Run/Walk Philippines

Run-Walk for Life and Peace
(Davao to Aparri, 2060 km in 56 days)

March 21, 2011
            My classes are over and I only have to give the final exams for my students this week and after that a period of my life as a professor which lasted for 16 years will be over. Time to move on to my new assignment in Manila as executive secretary of the Committee on BEC of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. How do I get to Manila from Davao? Instead of flying, I will just run/walk to Manila and even farther - up to Aparri, the northern tip of the Philippines, then take the bus back to Manila (it will take 58 days to cover over 2000 km). This will symbolize my life as a continuing journey and pilgrimage.
           I am making my final preparation for this journey of a lifetime. I have already finalized the itinerary. I have already sent the letters to the parish priests where I will stay overnight - requesting for hospitality and asking for a chance to preach about the Gospel of Life & Peace. I have all the necessary equipment that I will need - backpack, running shorts and quick-dry shirts, jacket, running shoes & sandals, headlight, hydration system, umbrella, etc.
                 My training continues. Yesterday, I went on a 50 km run/walk training along the Davao-Bukidnon highway which took 9 hours 17 minutes. I carried my back-pack and imagined that I was already on my pilgrimage. The night before, I had heavy dinner. Then before starting in the morning, I just took coffee and ate a banana. I didn't have any lunch. I just consumed 5 bananas and 2 pieces of cookies during the entire run. I drank water and energy drink (samurai, extra-joss) every hour. Part of the time I wore sandals, and part of the time I wore a pair of running shoes. I noticed that after 4 hours, I developed some hot spots on my feet while wearing sandals, so I decided to wear my running shoes up to the end of the run/walk. I think it is not a good idea to wear sandals on hot asphalt highway - it could cause blisters. I felt fine during the whole 9 hours - I didn't feel exhausted or hungry.
                This morning when I woke up, I felt fine. No muscular pain or strain. I could do another 40-50 km if I wanted but I decided to give myself a break. The remaining days up to the start of my run/walk pilgrimage, I will just do shorter training - 2-3 hours.

March 25, 2011
            I only have 5 days before I start my solo, unsupported Run/Walk Pilgrimage for Life and Peace across the Philippines. I will start immediately after the 6 am send-off Mass for Life and Peace this Friday, April 1, 2011. It will take 57 days to cover 2000+ km. I am posting the purpose of this activity and my itinerary.

This pilgrimage has the following purpose:

1. To express my support for the peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front, and between the Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. I pray that a peace agreement would finally be reached. I would also like to appeal for a ceasefire between the government armed forces and the New Peoples’ Army during the period of peace negotiations. I will also make an appeal to our people to support the peace process.

2. To express my opposition to the ongoing destruction of the environment caused by logging, mining and coal-fired power plants. I appeal for a total ban on mining and coal-fired power plants and the implementation of the total log ban.

3. To denounce the continuing extra-judicial killings perpetrated by death squads in Davao and other cities in the Philippines. I appeal to the Commission of Human Rights to continue the investigation and come up with a final report and hold accountable local government officials sponsoring these killings.

4. To express my opposition to the Reproductive Health Bill (HB 4244) which is based on a false assumption that there is a crisis of overpopulation in our country that is one of the causes of the continuing poverty of our people and a hindrance to sustainable development. To address this crisis it aggressively promotes population control - contraceptives (some of which may be abortifacient) and mandatory sex education - as the solution to poverty and underdevelopment.

           During this pilgrimage, I would like to preach about the Gospel of Life and Peace. To be pro-life means to oppose the above-mentioned manifestations of the culture of death.
           I will be delivering a letter to Malacanang for President Noynoy Aquino on May 10, 2011 as I continue my journey from Manila to Aparri. I don't expect to  meet him, I will just leave the letter at the guard house and go on my way.
            I will celebrate the Mass for Life and Peace in Aparri on May 29, 2011 Sunday and after that take the bus for Manila. I will be staying in Baclaran, my new home for the next four years and report for work to the CBCP-BEC office on June 1.

April 1, 2011
            I celebrated the Mass for Life & Peace at 6 am in our parish church. Immediately after the Mass, I changed into my running gear. With my backpack on I stood in front of the church door and Fr. Brendan  gave the pilgrims blessing.
          By 7:00 I started walking and running along the highway to Carmen followed by some seminarians, Jason and 6 other youthful runners in the parish. Dominic, a little boy also ran a few a meters and jumped back to his grandmother's vehicle. After 10 km I was finally alone. The other runners went home. A lot of people waved at me, some greeted me as Father, a guy on a motorbike came near and asked for my blessing. A chubby girl gave me some biscuits. Many motorists honked their horns and waved at me. Near Panabo a coconut milk vendor gave me free drinks. The afternoon was cooler and windy. I reached Carmen at 4 pm after covering 36 km and was welcomed by Fr. Roel - the assistant parish priest. I concelebrated in the 5 pm mass where I talked about my advocacies. Later after the  mass I gave a talk to parish youth leaders.

