I arrived here in Iligan last Thursday evening for my uncle Melchor's funeral. Instead of asking our driver to bring me to the airport, I just ran/walked from our monastery to the Davao Airport (7.5 km) last Thursday afternoon carrying my backpack and wearing my sandals..
Yesterday morning, I also ran/walked from our monastery in Iligan to the memorial park (which is 8 km away) for the funeral mass and burial. This morning I ran/walked for over 5 hours to Pugaan mountains and back, wearing my Merrel vibram sandals. As usual I used the Galloway method - with 3 minutes run/2 minutes walk intervals. It felt very comfortable, even on the ascent up the mountain trail. This will be the method I will be using for my run/walk for peace across the Philippines, using a pair of sandals most of the time instead of running shoes. I won't go barefoot this time since I need to cover an average distance of 42 km a day for 60 days on mostly hot asphalt/cement surface (except for the rough mountain roads in the Cordilleras)..
I am still finalizing my itinerary which will start in Davao and end in Aparri (via the Pan-Philippine Highway and the Cordilleras) - a distance of around 2,200 km. It will take around 60 days (with 8 rest days). My goal is the Marian shrine of our Lady of Piat (located before Aparri) which has been a pilgrimage destination for over 3 centuries. From there I will proceed to Aparri which is the tip of northern Philippines overlooking the South China Sea. This will be my Philippine version of the Camino de Santiago. I haven't finalized the date of departure - it could be the last week of March or the first week of April..
When I was a young priest, I made a list of the things I want to do during my lifetime. I have already accomplished some of these: running marathons, biking around the Philippines (5000 km), run/walk across Mindanao (400 km Davao-Iligan), run/walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela (800 km). After doing all these, I believe that the time has come to realize another dream - run/walk across the Philippines. All that I have accomplished so far have been a preparation for this great journey. I believe this is the opportune time. I will finish a period of my life as full-time professor this March and will be begin my new assignment this June working full-time in promoting the growth of Basic Ecclesial Communities around the country. So I will spend the transition period as a pilgrim for peace..
After finishing my pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain last year, I realized that my pilgrim journey had not ended. So what I intend to do soon is a continuation of the pilgrim journey, this time no longer on the French and Spanish soil but on Philippine soil..
While making my pilgrimage on the Camino, one of my special intention was to pray for the resumption of the peace negotiations between the Government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front NDF). This month, the peace negotiation will finally resume after so many years of hiatus. When I make my pilgrimage across the Philippines to the shrine of Our Lady of Piat, my special intention will be for the successful completion of the peace process that will lead to a final peace agreement and cessation of hostilities. I also pray that the GRP and the MILF will likewise come up with a final peace agreement. I will pray for a widespread grassroots support for the peace process.
I will be following the foosteps of 4 ultra-runners of the Philippines: Cesar Guarin who ran from Pagadian to Baguio in 1980, Fr. Robert Reyes who ran in Mindanao (1996), Visayas (1997), and Luzon (1998), Joy Roxas & Mat Macabe who ran from Davao to Pagudpud in 2005.
This journey has some unique features. Unlike them, I will be doing this alone, without any companion, support vehicle or crew, carrying what in need in my backpack. I will also mix running and walking (Galloway method) which I believe will be more relaxing and sustainable for me. I will follow a different path, especially in the last leg when I will trek across the Cordillera mountain range. I will also be older at 56 years old (they were in their 30s and 40s when they did their epic run). This will be a pilgrim journey for peace to a Marian shrine.
I only have less than 2 months to go. I will continue my preparation and training. I'm just excited about it.