Sunday, August 29, 2010

Recording from my Hermitage: Camino Pilgrim Song

I arrived here in Cebu (Philippines) last Saturday (August 21) and went up to my "hermitage" in Busay on Monday (August 23). Once a week, on Sundays, I come down to the monastery to join my Redemptorist confreres for meals, check my e-mail, and get my food supply for the week. I go back to the hermitage the following day.

I spend most of my time in solitude, silence, prayer, reflection, reading and writing. I also find time to run or walk in the mountains. At night, I play the flute or the violin. Or I sing to myself, accompanied by my guitar. I prepare my own meals (I eat once a day, at night). This is my "sacred space." For the last 29 years, since my ordination, I spend a month or two annualy on this mountain as a hermit.

It is taking sometime to shake off the jet lag. It seems that my body-clock is still following the Camino time. I have difficulty in going to sleep and waking up at the right (Philippine time). My shins are still a bit painful and they require a few more weeks of rest and recovery. Then I start my training program for the marathon which I plan to run in January next year.

The past week, I have been reflecting on my own Camino experience, writing down the insight, learnings and lessons that I have gained. I still have seven more weeks of reflection. Some day, I hope to share the fruits of my reflection.

As I promised, I am posting a recording of the song that I composed while doing the Camino. I recorded this with my cellphone, so I'm doubtful about the quality.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Pilgrim's Progress: The Journey Home

I arrived here in Rome last week and the following day I went to Milan with my friends Tina & Ed and their companion Nelly. We spent the long weekend there, visiting Lake Como and exploring the old city. During the long drive from Rome to Milan and back, I shared with them my experience about the Camino and taught them the song that I composed. They were so inspired that they decided to do the last part of the Camino (Sarria-Santiago de Compostela) next year.

Tina and Ed are old friends from way back. Ed works at the UN-FAO and Tina (who holds a doctorate in social science from the Gregorian University) organizes leadership/social enterpreneurship training for OFWs in Italy.

I spent the last few days here in Rome recovering. I just walked around the city for 3 hours each day, visiting my favorite places and buying books that I will bring back to the Philippines.

Today at midday, I will take the plane back to Cebu via Doha. I still have over 2 months left in my Sabbatical which I will spend as a hermit in the mountain of Busay. I will have much time reflecting on my Camino experience and preparing for my re-entry to "normal' life.

The journey home is not just a physical journey. It is a continuing inner journey. As the saying goes: the longest journey is the inner journey from the head to the heart.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Camino de Santiago: Pilgrim's Progress

Greetings from Santiago de Compostela! I finally arrived here at 10 am yesterday after hiking almost 800 km for 27 days starting at the Pyrenees mountains in France, across the plains of Northern Spain and the mountains of Galicia. I've done most of it barefoot, but I also wore my sandals when the trails and roads got harsh and hot especially in the afternoons. The last week week in the Galician region was easier for barefoot hiking due to the cooler climate and a lot forest cover.
The last 3 days was for me an experience of agony and ecstasy. It was agonizing because my right ankle and shin was very painful while hiking through the beautiful forest paths. I cried out to God to take the pain away. Finally the other day I felt a cold air from the ground entering my feet and the pain disappeared. I felt the intimate presence of Someone whom I engaged in a dialogue within my heart. I was crying in the middle of the forest savoring the experience.
Yesterday at 2:30 in the morning I started hiking barefoot to Santiago de Compostella without any pain in my ankle and shin. I gazed at the dark sky and saw the stars. I began to understand the meaning of Compostela - the field of stars. I walked very slowly, savoring every step, knowing this was the last day of my hiking pilgrimage. I reached Santiago at 10 am and lined up outside the Pilgrim's Office. When the pilgrims saw me barefoot they clapped their hands and allowed me to get ahead of the line to get my pilgrim's certificate. I followed Fr. Alessandro - an Italian pilgrim priest I got to know along the way. I was welcomed by John Rafferty at the office who kindly took care of my accomodation for the night and escorted Alessandro and me to the sacristy of the cathedral so that we can concelebrate at the noonday mass. I heard confession before the mass and concelebrated barefoot. I put on my sandals after the mass.
In the evening I had dinner with other pilgrims who became my friends along the way- Ed & Letizia, Angela, David. We shared about our experiences until 11 pm.
This morning I walked barefoot around the center of the city and took a last look at the cathedral. I will be taking the train to Madrid at 1:55 this afternoon.
My pilgrimage has ended but my life's journey continues.
I hope to do this again when I make my Sabbatical 11 years from now during the Xacobeo.