Friday, April 29, 2011

Day 29: (April 29) Run/Walk Philippines

The myriad of stars were visible amidst the total darkness as I walked along Quirino highway early this morning. When the sun came out, I started to run gently. After 29,days on the road I felt fresh and strong that I did more intermittent running. The long downhill stretches along tree-lined highway made running easy and fun. Even as it got hot and there were few trees, I continued running taking short walking breaks. I only did more walking starting at 2 pm. This is the first time in many weeks when I did more running.

I was pleasantly surprised that the warm welcome and support of many people and motorists along the way continued. Like the last three days many greeted me, gave me cold water and juice, fruits and biscuits. I doubt if tomorrow as I enter Quezon province this will continue.

I reached del Gallego at 5:15 pm after covering 47 km. The parish priest (Fr. Ian Trillanes) was not around but left instruction to staff to prepare my accomodation. I finally met him and had chat with him when he came back.

Today I am halfway through my journey and I have covered 1135 km.

Day 28: (April 28) Run/Walk Philippines

Fr. Jay & Franklin accompanied me as far as San Fernando, Albay very early this morning. We spent most of the time talking as we walked briskly. By 5:30 they ran back to Naga City and I was alone again . I appreciate their company but I still prefer the early morning solitude & silence.

Like yesterday I experienced an outpouring of welcome and support along the 51 km stretch Naga and Lupi. A fruit vendor greeted me and gave me sliced pineapple. I received a lot obread and biscuits that I gave these to poor kids along the way. Many asked for my blessing - old, young, children, policemen, truck drivers. Many also gave me cold bottled water. Everyone greeted me as Father. The two roadside interviews were valuable in helping me carry out my mission of proclaiming the Gospel of life & peace.
Tommorow as I leave the Bicol region and cross to Quezon province, I will once again become an unknown stranger on a long journey.

I reached Lupi at 5:45 pm and immediately procceded to parish church accompanied by a policeman. I realized I was on the wrong parish. The other parish in Lupi was still 5 km away. Nevertheless, Fr. Mark welcomed me.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Day 27: Run/Walk Philippines

Last night after dinner, the fever and chill came back. I desperately prayed for healing.
When I woke up this morning I felt fine again. As I was about to leave at 3 am, I was surprised to see Fr. Eduardo already up inviting me to breakfast which was prepared already for me. Although I don't usually take breakfast I had to eat two pieces of bread and a slice of luncheon ham before taking off as appreciation of his hospitality.
Throughout the whole day I experienced an outpouring of welcome and support from the people I met or passed on the way. Many waved their hands and addressed me as Father. Others made "mano po" asking for my blessing. I received a lot of bottles of cold mineral water and biscuits. Some even gave me money. I received two invitations for lunch which I politely declined (I told them I only eat at night). Even the police approached me and had picture taking with me. I think this must be the effect of the TV coverage.
An ABS-CBN news crew from Naga met me at Baao. I was interviewed by Mylce who walked with me for a while.
When I entered Naga, a guy on a bicycle by the name of Franklin led me to the cathedral. Fr. Jay welcomed me. He happens to be a triathlete and an ultramarathoner. I met the other priests assigned to the cathedral at supper.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Day 26: (April 26) Run/Walk Philippines

Before going to sleep last night, I prayed that the Lord will take away my fever.
Upon waking very early this morning, the fever was gone and I felt all fresh and ready to go.
As I was walking along the dark road, an ABS-CBN TV news vehicle pulled up and the reporter (Thea) and her cameraman came out to interview me. She then walked with for a while before going back to the car.
It drizzled up to 6:00. As the sun appeared in the horizon, Mt. Mayon in all her beauty & splendor appeared without the clouds hiding her.
The new FILA shoes felt very comfortable. Even without being broken in, it performed very well. I even did some intermittent running, especially in the early part of the morning.
Throughout the day there were more people who were friendly and who waved at me or signalling thumbs up. A few wanted to have their picture taken with me including a policeman. Later in the afternoon, a guy addressed me as father, offered me water. He told me that he saw me on TV this morning. Although, I don't like to in the spotlight, I have to admit that the mass media can draw attention to my pro-life, environmental & peace advocacy and significantly magnify my small voice.
I am aware that Bicol has been afflicted by the armed conflict and environmental destruction. Almost everyday I see a lot of army trucks full of soldiers in battle gear. I also see signs in red letters extolling the NPA/CPP/NDF and proclaiming armed revolution as the solution to poverty. Some of the parish priests I met complain of the mining operation. My message of peace, the sanctity of life and protecting the environment is very relevant to Bicolano.

