a monk) found himself on a Spanish ship caught in a storm and eventually stranded off the coast of Japan. It was a galleon, carrying not only trade goods and passengers but also soldiers, cannon, and ammunition, which were presumably on board in case of an attack by the Dutch raiders that preyed on the slower-moving cargo ships in the South China Sea.

All aboard were captured. However, in a stupendous miscalculation of the situation or of the times, the captain insinuated that the Franciscan missionaries on board were really there to convert the population to Christianity, thereby easing the ultimate Spanish invasion and conquest of Japan. Emperor Hideyoshi, already suspicious of Europeans and their divisive influence on his subjects, arrested the clergy in the Kyoto monastery where Philip was imprisoned. Twenty-six men, including seventeen converted Japanese, were taken to Nagasaki and crucified with spears. St Philip of Jesus was canonized in June 1862. He is the patron saint of México City.

We invite you to take The Four Churches Walking Tour on July 25 and view the mural in the Parroquia of St Philip’s crucifixion. All donations and tips go to support the important work of PPN. For 49 years, this nonprofit organization has been providing medical and dental services to children in San Miguel whose families cannot afford to provide it for them. In 2018, it served 7,636 children, more than 600 per month!

All walks are conducted in English. Private tours can be arranged. Contact Christina at 415 152 7796 or email



The Four Churches Historical Walk

From Patronato Pro Niños

Thu, Jul 25, 10am

Gather in the Jardin, across

from the Parroquia 9:45 am

No reservations needed

350 pesos donation taken onsite




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