Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Trans-Mindanao Run/Hike (Day 5 March 31, 30k)

I woke up this morning feeling fresh, the pain in my shin completely gone. The blister didn't bother me.
It drizzled when I left at 5:30 and I immediately opened my umbrella. As usual I prayed on my feet.
Today is easy/recovery day - no running, just gentle walking for 30 km. I rested for 5 minutes after every hour. I know how important the walking breaks, rests and recovery days for ultra-long distance runs/hikes. Without these, I can easily break down and fail to complete the journey. In life we cannot just keep on working and moving fast, we need to slow down, take frequent breaks and rest. We also need to spend time in prayer and reflect about our life.
As I entered Malaybalay I recalled the anti-logging campaign which we helped organize more than 20 years ago. It was in this place where the people of San Fernando and the neighboring parishes set up a barricade that prevented the logging trucks from passing through. We had the support of Bishop,Gaudencio Rosales and some local government officials. As a result, President Cory Aquino declared a total log ban for the province. That experience was the beginning of my commitment to the environment. I am concerned that logging still continues in other parts of Mindanao even today.
I arrived here in Malaybalay at 1:30 pm. So far, I have already ran/walked 207 km. I spent the rest of the afternoon washing my clothes and relaxing.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Trans-Mindanao Run/hike (Day 4 March 30, 42 k)

I woke up early this morning feeling lousy. I didn have enough sleep My calf muscles were stiff, my left shin was painful and a small blister was forming in the right forefoot.
After drinking coffee, I was on the road again. The stiffness in my calf-muscles were gone, but the pain in the shin persisted. I decided to walk slowly and avoid running. When I reached Maramag, the shin became so painful that I doubted if I coulf make it to Valencia. I entered the parish church and prayed for healing. After 30 minutes of praying the pain was gone and I continued my journey. I was able to reach Valencia after six and was welcomed by Fr. Suarez.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Trans-Mindanao Run/Hike (Day 3, March 29, 46 km)

I woke up feeling fresh and no muscle pain. I left Buda at 5:30 am and continued my trek in the Bukidnon highway. Along the way I saw a lot of homemade streamers with signs marking the 41st anniversary of the founding of the New People's Army (NPA). Some signs urge young people to join the NPA, others called for the advancement of the armed struggle and the revolution.
So on the day the revolutionary movement was celebrating the NPA anniversary, I was running/hiking for peace. I don't think the NPA will achieve victory. I don't think the government forces can eliminate the NPA. The only way is the way of peace. I pray that a time will come when the Government and the NDF will sign a peace agreement, then young people don't have to waste their lives in the battlefield. There must be a more creative and peaceful way of transforming society rather than relying on bloody mutual destruction.
There were lots of uphill hikes and downhill runs today. The most exhilerating was running down from the Overview at noontime. But by 2 pm the asphalt road was so hot that I had to walk on the unpaved shoulder of the road. With just 5 km to go before Quezon the rain finally came. I reached the parish rectory at 5:30 pm and was welcomed by Fr. Mindo. So far I have already covered 138 km on foot.

Trans-Mindanao Run/Hike (Day 2 March 28, 40k)

I woke up at 5 am feeling fresh. I didn't feel any muscle ache. By 6:20 I was on the road again. It was foggy and cool. I was doing more walking to conserve energy. There was a lot of uphill climbs the first 25 km until I reached the highest point of the highway which is 7200 ft above sea level. I usually ran the flat and downhill sections. In the afternoon it was mostly downhill running which I enjoyed very much. The weather was just perfect - cloudy and cool. With only 8 km to go I took a long break at coffee shop beside the Sea Gull mountain resort. I ordered a cup of cappucino and blueberry cheese cake. Feeling refreshed I ran downhil while praying the Glorious mystery of the rosary. It rained the last 3 km but I didn't mind. At 5:15 pm, I finally reached the parish rectory of Buda and was welcomed by Fr. Victor Verador. After saying the mass by myself (no pm mass), I had a heavy dinner.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Trans-Mindanao Run/Hike (Day 1, March 2x)