I arrived in Libon at 5 pm. Frs. Eduardo and Alray welcomed me.

Distance covered today: 43 km
Total distance so far: 983 km

Monday, April 25, 2011

Day 25: Run/Walk Philippines

Today is rest day, so I slept in until 6 am. My foot was still swollen so it was difficult even to walk.
After a breakfast of coffee and scrambled egg, I washed my clothes. Then I surfed the internet. Feeling sleepy and washed out at 10 am, I went to bed. I woke up at 12:30 and went down to lunch. I felt drowsy immediately after. I don't normally have breakfast or lunch because I feel sluggish and drowsy after a daytime meal Today I made exception so that I can load for tomorrow. After waking up from my afternoon nap I felt the chill - and a slight fever. I took some Vitamin C and mefhenamic acid, praying for a miraculous recovery.
I then went downtown to look for more comfortable pair of shoes. The size 9 1/2 adizero mana has become very tight and painful. I found a very comfortabe Fila running shoes size 12! With 50 % discount it cost only PHP1999 ($ ). I was just surprised that after 25 days my feet have grown big or swollen. My worry is that will be running/ walking on shoes that not been broken in.

I came from downtowm Legazpi in time for dinner with the Redemptoristine contemplative nuns. They were very curious about my experiences on the road and about my advocacy. So I gladly obliged.

Tommorow, continue my journey. I pray that I will syfficiently recover.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Day 23 & 24: Run-Walk Philippines

Yesterday was another long day - 50 km from Juban to Cumadcad. I had to start at 3:30 to make sure I get there before dark. I tried some running in the downhill portions but gave it up as soon as I felt some pain in my knee and feet. My main concern is to avoid injury. The only way for me to continue my long journey is to walk in a relax manner. Walking has become a means for survival, running is something optional - a source of exhilaration and fun but very risky when done continously and at a faster pace and with a heavy pack which increases the impact on the knees and tendons. I long for the day when I can fully recover and do intermittent runs.
I reached Cumadcad at 5 pm but the parish priest was not around. Nevertheless, the convent boys brought me to the simple cottage. Fr. Joel Teruel arrived after supper and welcomed me. I concelebrated with him at the 10 pm Easter vigil which ended at one in the morning. In his long homily he explained in my advocacy in Bikol language.

At 5 am this morning I was on the road again even if I only had less that four hours of sleep. By seven I felt so sleepy and weak that I had to take a nap in the waiting shed on the side of the road. After 20 minutes I was back on the road feeling refreshed.

Today is the 30th anniversary of my ordination. So I went over and reflected on my life as a priest over the last 30 years.

As I was nearing Daraga, I saw six motorcycle riders on the side of the road eating halo-halo. They wanted to have their picture taken with me and bought halo-halo for me.

I reached Legazpi City at 2 pm after covering 34 km. I stopped by a coffee coffee shop and ordered cappuccino and cake before going to the Redemptorist monastery.

Fr. Ron Murray, an Australian Redemptorist, welcomed me. Later, I concelebrated the 6 pm mass with Fr. Sylvester - an Indonesian Redemptorist. I had the opportunity to talk about my pro-life & peace advocacy during the mass. After the mass I had dinner with my Redemptorist confreres. I drank a generous amount of wine to celebrate Easter and my priestly ordination.

So after 24 days, I am now in Legazpi, covering a total of 940 km.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 22: (April 22) Run-Walk Philippines

After trekking through Mindanao and Eastern Visayas for three weeks, today I began my trek across Luzon. It also happens to be Good Friday. Most of the people who saw me along the way probably presumed that I was a "penitente"doing penance for my sins. But seeing the sign in front and at the back of my pack made them aware that I am on a long journey for life & peace. I could hear many exclaim loudly to each other: Davao to Aparri!