April 2, 2011
At six in the morning I was on the road. No breakfast as usual. I was thinking of buying a cup of coffee on the way. I was surprised that most of the people I passed on the road waved at me and greeted me: Good morning, Father! Some approached me and shook my hand. Others asked me to bless them. Many told me that they saw me on TV. But what surprised me more was the expression of hospitality and support. After an hour, a man called out from the veranda of his hut and offered a cup of hot coffee. I immediately stopped and accepted his invitation. I had a chat with Ramon and his wife Lina while drinking coffee. While continuing my journey several men on motorbikes approached me and gave me some cold bottled water. A motorist stopped his car and gave me orange juice. Another asked me to stopped by a her store and gave me soft drink and bread. I was just overwhelmed by all these.
         I reached Tagum at around ten am and rested at a sari-sari store and bought siopao and cobra energy drink. I spent time in an internet shop. I was back on the road at noon. My feet felt sore and I was worried I could get blisters. I stopped many times to give my feet a chance to cool down. By 2 pm, as I was ascending the hills of Mawab it was cooler. I was running down the hills on the last 7 km to Mawab. After running and walking 37 km, I reached the parish rectory in Mawab by 5 pm. Fr. Chris was out in the barrio and welcomed me later in the evening.
       So here I am in a place that has been considered a hot bed of insurgency. There has been frequent armed clashes between the NPA and government troops in the hinterlands and neighboring barrios in Compostela Valley.

April 3, 2011
            The parish church in Mawab was already full of people when I celebrated the Sunday mass at 5:30 am. I preached about the gospel of life and peace and also talked about the concerns and issues that are the focus of my running/walking pilgrimage. After the mass I had a cup of coffee & fruit juice and I was ready to go. After picture taking with Fr. Chris, Karla & other members of the parish staff I was on the road by 7:30. I was expecting to have another short & easy day since according to the internet distance calculator Monkayo was only 35 km from Mawab. But Fr. Cris told me it would be longer.
           I wore my sandals for the first 4 hours but changed to running shoes when I felt the hot spots in the soles of my feet. I stopped by in Nabunturan for hamburger and soft drinks. I was back on the road by 11:15. I was doing more walking than running. When I passed a barrio in Montevista a guy approached me and shook my hand. He told me that several years ago, he walked with some members of the SDA from Bukidnon to Manila in 48 days. I found out that he is Pastor Emata - one of the first Filipino to Climb Mt. Everest.
                  Late in the afternoon, I felt my feet becoming more painful I had to take frequent rest. As it became cooler later in the afternoon I did more running than walking which relieved the pain. I reached Monkayo at past seven after covering 49 km. I had miscalculated the distance. I also didn't know about roundabout detour to the Poblacion. I was welcomed by Fr. Cabrera, the parochial vicar and was immediately served dinner.

April 5, 2011
           Yesterday, before the sun was out I was already on the road with a headlamp making the road visible. I walked very slowly, aware of God's presence as the sun slowly appeared on the horizon. This is what is called praying and meditating on my feet and with my feet. This may sound unorthodox but I can feel God's presence while walking or running on the road than kneeling in a church or chapel. When it was already bright, I stopped for coffee on a roadside store. After 10 minutes I was back on the road. The road was mostly winding, with lots of ascents and descents. I walked the ascents and ran the descents. Going downhill I remember the prayer that Fr. Brendan used when he blessed me before I set out on my journey: "May the road rise us to meet you..."
          While walking briskly, two young girls walked beside me and we chatted for a while. They were on their way to school. They asked me where I was going and why I was walking. I had to explain to them in simple terms. At least they knew that Aparri was very, very far away.
         As the day wore on it became hotter and hotter. I applied sunblock lotion on my skin but it wasn't enough. So I took out my umbrella and had instant movable shade. I rested for 5-10 minutes every hour to give my aching feet some rest and to escape the heat of the sun. I took a longer break during noon-time and took a nap under a waiting shed.
After an hour, I was back on the road again, with my  umbrella protecting me from the unbearable heat. Late in the afternoon, as my feet ached from walking most of the time, I decided to shift to slow continuous running for the last 12 km which I found more comfortable than walking briskly. I reached Bunawan by 6 pm after covering 48 km and was welcomed by Fr. Pi - a guest priest. The parish priest was in Cebu for an operation. I had a heavy dinner and was in bed by 9 pm.
            I woke up at 3:30 in the morning and was on the road by 4:40 am. The first few hours was spent in a slow, meditative & prayerful walking. The day was pretty much like yesterday. Very hot and humid which again forced me to use my umbrella. I rested for an hour during noontime. I felt lazy to walk under the unbearable heat but I continued. Suddenly, it rained heavily - the umbrella came in handy. But it was brief and the torrid sun came back quickly. The umbrella stayed in my hand. It rained again when I reached San Francisco, Agusan at 3:34 pm after covering 43 km. I was met by Fr. Jonathan. He was surprised that I was alone, with no support crew or vehicle.
         After 5 days, I have covered 211 km. 53 more days to go.