At 5:30 this morning, after giving an interview to the ABS-CBN and GMA5 news teams, I started my run/hike. I took a break after 2 hours before the ascent of the mountainous highway. By 9 am, it was already very hot. I did more walking than running. I started praying the rosary. I reached Calinan at noon and bought a cold drink. I didn't feel hungry even if I didn't have any breakfast and lunch. I was on the road again by 1 pm, determined to brave the heat but after an hour the heat became unbearable that I had to rest in a fruit store. I bought some bananas. I waited for awhile for the heat to subside. I was able to continue by 3 pm. The ascent became more steep and I just walked slowly, while praying the rosary. It was already dark when I reached Lomondao after covering 53 km. Fr. Jun Gemino welcomed me and I finally had my first meal of the day.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Solo Running/Hiking Across Mindanao for Peace & the Environment

Tomorrow I begin my solo, unsupported run/hike from Davao City (Southern Mindanao) across the mountains of Bukidnon and ending in Iligan City (northern Mindanao). I have dubbed this "Solo Trans-Mindanao Run/Hike for Peace & the Environment" - Lakbo (lakad-takbo) Para sa Kapayapaan at Kapalagiran.
I will be leaving behind my mountain-bike and journey on foot - running and hiking - for nine consecutive days covering almost 400 km. I will be doing this alone - without any companion, without a support vehicle. I will carry everything I need in my backpack.

I begin on Saturday, the day before Palm Sunday, and end on Easter Sunday. So this is a Holy Week activity - a spiritual journey as well as a penitential act. I will be fasting - eating only one full meal a day (at night). I will be staying overnight in 9 parish rectories and concelebrate in the masses and Holy Week liturgies - so I will visit nine churches (Visita Iglesia) across Mindanao.

I am doing this at a time when peace remains elusive in Mindanao and the rest of the country. The armed conflict between the government forces and New People's Army continue. The armed clashes are escalating. The peace negotiations between the Government and the National Democratic Front have been abandoned. There is still no peace agreement between the Government and the Moro Islamic Front.

I am running and hiking while Mindanao is under a state of calamity as declared by the government. The drought has affected the power supply (we have daily brown-outs) and agriculture. This is a manifestation of the environmental crisis - the climate change - caused by the destruction of the environment. The government has failed to stop logging, mining, construction of coal-fired power plants, aerial spray, and the over-reliance on oil. This calamity is not "Acts of God" or "God's Will" but the consequence of the selfishness and greed and of the materialistic and consumerist mentality.
As I run/hike eight to ten hours a day, I will pray for peace and for the environment.
I pray that we will learn to walk the way of peace that Jesus taught us - to reject the culture of death and violence, to value the sacredness of life. I pray that a peace agreement will soon be achieved between the Government and the MILF and also with the NDF.
I also pray that we learn to care for the earth, to preserve and protect the environment not only for our survival but for the future generations.
So tomorrow at 5:00 am, I will be departing from the Redemptorist Church in Davao City and begin my journey.This is my schedule/itinerary:
March 26 (Saturday) Redemptorists Davao City to Lomondao (53 km)
March 27 (Palm Sunday) Lomondao to Buda (40 km)
March 28 (Monday) Buda to Quezon, Bukidnon (45 km)
March 29 (Tuesday) Quezon to Valencia, Bukidnon (42 km)
March 30 (Wednesday) Valencia to Malaybalay (30 km)
April 1 (Holy Thursday) Malaybaly to Manol0 Fortich (54 km)
April 2 (Good Friday) Manolo Fortich to Cagayan de Oro (38 km)
April 3 (Black Saturday) Cagayan to Libertad, Misamis Orientl (43 km)
April 4 (Easter Sunday) Libertad to Iligan City (46 km)
I will be posting on this blogsite by mobile phone (as long as there is a signal). I will also try to post via twitter:
This Holy Week Run/Hike is also a preparation for my 800 km- Running/Hiking Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (from the South of France across Northern Spain) which I will do in July 2010.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Abandoned Flock, Lost Shepherds

Everytime I hear about priests and bishops accused of failing to fulfill their role as "good shepherds," I feel sad. Even if they are just a drop in the bucket, they do a lot of damage to the Church. Their cases are sensationalized and the majority of those who live as good shepherds are overlooked. Yet we cannot hide the fact that there are some priests and bishops who care only about their own pleasure, privilege, power, prestige and possessions. There are those who side with the rich and the powerful and forget about the victims, the poor and marginalized. Vatican II and PCP II called for a renewal of the Church. But a renewed Church requires a renewed clergy. This is a poem a I wrote for the lost shepherds.