The stops I made in the sari-sari stores (the small stores in the barrio) provided opportunity to converse with some local residents and to explain to them about my peace & pro-life advocacy. Unlike the Davao region where the coverage of the GMA-TV news and ABS-CBN magnify my advocacy, in Visayas and Luzon I am just a small insignificant voice, preaching my message in some churches, sari-sari stores and waiting shed. Pehaps, to many I am just a stranger journeying on foot from Davao to Aparri - on an adventure, or trying to set a record for the Guinness Book of Records , or on a religious mission. But that does not bother me. What matters most to me is I am doing something I believe in without being attached to the fruits or effect of this . Even in my voice is ignored or I am dismissed as a crackpot or weird, I will continue doing this.

Me feet continue to hurt. The pain persists but I slowly go on. Running has become difficult, even walking is agonizing. It reminds me of the message of Good Friday - that like Jesus we must be ready to embrace pain, suffering and even death to fulfill our mission. This is the way of the cross - the way of suffering and peace that leads to victory of life over the culture of death, sin and evil.

I reached Juban at 4:30 pm after covering 44 km. The Good Friday services have just finished. Fr. Alberto (Treb) and Nap welcomed me and provided me with comfortable accommodation and good meal.

(sorry couldn't upload my pictures)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 21: (April 21 Holy Thursday) Run/Walk Philippines

I was expecting the moon to shine on the road at 3 am. Instead it was dark, rainy and windy. I had to use my headlamp, jacket and umbrella. The dogs were barking furiously at me as I held my aluminum water-bottle, my secret weapon. The rain didn't last that long.
When I started out I wasn't sure whether this was going to be another long day or a short one. The Ferry Terminal in San Isidro was only 30 km away from San Joaquin. But the parish priests in Gandara and Catbalogan told me that this is no longer operational. The other option was Allen which is 48 km away. I groaned at the thought of Allen - my feet still hurt. Fortunately, a driver who was fixing his truck told me that there is Ferry boat in San Isidro that crosses to Matnog at noon. When I arrived in the ferry terminal in San Isidro at 10:30 I found out that the ferry boat will cross at 4 pm. I was glad to have a short day and a longer period of relaxation.
So after covering 812 km from Davao to the northern point of Samar I finally took the ferry boat to southernmost point of Luzon.

What a scary ride! The ferry boat was tossed side to side by the turbulent waves. I was worried that the boat would capsize and I would not be able to complete my journey. I prayed so hard that God will save us. After one hour & a half on rough sea we finally reached Matnog. It was already too late for me to concelebrate. I just lined up to receive holy communion. After the mass, Frs. Alex & Joel welcomed me. We had a sumptuous dinner with the "Apostles."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 20: (April 20) Run/walk Philippines

The moon lit up the road at 3:15 this morning as I prayerfully plod along. It was very quiet except for occasional barking from dogs and the trucks speeding in the highway.
I felt fresh and strong that I increased my pace reaching Calbayog 2 hrs ahead of schedule. I passed by the monastery of St. Clare which I visited in 1996 when my dear friend, Sr. Angeline, was still assigned here. She's now in a monastery in Belgium so I just continued on. I dropped by the bishop's house to greet him but he was away. So I just went to a drug store to buy some vitamin c & e and then proceeded northward. By then it got so hot that I used my umbrella. I slowed down and took frequent breaks as I felt hotspots & possible blisters.

I took a break in a shed in front of an army detachment and conversed with some young soldiers who addressed me as Tatay (Tagalog term for father). Well, I'll have accept that I am of the same age as their fathers. This was an opportunity for me to explain my pro-life & peace advocacy.

Trekking along the sea coast was very exhilirating in spite of the increasing pain in my feet. I had to change into my sandals. The Adidas Adizero Mana running shoes was good only for 35 km, beyond that it became uncomfortable. New blisters were forming near my heels.

I reached the mission station in San Joaquin at 4:30 pm after covering 55 km. Fr. Tony Mahinay welcomed me and I concelebrated with him at the 6 pm mass. After mass we went to a birthday party where I had a very sumptuous meal - my only meal of the day. I met the lady barangay captain who later gave me some pabaon (P500).

This has been a very tough week with several long days - 60 km on Sunday, 47 km on Monday and 55 km today. I can only blame the inaccurate distance calculator which I consulted in the Internet. At least by this time my body is able to cope with the longer distances. But I have to be careful lest I breakdown. I am taking mega-dosage of vitamin C & E. Above all I have to make sure to take it easy and slowly. Yet I know that pain will be a constant companion. So far it is only the blisters that are bothering me.