April 6, 2011
            As usual I was up by 3:30 am feeling refreshed. I was on the road by 4:45 am. After an hour, I was overtaken by a chubby young man who was running fast. He turned to me and said: "Good luck, Lolo." I was taken aback to hear me being addressed as Lolo (grandpa). Either I look too old, or I run/walk like an old man. And to think that I am not yet a senior citizen. Anyway, I consoled myself by the awareness that although many can run faster than me, they cannot run/walk as far as I can (over 2000+), solo, unsupported, carrying an 8 kilo backpack. There was a time when my average training pace was 5 min/km which I can do for 30-40 km without taking a walking break. But that was 30 years ago. But I don't think that at that age, I can do what I am doing now. Because I am now slower, I take frequent breaks, I have a lot of patience and endurance, I can go on a long, long journey by foot across this country.
             At 8 am, while passing Prosperidad, I drop by a roadside restaurant for coffee. I had a chat with Rosalina, the owner. When it was time to pay for the coffee, she told me that it was free. A few hours later, a van stopped and the owner came out and shook my hand. He introduced himself (Mr. Pajelo) his wife, daughter and son and had picture taken. He then gave me a thousand pesos for my expenses and then drove away. At one in the afternoon, an SUV stopped and a couple came out and introduced themselves (Henry & Cora) and they gave me empanada, siopao and mineral water. I have once gain experienced the kindness and generosity of people I met on the way and this started since day one. Most of them told me that they saw me on TV. They  wanted to show their support.
         I feel ambivalent about the media coverage which started a week before I even began my journey and which is continuing. I wanted to make this low-key and very private and yet because this is a run/walk for a cause, I have to accept it since this is the only way my message can reach a wide audience. I am just a small voice which the media can multiply a thousand times.
          I've been having problem with the soles of my feet which become sore and painful after six hours on the road. I have made it a point to rest every hour - for 5-10 minutes to give my aching foot a break and to cool off. But this afternoon, it has becomes more agonizing. The continuous slow running provides relief, but I am also careful that I don't get a repititive stress injury that can result in shin splint or stress fracture.
        I finally reached Bayugan City at 4 pm after covering 40 km. I was welcomed by Fr. Guy - the parish priest, and Fr. Danny - his assistant. I concelebrated at the 5:30 pm mass and talked for 12 minutes about my advocacy and the message of life and peace. As usual, I ate over-ate during dinner. This is my only meal of the day which should be enough to sustain my fast while I run/walk during the day.
        So after six days, I have covered 252 km. That's an average of 42 km per day (a marathon for six successive days).

April 7, 2011
            I was awake at 3:00 am before my alarm sounded which I set at 3:30 am. By 4:15 am, I was on the road with my headlamp showing me the way. I walked very slowly listening to soft religious music as I prayed & meditated on my feet and witnessed the sun gradually rise on the horizon. This is a rhythm I am following most morning during this journey.
       I had decided that today I would do less running and more easy & slow walking. I disabled the GPS function of my Timex watch so that I don't have to monitor my pace and distance.
       I strictly followed a 5 minutes break every hour to give my feet a rest & to cool off. But in spite of this my feet became more painful due to the blisters in both feet. Walking and running became very agonizing. I focused my mind in praying the rosary and meditating on the joyful, light, sorrowful & glorious mysteries.
      The pain would dissapear and I would run the downhill portions but it would later come back forcing me to walk very slowly again.
      Once again I experienced the kindness of a stranger when a car suddenly stopped beside me and the owner came out and gave me a bottle of cold water and some money. Twice I was invited by some group of friends who were having a drinking spree to have 'one for the road' but I just smiled & continued walking. Another car stopped and I thought the occupants would give me something but they just wanted to have their picture taken with me!
     As I reached the PNP checkpoint near Butuan, the policemen asked me what I was doing and after explaining my advocacy, we had picture taking.
      I reached Butuan at 4:15 pm after covering 43 km. I proceeded to the cathedral rectory and was given a room. During dinner I was welcomed by the rector - Msgr. Rowell.
So after 7 days I have covered 295 km. Tomorrow is rest day. I hope I can recover quickly so that I can continue my journey towards Surigao this Saturday.

April 8, 2011
            At 3:00 in the morning I woke up and remembered that today is a day of rest and went back to sleep. My alarm woke me up at 6:30.
          It is such a relief to just relax the whole and allow my body to recover. I have blisters in the soles of my feet and a black (dead) toenail. Without rest I won't be able to recover and I could easily breakdown, and I won't be able to continue and finish my journey. This is the law of the Sabbath and it applies also to everyone's life journey.
          I also incorporate rests on those days that I am on the road. That is  why I take frequent breaks every hour and get a good night's sleep. 10-12 hours on the road is enough.
          I  spent part of the morning washing my clothes.
At 5:15 pm, I concelebrated with Fr. Joesil and I preached about the Gospel of Life and peace and my specific pro-life advocacies: support the peace process, defend the environment, reject the RH bill.

