Sunday, September 19, 2010

From Barefoot Pilgrim to Running Hermit

This morning, I ran down from my "hermitage" to the Redemptorist monastery in Cebu to join my confreres for meals, check my e-mail, update my blog and get my food supply for the week. It took me one hour and 45 minutes. Yesterday, I ran for five hours in the mountains of Busay and Kan-irag (from 7:30 am to 12:30 pm) with a lot of steep ascents and descents on various paths and trails, in the rain the last one and a half-hour. Tomorrow afternoon, I will be hiking up to Busay - back to my "hermitage."
This is one of the joys of living as an occasional hermit in the mountain of Busay - running in the mountains. I started doing this almost thirty years ago - since I decided to spend time annually in the mountain as an occasional hermit. Besides the time for prayer, reflection, reading, writing and music, I also do a lot of running. This is where I trained for the marathon. I am still doing this as I turn 56 years old, and I expect to be doing this for the next thirty years.
What makes running enjoyable after doing the Camino is that it has become easier and more enjoyable. Since I have lost 15 lbs, I can run faster. My body feels light and I have more endurance and energy (even without breakfast and lunch). I wake up with a resting pulse rate of 43 beats per minute (bpm) - the lowest in my life. The average resting heart rate for many people is 70 bpm. For those who are fit it is 60 bpm, while for marathoners it is usually in the 50s. When I was 30-35 years younger, the lowest I could go was 52 bpm. So this is the "physical blessing" from the Camino. My blood pressure, which used to be high, is lower. I'm not worried about my myocardial ischemia.
I have started my training for the marathon. Here's is my schedule the past week:
Sept. 13 Mon: uphill hike Busay (2 hrs 10 min)
Sept 14 Tues: fartlek-mountain-run (1 hr 40 min)
Sept 15 Wed: easy, barefoot-run (40 minutes), plyometrics, weight training
Sept 16 Thurs: easy- mountain-run (1 hr 45 min)
Sept 17 Frid: rest, 30 minutes walk
Sept 18 Saturday: long/slow-distance mountain run (5 hours)
Sept 19 Sun: easy, downhill run (1 hr 40 min)
In my long runs, I use the Galloway method (a cycle of 9 min run/1 min walk) and the Chi-running styles (incorporating the principles of Taichi and a slight forward lean, with mid/forefoot running). Fartlek is the Swedish term for speed-play (varied pace).
This is the program that I will follow, with some variations, as I prepare for the marathon in 4 months time. Actually, it is not the marathon that I really enjoy - it is the training and preparation, especially the solitary runs.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Meeting old Classmates & Friends

I ran down this weekend from my "hermitage" to meet my classmate Fr. Claro Conde who arrived from England a few days ago. We started our priestly formation together in 1968 in St. Alphonsus' Minor Seminary and were ordained in 1981. After over a decade as missionary and vocation director here in the Philippines he went to England for a Sabbatical. He returned there a few years later working among migrant Filipinos and other Asians. He has been parish priest for Isle of Wight and has recently been assigned to a new parish in Southampton. He will soon be incardinated in the diocese in England. Although no longer a Redemptorist, he remains a Redemptorist at heart.

So last night, twelve of us - seminary classmates and those belonging to other batches - gathered in the home of Emy (a classmate) for dinner, drink and conversation. We spent most of our time reminiscing about our seminary experiences and sharing about the present. We also had great fun looking at the photographs that I compiled into a photo-movie, especially when we noticed a lot of changes in our appearances (we no longer look as handsome as we were before - and many of us have lost our hair).

Here's what I showed them:

I have been trying to review and reflect on my life's journey. Part of the process is going through the photographs and putting them together as a photo-movie using the Windows Movie-Makre. So I far I have finished the first part: the first 27 years (from childhood to ordination). Going over these pictures I notice the friends and companions I met along the way. They are part of my life and although we no longer travel the same road together now I remember them fondly and thank God for the times we had together. Meeting them occasionally, like last night, was heart-warming.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

"Movie-Photo" The Barefoot Pilgrim - Camino de Santiago de Compostela

I've finally been able to put together the photos that I took during the Camino using the Windows Movie-Maker program. The background music is the song that I composed - Camino Pilgrim Song. Here it is:

I love to watch this video over and over again because it brings back a lot of memories.

I made it to Santiago de Compostela after hiking almost 800 km for 27 days mostly barefoot and at times wearing my sandals when the road got so hot and harsh and on days when my feet needed to recover.

What difference did walking barefoot make to my pilgrimage?

Walking barefoot, inspite the difficulties and pain, has been an extraordinary and profound experience for me. It became a prayerful, meditative and contemplative act. It enabled me to focus my attention on the present moment - on every step I took, the sensation of my feet caressing the ground, and the smell and beauty of nature around me. It was for me an expression of my reverence for the sacredness of the path that I was walking on and my connection with past pilgrims who have walked the Camino for over a thousand years. It made me more aware of the Divine presence, especially that time when in my most painful moments I prayed for healing and felt energy rising from the ground and suddenly taking away the pain in my swollen ankle and shin.

Watching this video over and over again helps me reflect on my own pilgrimage experience.

There are three important phases in a pilgrimage.
The first phase is the preparation - a time for planning and preparing (physically, psychologically and spiritually).
The second phase is the actual pilgrimage itself.
The third phase is the post-pilgrimage stage which includes a time of prayerful reflection, reentry and going home.

The third phase is as important as the first and second phase. We should not rush to go home and forget what we have just experienced. We need time to go over deeply what we have gone through, observe the changes and transformation in ourselves (physically, psychologically, and spiritually) and sum up the lessons and insights that we can bring to our life. This is what I am trying to do as I live in solitude in my hermitage. Hopefully after this period, I can share my experiences with others and apply to my life what I have learned in the Camino.

The Pilgrimage did not end in Santiago de Compostela (the field of stars), it was not the final destiny, neither was the Finisterre (the end of the earth) overlooking the deep blue ocea. Our whole life is a pilgrimage to our final destiny - beyond this life, to the Divine Source of life. Meanwhile, the journey and pilgrimage continues - within ourselves and in our daily struggles to make this world a better place to live in. This message is contained in the song that I composed:

Camino Pilgrim Song

We are pilgrims on a journey
across the mountains and plains of Spain.
We're on our way to Santiago
to the field of stars.

Ultreya, onward must we go
Ultreya, to the tomb of Santiago

We are hiking across the Pyrenees
the Meseta and Galicia.
We don't mind the cold and the heat,
the blisters and the muscle pain.

Ultreya, onward must we go
Ultreya, to the city of Santiago.

Though we make our own camino
we are never all alone.
we meet friends and companions
on the road and the albergues.

Ultreya, onward must we go.
Ultreya, to the field of stars.

We are pilgrims on life's journey
within our mind, heart and soul.
And we grow in the Spirit,
in faith, hope and love.

Ultreya, onward must we go.
Ultreya, to our final destiny.

We are pilgrims on a journey
from darkness to light,
to the kingdom of justice,
and peace and of freedom.

Ultreya, onward must we go.
Ultreya, to our final destiny.

We are pilgrims on a journey
to our final destiny,
to the home of our Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Ultreya, onward must we go.
Utreya, to our final destiny.