So far I have covered the total distance of 782 km in 20 days (with 2 rest days). It's almost the same distance as the Camino de Santiago from France across Spain, which I did in 27 days (mostly barefoot, and without any blisters). But the Camino was a different experience. There was something miraculous about it and there were other pilgrims that I met and befriended along the way. The solitude of this present journey is similar to my trek from Rome to Assisi in 1994. I also had problem with blisters.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 19: Run/Walk Across the Philippines

Before sleeping last night, I pierced the blisters on my feet with needle & thread to allow the fluid to leak out. I then prayed over the blisters and asked God for rapid healing.This morning when I woke up at 3:30 I felt no more pain and the blisters were dry.

I was already on the road an hour later and watched the moon lighting up the sea coast along the highway. The meditative religious music which I could hear from my cellphone (even without earphones) helped provide a prayerful atmosphere. My favorite background music: You are my hiding place, eagle's wings, morning has broken, etc. I always play these at dawn as I resume my journey.

There were lots of ascents and descents during the morning. I usually walked uphill and ran downhill. In the level portions I did more walking.

Along the way two Redemptorist confreres (Frs. Tito & Nico) who were on their way to Calbayog stopped their vehicle and came out to greet me. They had picture taking with me and then sped away. They were my students in Davao and they have recently been assigned in our college seminary in Cebu.

Since today was a short & easy day (only 38 km), I took a lot of long breaks. I reached San Jorge at 1 pm and stopped for an hour in a sari -sari store owned by Mana Aurora. I ordered a soft drink and biscuits. She also served me a pancake. I talked to her about my peace advocacy and she told me that's what we need. She and her family used to live in a farm but they had to evacuate to the town center due to the frequent clashes between the NPA guerillas and the government troops. She wished a day will come when peace will finally reign. When it was time to go and I asked how much I owed her she told me that it was free. When I finally introduced myself as a priest, she was pleasantly surprised.

I arrived in Gandara at around four and procceded to the parish rectory. The parish priest - Fr. Bloy - welcomed me warmly. After a heavy dinner time for a much needed rest. Tomorrow will be a long day.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 18: Run/Walk across the Philippines

My feet were painful and I felt washed out as I continued my journey early this morning. Knowing that I had not fully recovered. I decided to just walk leisurely most of time, aware of the pain which was bearable and the feeling of tiredness.

I took a nap at around one in the afternoon and after 30 minutes I was back on the road feeling refreshed. Feeling energized, I ran slowly and continously the last 10 km which was mostly downhill. I reached Calbayog at 5:30 pm and was welcomed by Msgr. Leonardo and his fellow priests.

Distance covered today: 47 km
Total distance so far: 690 km

Day 17: (April 17) Run/Walk Across the Philippines

My longest day so far - 60 km from Tacloban to Calbiga. I started very early - 3:30 am. Along the way I met some people bringing palms and coconut leaves on their way to church- this reminded me that today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Holy Week.

The sun was already out when I ran across the San Juanico bridge that connects Leyte and Samar. I was thrilled as I slowly ran the 2 km winding bridge. At the middle of the bridge was a sign: Welcome to Samar.

As I traversed along the highway I noticed the poverty of the people. Obviously, the mining and logging in Samar has not benefited the people of Samar. Samar, like many provinces in Mindanao amd Palawan, is very rich in natural resources but it is one of the poorest provinces.

Samar has also been the scene of armed clashes between the government and the NPA. The poor have been caught in the crossfire. The NDF/NPA armed struggle & the AFP counter-insurgency campaign have not improved the lot of the people.

20 km before Calbiga I met 6 bikers from Sorsogon on their way to Davao. I knew two of the (Ed & Brian) since the accompanied me part of the way when I biked around the country in 2008. We chat for while and they asked for my blessing we parted.

