Bishop Jun Andaya and his 3 companions (including Fred Pangsiw of Radyo ng Bayan) accompanied me all the way from Lubuagan to Tabuk yesterday - a 42 km trek. We started at 6:30 am after breakfast and a short prayer in the parish church. Right at the start Bishop Jun experienced some knee pain due to arthritis and I gave him some flanax capsule. We walked slowly and talked about our common advocacy. He has been promoting the culture of peace in his diocese amidst tribal violence. He started the Peacemakers' Movement. He has also supported the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities.
As we reached Naneng, around noontime, we were warmly welcomed by some parishioners who prepared snacks. They walked with us a kilometer to the place where another were waiting for us and we had lunch together. We continued our trek after lunch, this time accompanied by Fr. Bong, the parish priest of Naneng, and 2 Kalinga elders (Manuel, 78 yrs old, & Juanito 63). 8km before Tabuk, we were met by Twinkle & Liza (staff of Cultural Heritage Research Center) who brought a welcome streamer and walked with us the rest of the way. We continued walking in the rain amidst darkness until we finally reached the Tabuk Pastoral Center. We celebrated the Eucharist with some leaders and members of the Peacemakers' Movement - presided by Bishop Jun and I gave the homily. At the beginning of the mass the leaders performed the traditional ritual of welcome for me. After the mass we brought the lighted candles to the peace shrine which commemorate the victims of violence - including four priests. Then we gathered for a fellowhip meal.
Yesterday has been the best day of my journey on foot across the Philippines. I was not walking alone. I experienced community and the solidarity of a local church and its shepherd who has been on a journey for peace. There was no need for me to proclaim the Gospel of Life and Peace here since they are living it and witnessing to it. The Shrine of Peace in Tabuk is a fitting pilgrimage site for a pilgrim of peace.
Today is rest day for me at the bishop's residence. Tomorrow I make my final push to Aparri which is just four days away.
Total distance from Davao so far: 1932 km.