April 9, 2011
            The rest day yesterday really did wonders on my body. I woke up at 3 am feeling refreshed and  ready to go. The blisters had healed quickly and I couldn't feel any pain as I set out at 4:15 towards Santiago, Agusan which is 47 km from Butuan.
         As I walked in the dark towards Santiago I remembered fondly the last day of my pilgrim journey to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. What was missing were the stars along the milky way in the Camino de Santiago. I only saw one star early this morning.
       When I stopped in Ampayon for a cup of coffee, I saw a group of army soldiers in battle gear. I had a chat with them about my run/walk advocacy for peace and life. I then asked them to pose for a souvenir photo with me. Maybe next time I can also pose for a souvenir photo with some NPA units.
I am doing this run/walk for soldiers like them and also for the NPA & MILF guerrillas, and for the civilians caught in the cross-fire, for all of us who are fed up with the war & violence which been going on for too long. I long for the day when a peace agreement will finally be signed - and a just & lasting peace will reign in our land. Then armed men in full battle gear won't be a common sight and young people don't have to waste their time & life fighting it out in the countryside.
           The first 30 km up to Cabadbaran seemed to be easy. I did more walking than running. But it got very hot and I had to use my umbrella again. I could feel new sets of blisters forming. I did more running the last 7 km. I reached Santiago by 5 pm and was welcomed by the parish priest - Fr. Dario Tudlasan.

April 10, 2011
    I celebrated Mass in the parish church at 6 am. Being Sunday, the church was full. Once again I preached about my Pro-Life & Peace advocacy. At 8 am I was finally on my way to Tubod (Surigao) 38 km from Santiago. I wore my sandals since it felt more comfortable with my blistered feet still recovering.
The sun was already very hot by 9 am. Two hours later as I was ascending the mountain overlooking Lake Mainit it started to rain. Of course I was so glad. I used my umbrella while walking gently and praying the rosary. During the descent several hours later I ran downhill while holding the umbrella. It continued to rain as it got dark. I arrived in the Tubod parish rectory. I was welcomed by Fr. Kenneth, MSC.

April 11, 2011
            At 3:15 am, as the rain continued to pour in the dark highway, I was on my way towards Lipata, Surigao. I wanted to make sure to catch the 4 pm ferry to Liloan, Leyte. The blister on my left foot continued to bother me but it was bearable.
           I wore my sandals so that my running shoes and socks won't get wet. The gentle rain which I prefer to a hot & humid weather was most welcome. When the sun came out at 11 am, I wore my running shoes and some downhill running. Along the way I saw some signs which express the desire for peace and to support the peace process.
I reached Lipata at 3 pm, just enough time to get on the Ferry.

April 12, 2011
            I started the Eastern Visayas leg in Liloan, Southern Leyte at 7:30 this morning after a cup of coffee in the Liloan parish rectory.. I wore the pair of sandals. My feet felt fine and the blisters fully healed. It was a very pleasant trek along the sea. By 10 am it was raining hard and I used my Northface jacket and my umbrella to keep myself dry.
          I reached the parish in Consolacion, Sogod at 4:30 pm after covering 32 km. The parish priest wasn't around and only the secretary was left. There was a problem in accommodating me since there were 50 parish catechists who were having a seminar and they were sleeping in the rectory. I wasn't expected since I didn't write a letter to the parish priest beforehand. Providentially, the parish priest of a neighboring parish (Fr. Litoy) sent a message asking me to have dinner with him and stay in his rectory. We used to be in the seminary together and we haven't seen each other for over 27 years. So I was delivered to his parish rectory. This where I am now. Tomorrow I will be delivered back to the Consolacion and resume my journey on foot up to Mahaplag.

April 13, 2011
            Amidst the darkness and rain I resumed my trek in Consolacion at 5 am. An hour later as the sun was up, I made my ascent towards Mahaplag. It was a long uphill trek followed by downhill runs with the rain continuing to pour. The pair of Merrel Vibram sandals was just comfortable in the rain - no need for my running shoes and socks to get wet.
         I remember that over ten years ago I was also ascending this same road on a mountain bike on my way to Pagudpud, Northern Luzon. But doing this on foot today seems easier and more pleasant.
        As I ran and walked alone in the rain, I didn't really feel alone. I was aware of the presence of Someone who I cannot see but who accompanies me and takes care of me on my journey. I am aware of the support and concern of others who constantly call me or send text messages. GMA Morning News Una ka bay, Superbalita and ABS-CBN regularly monitor me and ask for updates and live report.
       After almost two weeks on the road I can feel my body adapting to the demands of 8-12 hours of daily run/walk equivalent to the marathon distance and beyond. The foot aches and blisters no longer bother me. No muscle soreness. I don't feel tired. I wake up at three every morning feeling refreshed. The whole journey is becoming a more pleasant experience rather that an ardous effort.
        I reached Mahaplag before 2 pm after covering 33 km. I was originally planning to stay overnight in Abuyog - another 25 km away. But I decided to take it easy and spend the night in the Mahaplag parish rectory. The parish priest was in Ormoc for the presbyterium meeting so I just texted him and ask for hospitality. No problem. Most of the priest in the Archdiocese of Palo know me since I have given them a seminar on Basic Ecclesial Communities.
       Thus far, I have covered 498 km. Another 1000 km before I reach Manila and add another 500 km and I will be in Aparri. But I take this a kilometer at a time.

