When I came out from the Balagtas parish rectory early this morning, a young woman in running attire approached me and greeted me: good morning, father!
She introduced herself as Juvy Pagtalunan, a member of the runners' internet forum (takbo.ph) who had been following my blog & who wanted to run with me from Balagtas to Malolos - her hometown. So I spent the first hour & a half running intermittently and talking with Juvy. When we reached Malolos, Juvy said goodbye and went home, she had to report for work later.
So I was once again alone. When I passed by a small roadside eatery, the owner greeted me and asked me to stop by for coffee. He told me that he had just seen me in the TV 5 morning news and was surprised to see me outside his place. So after the free coffee, I was off again mixing running and walking.
There were several people who greeted me. I received a bottle of cold mineral water from a passing motorcycle rider. I received some crushed ice from a passing ice-truck. A peanut vendor named TJ asked for my autograph and walked with me for a while.
I arrived in San Fernando, Pampanga at 3:30 pm after covering 36 km. Unfortunately the parish priest was not around and the staff were not very helpful. I waited for two hours in the lobby and finally, the secretary told me that she contacted the parish priest who told her that I could not be accomodated. He instructed that I go to the home of the elderly priests. When I got there the security guard told me that the priest in charge went out and he didn't know when he will return, meanwhile I could wait in the guard house. Hungry and tired I decided to look for a cheap hotel and I finally found one. I went out for supper at Jollibees.
So today, for the first time, I didn't get any welcome and hospitality from the parish priest. I don't feel bad about it. A pilgrim does not demand hospitality, nor can he expect everyone to be welcoming and generous. Most of the parish priests, especially in poor parishes, are very hospitable - even if I am unexpected. That's life. Not everything will go smoothly, not everyone will be nice. So I will always be grateful for the blessings.
Next time I don't receive hospitality, I won't look for cheap hotel. I'll just sleep like the homeless - on the side of the church, under the stars, or a waiting shed. That's what I did when I walked from Rome to Assisi.
Total distance covered: 1490 km