Like a sheep without a shepherd
we cry out to you.
We have been scattered,
our homes demolished, our land poisoned,
our sons and daughters abused or slaughtered.

Like a flock forgotten by its shepherd
we wait for you.
But you're too busy worrying
about your image, influence
and investments.
You do not even know us.

As we wander in this valley
of terror, hunger and death
we long to see your face
and hear your voice
calling us by name.

But you have wandered
from your flock
and from the good shepherd
you promised to follow.
You have succumbed to the
temptation in the desert.
Yours is the pleasure, power, the glory
and the wealth.

Like a flock in search of a shepherd
we call out to you,
be our shepherd.
Leave everything you have
and lead us in our journey
to the promised land.

Friday, March 19, 2010

End of the School Year - Start of my Sabbatical

The school year of the St. Alphonsus' Theological & Mission Institute formally ended today. We had the liturgy at 6:15 presided by Fr. Ben Ma (the provincial superior of the Redemptorist Cebu Province). After the mass, we had the dinner for all the students of the institute.

With the end of the school year, my sabbatical also begins. It will only be for seven months. I look forward to my run/hike across Mindanao next week. At the last week of April up to the first week of June I will be staying in my "hermitage" in the mountain of Busay, Cebu. Then I fly to Rome for the summer course on Ecumenical/Interreligious Movements. I will also attend the culmination of the Year of the Priest in the Vatican. From the second week of July up to the first week of August I will be making my running/hiking pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. I should be back in the Philippines by the last week of August and spend the last two months in my "hermitage" in Busay. I am expected to be back in Davao for the second semester.

I have been assigned here in Davao since 1995, after finishing my doctoral studies in Rome. This is the longest assignment I've ever had - 15 years of full-time teaching and part-time pastoral work. I like it here but I have a strong feeling that this period is ending and I am entering a transition period of my life. I don't think I will continue being a full-time professor - 15 years is enough. I was 40 years old when I arrived here. I am now 55 years. I don't want to spend the remaining years of my life in the classroom. I want to have more time in pastoral ministry, promoting the formation of BECs, helping in the renewal of the clergy, being more involved in peace & environmental advocacy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A 53 km Hike/Run on an Empty Stomach

Yesterday, I spent the whole day hiking/running 53 km in over nine hours. I followed the Davao-Bukidnon highway and I went as far as Los Amigos (Calinan) and then turned back following a trail that I used to take on my mountain bike (New Carmen and Magtuod). I wore a wide-brimmed hat and longsleeves to protect me from the scorching sun. I didn't have any breakfast or lunch (as usual). I didn't feel weak or tired. I didn't feel bored or lonely. I was back home in time for the afternoon mass which we celebrated in honor of St. Clement - a Redemptorist saint. Then I had a hearty dinner with the confreres.

How is it possible to hike/run the whole day without food?

I am used to fasting. When I was imprisoned during the early years of martial law I joined a hunger strike which lasted for a week and I didn't feel hungry. I am used to not eating for one week during Holy Week every year. I am used to eating one meal a day (that's what I have been doing for over a year). I have trained my body to subsist on less food.

A few months ago, I bought a book entitled "Warrior Diet" written by Ori Hoffmekler. The author argued that ancient hunters and warriors subsisted on one meal a day (usual at night). They spent the whole day either hunting or fighting and ate one heavy meal at night. They were more healthy and fit than those who ate three meals a day.

According to Hoffmekler, when we fast during the day, our body learns to use stored fat as fuel instead of glycogen from carbohydrates. Fat as fuel is inexhaustible, while glycogen can only last for three hours. During fasting, the body shifts to survival mode and becomes more efficient and alert. Eating during the day activates the parasympathetic nervous system and makes one sluggish and sleepy (thus, the need for siesta after a heavy meal). Whatever we eat cannot be immediately used as fuel. We can only use as fuel today what we ate last night and also the fat stored in our body.

So exercising while fasting is not just a matter of mind over body.

When I do my Tran-Mindanao Run-Hike two weeks from now, I will continue my practice of fasting during the day and eating only at night.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Evangelizing Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs)

Since last Friday evening up to noontime today, I have been conducting an evangelization seminar together with a parish staff for Mt. Carmel BEC. Over 60 attended this event which we called "Festival of Faith."

