Friday, May 28, 2010

The Wildman & the Pilgrim: Archetypes for a Masculine Spirituality

I've been living as a hermit for almost three weeks on top of this mountain overlooking the city of Cebu. I spend most of my time relaxing, reflecting about my life, praying, fasting, reading, editing my book project, playing the flute and violin, practising Spanish, performing taichi, and finalizing my itinerary for the Camino de Santiago. Of course, I also run/walk barefoot 2-3 hours a day. There is a mini-forest nearby that I love to explore.
I am reading three books: To Care for the Earth (Sean McDonagh), God's Fool: Life & Times of Francis of Assisi (Julien Green), and Wildmen, Warriors & Kings: Masculine Spirituality & the Bible (Patrick Arnold).
According to Arnold there are 2 archetypes that symbolize the male drive for freedom and can be the basis for masculine spirituality: the Wildman & the Pilgrim. The most ancient male paradigm is the Wildman which represents man's primordial connections with nature. "He represents male earthiness, that grubby and gritty manly energy radically free."
The Pilgrim acts out the "sacred ritual over many days and across numerous miles ... recreating the essentials of his own hero journey. He has become the image in the psyche for all the leavings we must do in life, all the detaching and separation we must undergo in order to find our way again to new life, new challenges, and higher danger."
According to Arnold, Jesus integrated in his life the Wildman & the Pigrim besides other other male archetypes. St. Francis of Assisi also exemplied the Wildman & the Pilgrim.
As I reflect on my own life I realize that I am a Wildman & a Pilgrim at heart.
As a Wildman I have regularly set aside time to live as a part time hermit on top of this mountain for the last 30 years. I have climbed Mt. Apo (the highest mountain in the Philippines) seven times. I occasionally run/walk around Samal Island and sleep under the stars on the beach. When running/walking barefoot, I like the feel of the earth, rocks and grass which energize me. It is when I am close to nature that I can truly sense the Divine Presence.
I am also a Pilgrim at heart. I love to go on long journeys on foot or by bicycle. In 1994, I walked alone from Rome to Assisi for six days, sleeping under the stars at night. I biked for peace across the Philippines in 2000, around Israel in 2005, around Mindanao in 2006, and around the Philippines in 2008, covering over 5000 km in 56 days. A few months ago, I ran/ walked across the mountains of Mindanao, covering 390 km in 9 days. I can truly sense the Divine Presence on my long journeys.
The following months, I will once again live the life of the Pilgrim & Wildman. I am leaving Rome two weeks from now, after a month I go to the shrine of Our Lady Lourdes in France and then do my running/walking pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, starting at the foothills o the Pyrenees mountains, across Northern Spain, and ending in Santiago de Compostela. Like St. Francis of Assisi, I would like to do it barefoot. I will also be sleeping under the stars most of the time. After the pilgrimage I will come back here on this mountain and live as a hermit for two months before going back to Davao and resume my life as a professor, and a warrior for peace, life & the environment.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Training for the Camino de Santiago : Barefoot Running

I started running at nine this morning. As usual, I did it barefoot. This time I did not find it difficult going up and down the peak of the RCPI mountain even if the rocks were so sharp that I felt I was running on broken glass. I just imagined myself going up and down the the Pyrenees mountains. By 10 am, the scorching rough road was still bearable. But once I reached the asphalt highway at 11:30 I had to wear my sandals or risk getting blisters on the soles of my feet. I finally reached my 'hermitage' at 12:50 pm.

I just hope that there won't be a lot of asphalt section on the Camino de Santiago.
I doubt if I can run/walk barefoot the entire 800 km length of the Camino across Nothern Spain. I will be doing it during summer when the temperature can rise up to 40C. Maybe 3 hrs barefoot in the morning will be realistic unless the skies are cloudy or the path will be lined with trees. I wonder how St. Francis and the medieval pilgims could walk the whole way. Perhaps, it would be easier during Spring or Fall.

