At 8:00 am yesterday, we gathered at the archbishop's residence for the press conference and send off. After giving my departure statement, Archbishop Capalla gave his blessing and I started my journey. There 15 bikers who accompanied me for the first leg - Bishop Colin Bagaforo and Fr. Armand of Cotabato, Fr. Pol and 5 bikers from Kidapawan, 4 diocesan priests from Davao and 3 local bikers.
After biking on flat road for 10 km, we began our ascent of the Davao and Bukidnon mountain ranges. It was a very hot day. The Davao priests biked as far as Calinan (30 km away from Davao). We had lunch in the parish of Lomondao at 1:30 pm. After an hour's rest we continued our journey. There were still much climbing to do but it became cooler as the clouds provided cover and we were more than 6000 ft above sea level. All in all, we must have climbed over 70 km. The last 8 km to Buda was all downhill. We reached the parish rectory before 6 pm after biking 95 km. After taking some snacks all the bikers returned to Davao riding the support vehicles. I met the parish priest, Fr. Vic Virador who had just came back from a barrio mass. After dinner and conversation, I went to bed at 9 pm.
I woke up at 4 pm this morning. Spent some time in morning prayer and then went over the homily which I was going to give for the morning mass. I celebrated the mass at 6:30 am - most of those who attended were students, with their teachers and parents. I continued my journey at 8:00 am. This time I was all alone. I savored the silence and solitude will pedaling up and down the mountain. By noontime, the heat became unbearable but I continued biking along the rough road of Busco. My right knee was painful - I was worried that my gouty arthritis was acting up. I took a flanax tablet and the pain disappeared after an hour. By 2:00, I was in Valencia and I stopped for a while for batchoy (noodles). The last 15 km to Malaybalay was mostly uphill and I slowed down, I was feeling exhausted. I reached Malaybalay by 5:00 pm after covering 105 km. By 5:30 pm I was celebrating the mass for life and peace attended by over 200 people. After the mass I found out that the brother of Vangie (a friend who attended the mass) had just been shot. I also heard that in Valencia earlier this afternoon, there was an encounter between the NPA and the military. Another manifestation of the culture of death.
I had dinner with the parish priest, Fr. Bob Salem and two biking priests who will accompany me to Cagayan tomorrow - Frs. Yrap and Teting. Fr. Yrap was one of the priests who accompanied in the Western Mindanao leg while I was biking around Mindanao two years ago.