This is the program/process we followed:

Friday (7:30-9:30 pm) Theme: Christ
Individual Reflection (My experience of Christ's presence in my life, Who is Christ for me?)
Small Group Sharing

Saturday (7:30-9:30 pm) Theme: Conversion & Following Christ
Individual Reflection (My experience of personal change/conversion in my life. How have I lived as disciple of Christ?)
Penitential Service

Sunday (8:30 am - 11:30 am) Theme: Discipleship in Community (The Church/Basic Ecclesial Communities)
Liturgy of the Word
(after the readings, workshop & reporting: the kind of community we dream of in our village. What are BECs, deepening/input in lieu of homily)
Liturgy of the Eucharist

(after the mass, we had an agape - community table-fellowship)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

One hour Barefoot Running

Yesterday morning, I ran barefoot on cement surface for an hour. This is a breakthrough for me. It was a very smooth, comfortable and relaxed run which I enjoyed so much. I avoided heel striking and landed on my forefoot, with my knees bent. I could feel the natural spring in my feet, tendons and knees.
My feet are getting stronger and the soles are becoming thicker. I will try to slowly increase my time in barefoot running until I reach 2 hours.
I've started using aqua shoes on some of my walks. The soles are so thin, it's just like walking barefoot. I hope that my friend will bring me a pair of vibram five-fingers shoes when she arrive from London this week.I only have less than three weeks before my solo Trans-Mindanao Run/Hike (390 km in 8 days). I plan to cover an average of 50 km a day in 7-8 hours. I am thinking of running barefoot partly perhaps two hours in the morning before the roads become so hot. The next six hours will be on running shoes. Anyway, I will just listen to my body and not force myself.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Attending the Religious Profession of Sr. Yna, RC

I arrived here in Manila yesterday. This morning, I hiked 21 km from Baclaran to Loyola Heights (Quezon City) to attend the religious profession of Sr. Yna Onate. It took me 4 hrs 10 minutes to reach the Cenacle Retreat House where it was held. The profession ceremony, which started at 3 pm was attended by over 30 guests, including Yna's parents, Mr. & Mrs. Bert Onate, as well as her friends and the members of the Religious of the Cenacle. My friend, Sr. Evelyn, was present (I also attended her profession last year).
Yna is a friend whom I accompanied in discerning her religious vocation. She had been involved in our parish church for a long time. Several years ago, I often went out with her and some of our friends for cappucino. When she decided to join the Cenacle Sisters, I promised her that I would attend her profession. So today, I kept my promise. I will continue to pray for her that she will persevere in her vocation.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Barefoot Running

This morning I ran barefoot in our courtyard and the pathway around the church. I ran on different surfaces - grass, sand, rocky patches, and cement. I was planning to run/walk for only 15 minutes but I enjoyed doing it that I didn't want to stop. So I ended up running continuously for 30 minutes. Although I wanted to run longer I had to stop. I still had to attend the opening mass of the Visitation.

This is the second day that I have tried running barefoot. I started doing it yesterday inspired by the book "Born to Run." I found it easy to run smoothly without pain. I haven't done a lot of running for the last three weeks due to knee pain so I have just been doing brisk walking for 4-7 hours. Barefoot running is indeed therapeautic and it can strengthen my knees and thicken the soles of my feet. I like the feel of the grass and sand on my feet.
Within this month, I plan to gradually increase my time in running barefoot to an hour or more. This is part of my training for the Trans-Mindanao Trek this Holy Week. When I walk/run the Camino de Santiago in Spain this July, I might even do part of it barefoot.
For hundreds of thousand of years, our ancestors ran barefoot. The Kenyans continue to do it. Abebe Bikila won the Rome Olympic Marathon in the 1960s running barefoot. In recent years, there has been a resurgence in barefoot running. I would like to give it a try as part of my training although I wouldn't run road races and ultramarathons barefoot.
As I ran barefoot, I remembered a dream which I had two years ago and which I recorded in my dream diary:
"I am running barefoot on a trail that is at first muddy and then grassy. I am following a boy who is running very fast. I am trying to keep up with his pace."
I haven't tried to unravel the meaning of this dream but now I have an idea what it means.

(posted by cellphone -mobile blogging)