April 14, 2011
            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. During 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. 

April 15, 2011
            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 on 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 cappuccino 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.

April 16, 2011

            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 Health 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 Committee on Basic Ecclesial Communities 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.

April 17, 2011
            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 them (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 continually. 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.

April 18, 2011
            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

April 19, 2011
       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, it was time for a much needed rest. Tomorrow will be a long day.

April 20, 2011
            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 hours 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.

April 21, 2011
            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."

April 22, 2011
            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 and 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. Perhaps, 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 if my voice is ignored or I am dismissed as a crackpot or weird, I will continue doing this.
       My 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.

April 24, 2011

            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 have covered a total of 940 km.

April 25, 2011
    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 downtown Legazpi in time for dinner with the Redemptoristine contemplative nuns. They were very curious about my experiences on the road and about my advocacy.

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

April 26, 2011

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 signaling 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 be 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

April 27, 2011

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 ultra-marathoner. I met the other priests assigned to the cathedral at supper.

April 28, 2011

Fr. Jay and 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 and 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.

Tomorrow 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 proceeded 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.

April 29, 2011

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 his staff to prepare my accommodation. 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.

April 30, 2011

Once again I was the unknown, mysterious stranger running and walking intermittently along the Quirino highway from del Gallego up to Tabugon today. No more expression of support and welcome, except when I arrived in Tabugon late in the afternnon when a fruit vendor gave me mango and the owner of a restaurant did not allow me to pay for the snacks I ordered.

My main worry was where to sleep for the night. I thought the nearest parish was Calauag which was still 22 km away. But I had already done 40 km. I had 2 options: plan A - look for the house of the barangay captain and ask for accomodation, and plan B - sleep rough in a waiting shed.

But as I walked by a large a chapel I saw a sign "Visitation of Mary Parish." I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was a parish. I went up the simple little rectory and asked the parish priest (Fr. Bong Rodales) for accommodation. He immediately granted me hospitality.

Total distance so far: 1175 km

May 1, 2011

I am now in Lopez, Quezon province after an easy 32 km leisurely walk mixed with some downhill running. I left Tabugon at 5 am and arrived here shortly before 2 pm. No fasting today, since it is Sunday, so I stopped for breakfast at a place before Calauag and for lunch near Lopez. No problem with my feet, I hope it stays that way the following days. Anyway, this will be an easy week - only 20 km tomorrow, 28 km after that and then back to the mid40-50km. I didn,t plan any off day this week, only a series of easy days. The next off day will be when I arrive in Manila next week.

I was not really a total stranger on the road today. After leaving Tabugon, a man in his 30s suddenly approached me, took my hand and asked for my blessing while addressing me Father. Much later, a vehicle passed by and the inhabitants waved at me and addressed me as Father. When I entered a store and ordered an energy drink, the owner told me it was free. When I arrived in Lopez, a girl approached me took my hand and asked for my blessing and gave me a bottle of cold green tea. She told me that she saw me on TV while she was in Manila and was in Lopez for vacation.

As I walked and ran, my thoughts turned to the late Pope John Paul II who is being beatified in Rome today. I only met him once when I attended his early morning mass in Vatican and had a private audience with him. But his teaching and example has been a source of inspiration for me. In fact, the message of life and peace that I proclaim during this pilgrimage is based on his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (the Gospel of Life). According to John Paul II, there is a culture of death that reigns in the world. There are many manifestations of this culture of death - abortion, contraception, war, environmental destruction, poverty, capital punishment, etc. We therefore need to proclaim and promote the value and sanctity of life as we struggle against the culture of death. My stand in support of the peace process and against mining, extrajudicial killings and the RH bill is part of this broad pro-life agenda. To be pro-life it is not enough to be against the RH bill, we have to be against war and the destruction of the environment and to work for peace, justice and the integrity of creation. I hope that pro-life advocates should not only narrowly focus on the RH bill but should broadened their pro-life agenda. The late Cardinal Bernardin often talked about the consistent ethic of life which is similar to the position of John Paul II.

As I continue my journey for life and peace, I pray for the intercession of Blessed John Paul II.

Got to go now, I will be concelebrating at the 6 pm mass. Thanks to the hospitality of Fr. Felix Zoleta - the parish priest.

Distance covered so far: 1207 km.

