Yesterday, after saying mass and preaching in the parish church of Aparri, I left for Tuguegarao where I took the 2 pm flight to Manila. I arrived here in Baclaran before 4 pm. This will be my home for the next four years.
Since Saturday, I have been reflecting on my experience. The questions that I have asked myself is: what was it all about? what have I really accomplished? what effect has this on me? what are the lessons that can be useful as I continue my journey through life.
What have I really achieved?
I have successfully completed the 2,060 km journey on foot (running/walking) across the Philippines in 57 days - from Davao to Aparri via the Cordilleras. I did it alone (although there were some who accompanied me for a few hours or a day) and unsupported (without any support vehicle or crew), at the age of 56, in spite of the blisters, diarrhea, fevel, heat, cold, rain and typhoon signal no. 1. This should be in the record book. Some have ran/walked across the Philippines - but they had companions and support vehicle and they did not go through the Cordilleras - the most difficult and challenging route.
I was able to proclaim the Gospel of Life and Peace and drew attention to the various issues and concerns (armed conflict, environmental destruction, extra-judicial killings, and RH bill) through various means: preaching in churches, mass media interview and coverage (TV, radio, newspapers), through conversations with ordinary folks in sari-sari stores and waiting shed, through blogging. I was able to deliver the letter to the President in Malacanang.
What effect did this journey has on me?
This was not just an external journey or adventure, but also an inner, spiritual journey. This deepened my faith in God - making me more aware of God's presence and providence, developing trust in God, experiencing closeness and intimacy with the Lord who is the source of strength and energy. This made me more fearless.
This has also developed a deeper faith in myself - believing in myself, my capacity to turn my dreams into reality, to accomplish what I set out to do, to fulfill my promises and commitments, to overcome my weaknesses.
I became more aware of my dark side (the pride, anger, compulsions, dangerous desires and tendencies) and not to allow these to dominate my life. I experienced inner peace and healing. I reaffirmed and value more my commitment to celibacy and chastity. I treasure more a simple lifestyle.
I have been able to integrate contemplation/prayer with action/praxis.
This journey gave me a clearer sense of direction and mission and the accompanying values that are needed.
Throughout this journey I have been following some guiding principles which made it possible for me to successfully reach my destination and which I believe is applicable to my continuing journey through life:
1. Take it easy, don't be in a hurry. Run slowly and gently, take frequent walking breaks, and do a lot of walking later in the day. Listen to your body and do not ignore pain. Never go all out. Remember, there is still tomorrow, and tomorrrow and tomorrow.
2. Take as much rest as you need. 8-12 hours a day of run/walking is enough. Give yourself time to rest and recover so that you can become stronger. Otherwise, you will break down or injure yourself and fail to finish the journey. Take a day off every seven days.
3. Travel light. You don't have a support vehicle or crew. You carry every thing in your back-pack. Take only the most essential things you need. Don't accumulate things, share with others.
4. You really don't need to eat much. Fast, take some fruits and hydration. Eat only at night - that will be enough enough fuel for the following day.
5. Rely on the kindness, generosity and hospitality of others. Don't feel bad or discouraged when you meet people who are not kind. A pilgrim cannot be demanding. Count your blessings, always be thankful. Most people you meet will be good to you.
6. Don't rely on your own power. Trust in God - the source of power, strength and courage. Your run/walk is an act of prayer and meditation.
7. You are not doing this for yourself - but for others, for a cause greater than yourself- for life and peace.
8. Be flexible. Your itinerary is not written in stone. Learn to adjust - be prepared for surprises.
9. Enjoy the whole experience, appreciate the beauty around you, savor the bliss & ecstasy of the journey.
10. When you reach your destination always remember that it is not really the end of the journey - for you continue as a pilgrim towards the final destiny - the heavenly home when we will see God face to face.