I have been running up and down this mountain since 1980, but I've never done this barefoot previously. I wouldn't have imagined myself doing it. I thought only Kenyan runners could do it in Africa. Now, I enjoy doing it and I can even run barefoot 2-3 hours a day. I owe it to Christopher McDougal's book 'Born to Run' which made me realize that we humans are designed to run without shoes. Running barefoot taught me how to run with the correct form (forefoot landing, bent knees, shorter stride). I also learned listen to my body and feet, and focus on the surface ahead of me. This has made running more enjoyable and injury free.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Barefoot Running Hermit

Once again, I am living the life on a hermit on top of the mountain in Busay, overlooking the city of Cebu. This is what I do during summer breaks every year, and this is where I spent 5 months in 2005. I am spending four weeks here before leaving next month for my pilgrimage to Rome, Lourdes (France) and the Camino de Santiago (Spain). When I come back at the last week of August, I will spend the last two months of my sabbatical as a hermit.
This is a time for solitude, silence, prayer and reflection. A time for reading and writing. A time for fasting (one light meal a day at night).
It is also a time for running/walking along the mountain trails (2-3 hours a day). This time, I am doing most of my running without sh0es - barefoot and I am enjoying it. The soles of my feet are getting thicker. The only problem is running on scorching cement or asphalt road after 9 am. I wear my sandals or Vibram Five-fingers when the heat becomes unbearable.
I run down to the Redemptorist monastery on Sundays to have a good meal with the confreres and also to get my food supply for the week. This is the only day when I have a hearty lunch and dinner. Tomorrow, I run up to the mountain again.
I only have two months before my running/walking pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago. This time in the mountain as a hermit is part of my preparation - spiritual and physical.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Philippine Elections 2010: Endorsement of Candidates by Religious Leaders

While over 40 million Filipinos went to their polling places to vote for the national and local leaders, I was in the Italian Embassy in Manila being interviewed for my visa application. My polling precinct is in Davao so it was impossible for me to vote. Anyway, I already left Davao on April 27 and I will return there six months from now after my Sabbatical.

I would have voted for Noynoy Aquino for president. Instead I just prayed that there will be no failure of elections and that Noynoy will win. Among the candidates, I believe that he is the one who has the leadership qualities and capability to lead this nation for the next six years.

Unlike Pastor Quiboloy and the Iglesia ni Kristo, the Catholic Church has not officially endorsed any candidate or political party. As a priest, I should not endorse any candidate although I can let others know who I will vote for. For religious leaders, engagement in partisan politics and dictating to others who to vote for is inappropriate. We should allow our members to vote according to their conscience, while at the same time providing guideliness on voting responsibly.

I was amused when Quiboloy who claims to be the "appointed son of God" announced that it is the will of his Heavenly Father that Gibo will be the next president of the Philippines. What happens if his candidate fails to win? That could raise doubts about the authenticity of the "Divine Revelation" and his status as the "appointed Son." It could also question the belief that he has over 5 million voting members. At least the Iglesia ni Kristo appears to base it endorsement on who it perceives will surely win. Nevertheless, I find it inappropriate and undemocratic for any religious leader or church to dictate to its members who to vote for.

I'm just glad that the Catholic Church has avoided making that mistake. There is no such thing as a Catholic Vote. Although there have been some groups like the Couples for Christ and some Pro-Life groups who have endorsed Villar who is perceived as corrupt. Other bishops have endorsed JC de los Reyes of Kapatiran - a political party whose principles and programs are supposedly based on Catholic Moral/Social teachings. The Kapatiran has been expecting to get support from the Catholic Church, from the parishes and religious organizations. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an official Catholic party and Kapatiran lacks credible candidates and a mass base. I admire Kapatiran's stress on a politics that is based on principles not on personalities, but unless the Kapatiran has candidates who embody its principles and who are credible to the masses they cannot expect to get elected. Most Filipinos are person-oriented, and they do not vote primarily on the basis of platforms and ideologies.

I disagree with some pro-Life groups who declared that the only acceptable candidates are those who opposed the Reproductive Health bill. This has led them to support candidates who are perceived as corrupt. One of them even went to the extent of hoping that Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo will win as congressman and become the speaker of the house just because she is regarded as pro-life. This is a narrow and myopic understanding of what it means to be pro-life. They fail to understand that corruption is a manifestation of the culture of death and is anti-life in so far as it perpetuates poverty, war, extra-judicial killings, ecological destruction, human rights violation.

Even as I fail to vote, I pray for our country that the elections will finally be credible and that we will be spared from the age-old curse of electing unworthy, corrupt and abusive leaders (like Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her kind). I pray that we will be spared from electing someone who has been found guilty of corruption (but was pardoned) and someone who has been accused of using public office to enrich himself and his companies.

I finally pray that the elections will go smoothly and that there will be no more attempt by the Arroyo government to manipulate the results of the election that will perpetual her in power. Otherwise, I will be one of those who will actively join the People Power that will oust her.