May 2, 2011

Fr. Felix was waiting in front of the church at 5:15 am to see me off. He gave me an envelop with money and told me: we are right behind you.

No running today, just a 20 km leisurely walk from Lopez to Gumaca. Instead of scheduling an off-day I decided to just have 2 successive short & easy days.

Midway to Gumaca it was a joy to see the sea once again. The sea breeze was just exhilirating. Upon reaching the city, I came across the youth delegation whom I met yesterday in Lopez. They are on their way to Lukban to attend the regional youth camp. They accompanied me to the cathedral. The parish priest was away but the seminarians who were left behind let me in and prepared the room for me.

I had lunch with Fr. Tony & Fr. JB who are joining the youth camp. I met Mgr. Del, the parish priest, after lunch.

I have already washed my clothes and the rest of the afternoon relaxing. I will be concelebrating at the 5 pm mass.

Total distance covered: 1227 km

May 3, 2011

Like yesterday, I had another short and easy 24-km walk this morning - from Gumaca to Atimonan along a beautiful coast with cool breeze. I stopped several times to rest and savor the view. I think it is a good idea to have a back-to-back short easy days in lieu of a complete day off.

I arrived in the parish of Atimonan shortly before lunch and was welcomed by the parish priest - Msgr. Verastigue. I had lunch with him and the other priests and seminarians assigned in the parish. Since there was no available accommodation for me in the rectory, he brought me to his aunt's place near the church where I have a luxurious accommodation - an airconditioned suite room.

I will be concelebrating at the 5 pm mass and once again speak about my pro-life & peace advocacy.

Total distance covered so far: 1251 km. 4 more days to go before I arrive in Manila.

May 4, 2011

At 4:15 this morning Fr. Misael Hernandez was waiting in front of the church with his hydration pack and head lamp. He accompanied me as far as the foot of zigzag road of the Quezon Forest Park. After stopping for coffee at a gas station, he headed back to Atimonan, I was once again all alone walking the uphill section and running the longwinding downhill stretches. It was cloudy and cool until I reached level ground. I continued to running intermittently until it got so hot that I had to walk most of the time.

I haven't ran out of 'angels' on the road. There were two motorbike riders who stopped one after another to give me cold mineral water. Two other men gave some money for my expenses.

By around noon time the heat became unbearable and I felt weak, dizzy and exhausted that I had to take some naps in the waiting shed along the highway. I was also afflicted by upset stomach & LBM. I don’t know what caused this. Must be something I drank since I havent’ eaten anything.

I should have reached Lucena by 2 pm but due to frequent long rest stops I reached the cathedral rectory by 5 pm after covering 40 km. Msgr. Leandro was out of town without telling his assistant about my coming so I was an unexpected guest. Nevertheless, they welcomed me all the same.

Total km covered so star - 1291 km.

May 5, 2011

Walking 49 km with diarrhea was very exhausting. The pills I took were not effective. I made so many pit-stops in roadside restaurants and gas stations that I felt weak and wasted. I suspected the onset of dehydration. The last ten kilometers was like experiencing the dreaded runner's wall - every step was agonizing and all I could rely on was my sheer will and prayer.

Along the way some nurses recognized me and called me asking for my blessing and to pose for picture with them.

I was also greatly encouraged when a busload of priests, 2 bishops (Bishops Tumulak & Velasco) and some lay people (all belonging to the Franciscan Secular order) stopped, alighted and greeted me. Among them was Fr. Robert Reyes - the running priest - who texted me earlier asking for my location since he knew they would be passing me. After picture taking and receiving their blessing they went on their way to Manila and I was alone once again.

I arrived in the San Pablo cathedral rectory at 6:15 pm. The rector of the cathedral whom I had written was out of town. He instructed his assistant to bring me to the bishop's residence where I was served a hearty dinner. I did not meet the bishop since had already finished eating and had gone to his room to rest.

Total distance covered so far : 1340 km

May 6, 2011

I felt much better early this morning as I left San Pablo and took the road towards Cabuyao via Calauan, Los Banos and Calamba. As I descended towards Calauan I could see Lake Laguna from afar. I ran slowly and gently and thought I had recovered from diarrhea. But after coffee break in Calauan I had to make several pit stops - a total of seven the whole day (in the toilets of 6 gas stations and 1 barangay hall). Luckily, I only had to cover 40 km today, so it was not as exhausting as the last 2 days. But the last 7 km was still very, very hard. I reached the parish rectory in Cabuyao at 4:30 pm. The parish priest - Fr. Leonardo - welcomed me. I concelebrated with him at the 5:30 mass.

Tommorow, I will reach Manila. I hope I can fully recover in the morning.

May 7, 2011

Finally I have reached Manila after 37 days of running and  walking (well, mostly walking).

I felt great when I woke up this morning. The diarrhea was gone and I was able to rehydrate with the Oral Rehydration Salt that Cyrus sent me.