The last 16 km to Calbiga was mostly downhill which I ran continously. It was already dark and I continued running with my headlamp showing me the way. I arrived in the Calbiga parish rectory and was welcomed Fr. Joaquin the parish priest.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 16: Run-Walk Across the Philippines

My right foot was still sore when I woke up this morning. I'm glad that this is my rest day, so I could give my body and feet enough time to recover. I washed my clothes in the morning and worked on a paper that I will deliver during the Spirituality Forum. At ten I went to Robinson's to buy some pair of socks. I celebrated and preached at the 5:30 pm anticipated mass. Besides preaching about Palm/Passion Sunday, I also talked about my running/walking pilgrimage for life and peace. ... I had a conversation after mass with a young woman by the name of Elsie May. She got an email from a common friend - Fr. Claro - who told her that I will be passing by Tacloban during my run/walk pilgrimage. She asked me why I was doing this. This is the same question that many people ask me whenever I stop in sari-sari stores and waiting shed. The usual answer is that I am doing this to preach the Gospel of Life & Peace, to generate support for the peace process, to oppose the mining and logging in the country that is destroying the environment, to denounce the continuing extra-judicial killings and to oppose the Reproductive Hill bill. . . I often tell people that this is my mission. I am an itinerant preacher - who walks all over the land preaching the message of life and peace. This is also part of my penitential practice especially during lent and holy week. . But besides all these, I am also doing this because it is fun - it is an adventure. This is also a continuation of my pilgrimage, my sacred journey. This is how I see my life. It is fitting that I do this as a period of my life has ended - 16 years as full-time theology professor. Another period is about to begin (by June) as full-time executive secretary of the Committe on Basic Ecclesial Communites of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines. When I begin my new assignment, I doubt if I have another opportunity for doing what I am doing. Tomorrow, I cross over to Samar. I am already excited to cross San Juanico bridge. I used to to run that from our monastery here in Tacloban when I was a newly-ordained priest, training for the marathon.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 15: Run-Walk Across the Philippines

No running today, just a slow gentle walk of 41 km from Mayorga to Tacloban City. The new blister on my right foot was still a bit painful when I woke up so I decided to just take it easy. I think the heat of the road and the faster pace must have been the culprit. When it was raining every day, I didn't have any problem with blisters.

Along the way, a guy in motorbike stopped and greeted me. He introduced himself as Lito and he walked with me for 2 km, pushing his motorbike. We chatted for a while and then he got on his motorbike and sped away.

Before reaching the town of Tolosa, the seacoast became visible. I had to stop and admire the view. Walking at a leisurely pace was very pleasant for many hours - the pain due to the blister was just slight and bearable. But the last 7 km, it became more painful that I was limping. As I entered the city proper at 4 pm, I stopped by a coffee-bar by the sea and ordered a cup of cappucino and pasta with spicy sausage - my first meal of the day. I savored the cappuccino - this was the first time I had one since leaving Davao 15 days ago.

I reached the Redemptorist monastery and was welcomed by my Redemptorist confreres - Frs. Phil, Carlo, Tito, Gerry and Martin.

So after 15 days, I'm finally in Tacloban. I have covered 583 km so far. Tomorrow is a rest and recovery day.

Day 14: Run-Walk Across the Philippines (April 14)

(this is late posting since my cellphone couldn't get a 3g signal and there was no internet shop in the town)

The road from Mahaplag to Abuyog was mostly downhill, so I did a lot of slow continuous running early this morning. Once I hit the flat and level road to Mayorga, I did a lot of fast-pace walking. I felt very fine and full of energy. My feet did not bother me. For the first time in many days there was no rain.

As usual, I made a lot of stops in stores and waiting shed to cool my feet, buy some ice water and bananas. Duringt these stops some people would come and ask me why I was walking/running across the country. This would become an opportunity for me to talk about my pro-life and peace advocacy. So it is not only in the pulpit of the parish churches that I preach about the culture of death and the Gospel of Life & Peace, I also do it in stores and waiting sheds.

One of the advantages of walking-running is that I get to meet a lot of people and see more of the places - which I can't do when I ride my bike or a car. Most of the people I meet are often supportive. The idea of someone running/walking from Davao to Aparri is indeed incredible to many people.

It became hot in the afternoon and in the last 6 km I could feel a blister forming in the soles of my right foot.

I reached Mayorga at 4 pm after covering 44 km. I went to the parish church and met Lyn-lyn, the parish secretary. She told me that the parish priest was attending a seminar in Tagaytay but after sending him a text message and got a positive reply she gave me a room. After a heavy dinner with the