Early this morning, Cyrus (a runner who communicated with me in the runner's forum) was waiting for me in front of the church. After walking together for less than an hour, the vehicle of the Baclaran Redemptorist community arrived bringing some young members of the Baclaran church community who came to join me in this leg. So it was indeed a time of merriment and conversation as we walked together crossing from the province of Laguna to MetroManila. The weather was perfect for walking most of the - cloudy and windy. We dropped by at the St. Andrew Cathedral to say hello to my friend Msgr. Manny Gabriel.

We arrived at the Baclaran Shrine of the Mother of Perpetual Help where Frs. Ino & Willy and a crowd with the media were waiting. It was indeed a grand welcome with a brief liturgy followed by interviews.

So finally I can have my much needed rest after covering 1416 km.

May 8, 2011

Rest day in Baclaran, Manila. I had a sleep- in until 7 am and joined the confreres for breakfast.

At 9 am, I said the Mass in the large church attended by a big crowd. As usual I preached about my run/walk for life & peace advocacy. I linked it to today's gospel reading which relates the story of the disciples walking to Emmaus accompanied by the risen Lord whom they did not recognize until after the breaking bread with Jesus.

In my journey on foot for the last 5 weeks from Davao to Manila, I have been blessed by the awareness of the Lord's invisible presence. Although I trekked alone most of the time, I did not feel alone because I know there is Someone who accompanies me.

The Holy Eucharist is the recognition and  celebration of the Lord's presence in our life-journey.

It's a very wet & windy day here. Storm signal has been declared here and nearby provinces. I heard the news that storm signal no. 2 has been hoisted and some flooding in the places that I passed in Samar and the Bicol region. I just feel fortunate that I am resting for two days while the storm rages. I pray for those who have been severely hit by Typhoon Bebing. I hope that by Tuesday, this will be over so that I can continue my journey to the North.

May 9, 2011

Today is another rest day. Good timing, since the winds are still strong and the storm signal in neighboring provinces are still up. The storm is moving ahead of me to the North - so I will be following its effect tomorrow.

Before leaving for my pilgrimage I wrote a letter to the President of the Philippines - Benigno Aquino III. I saved it in my USB thumb drive which I carried in my back pack. I printed it today and tomorrow I will deliver it to the guard house of Malacanang Palace. Here is the content of the letter:

March 31, 2011

President Benigno Aquino III

Malacanang Palace

Dear Mr. President,

Greetings of Peace!

I am a 56-year old Catholic priest belonging to the Redemptorist Congregation, who is running and walking alone across the Philippines – from Davao City to Aparri via the Cordilleras.. This is a 2000+ km journey starting on April 1, 2011 up to May 28, 2011.

During my pilgrimage on foot, I intend to preach the Gospel of Life & Peace to ordinary people I meet on the way – in sari-sari stores, waiting sheds and parish churches where I stay for the night, and to the media. There are four pro-life concerns that I bring with me:

(1) The armed conflict in the countryside that has caused the loss of so many lives and the need to support the ongoing peace process between the government and the revolutionary groups (e.g. NDF and MILF)

(2) The destruction of the environment and the threat to the way of life and cultures of the indigenous peoples – due to mining and logging.

(3) The extra-judicial killings carried out by death squads, allegedly inspired or abetted by some local government officials and police personnel in many cities in the Philippines.

(4) The RH bill being debated in congress which promotes an aggressive population control program which is based on a questionable if not false assumptions that there is a crisis of overpopulation which perpetuates poverty and is a hindrance to sustainable economic development.

On my journey, I bring with me this letter of appeal to you and will leave it with the guards as I pass by Malacanang on my way to Aparri. I hope this letter will reach you and not end in the waste basket. This is special delivery – not through e-mail or air-mail. I carry it myself in my backpack on foot – from Mindanao, through Visayas and Luzon.

I dare to write this letter to you because I believe that you listen to the voices of the people whom you consider as your Boss and whom you pledged to serve. My voice is only one small voice among many. But it deserves serious consideration because I walk my talk.

So let me express to you my appeal:

I am very thankful that you have revived the peace negotiations with the NDF and the MILF. I express my support for the peace process and ask people to do the same. I appeal to you to use your political will to see to it that a peace agreement is reached which addresses the roots of the armed conflict. Let is be peace based on justice and socio-economic and political reforms that will truly alleviate poverty. I ask that the process be transparent and consultative so that it will be accepted and owned by the people. Meanwhile, I appeal for a ceasefire while the negotiations are going on.

I am grateful that you have ordered a total log ban which I hope will be fully implemented. Besides logging, mining is also destroying the environment and the cultures and way of life of the indigenous peoples and peasants – especially in Palawan, Mindoro, Mindanao, Samar, Bicol and the Cordilleras. It has only benefited the foreign companies and their local counterparts while these regions remain the poorest. I appeal to you listen to the cry of the ordinary people in these areas and to order a moratorium and consider repealing the Mining Act. I also appeal to stop the construction or operation of Coal-Fired Power Plants which contributes to global warming and which depend on coal mining.

I appeal to you to order the Commission on Human Rights and the Department of Justice to continue conducting investigation on the extra-judicial killings and hold accountable those behind these. The UN has already conducted initial investigation under Philip Allston, so has the Human Rights Watch. Three years ago, the Commission of Human Rights started its own investigation and until now there has been no report. Meanwhile the killings continue and have spread to other cities.

I know that you feel strongly about passing a bill on Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health. I am grateful that you have not treated it as a priority bill as you still want to engage in dialogue with the Catholic Church. It seems to me that you have taken the side of those pushing for the RH bill in Congress and shares their viewpoint on why this bill is urgent. What is the logic behind this bill? That there is a crisis of population explosion which perpetuates the poverty of our people and a hindrance to economic development. Therefore, an aggressive population control program is necessary which includes promoting contraception and sex education. What is the message your are promoting? Walang mahirap kung konti lang ang bata. Para sa ikaaunlad ng bayan, contraception at sex education ang kailangan. You know very well that the cause of poverty is not overpopulation and it is even questionable whether we are facing a crisis of overpopulation. The population growth rate and total fertility rate have gone down and continues to go down. The crisis that the world is facing is the demographic winter – an aging population, with less young people. This is why other countries need our OFWs. It would be better if you focus on poverty-alleviation, quality education for all, and universal health program (not just reproductive health). I agree with you that we need to promote Responsible Parenthood which includes sex-education taught within the context of religious and cultural values but it cannot be legislated and funded by billions coming from our taxes.

The Catholic Church is not a hindrance to progress and development. The Church is not your enemy. You don’t have to worry about the threat of excommunication from the CBCP – which was a false report. Please consider the Church as a partner for the achievement of common good, for poverty-alleviation, for justice and peace, and for the defense of life and the environment. When the Church criticizes the policies and behavior of those in government it is always in line with her prophetic mission and in defense of the values of life, peace and justice. Your late mother and father (whose memory I too venerate) appreciated the historic contribution of the Church in transforming society. It would be sad and a great disservice to our people if the remaining years of your presidency is spent in an adversarial and conflictive relationship with the Catholic Church.

As a young man, I fought against a dictator and I was tortured and imprisoned for seven months. Soon I will be a senior citizen and I don’t want to spend it fighting against a government and a president whose candidacy I fully supported and whose anti-corruption and peace program I continue to support.

Last year, when I walked across France and Spain on the Camino de Santiago, I was praying for the success of your new administration – especially in your fight against corruption and for achieving peace, justice and progress in our land. As I continue my journey on foot across the Philippines, I continue to pray for you that you will be a great president and lead us to a better future. I hope and pray that I will not end up in disappointment.


Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR

May 10, 2011

            I wasn't alone when I left Baclaran at 5 am. Fr. Robert Reyes (aka Running Priest), 7 Baclaran boys and 2 members of the internet forum for ultrarunners (Mar & Richard)  accompanied me. We were followed by an ABS-CBN TV patrol car.
After over an hour we were already in Luneta park where we posed for pictures infront of the Rizal monument.
            We arrived in Malacanang at 7 am and proceeded to the gate which was closed. The guards were wary as we approached and I explained to them that I just wanted to deliver a letter to the president. After a police officer assured me that the letter will be given to the president we then went on our way. The 7 from Baclaran went home by train, and there were only four of us heading towards Bulacan- Robert, the 2 ultrarunners and I.
            Another runner joined us when when we reached Monumento. Robert and I had plenty of time to talk. He shared with me about his present involvements and future plans.     We made several stops at sari-sari stores for rest and hydration. These were opportunities to talk to the local people. An elderly woman was very excited to see us and invited us to drop by for noodle soup and cold soft-drinks near lunch-time. We couldn't say no even if we were supposed to be fasting.
            It became very hot by noontime, so we used our umbrellas. By then there were only three of us left - Robert, Richard & I. We reached Balagtas at almost 4 pm after covering 40 km. The parish priest of Balagtas was out of town but the parish secretary - Mario- welcomed us. After taking snacks, Robert went back to Manila by bus. Richard continued on for another 10 km before taking the bus home.
I'm very grateful for the company of an old friend and for new friends. Being with them made today's trek easy and faster.
The new running shoes I bought has been most comfortable - a Puma LIFT racer.

Total distance so far: 1456 km.

May 11, 2011

            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 ( 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 accommodated. 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 a 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

May 12, 2011

            It was still dark when left San Fernando. After 20 minutes on the road, I switched to the navigation mode of my GPS watch and discovered that I was heading south instead of North-West. The tricycle drivers confirmed that I was heading back to Apalit instead of Angeles. So I went back and took the opposite direction.
            The road to Angeles City was lined with trees on both sides. As the sun came out, I didn't mind the heat as I was trekking under the cool shade.
            Upon reaching Angeles at past eight I took an hour's break in an internet cafe. As I continued my trek towards Mabalacat, a young wealthy lady in a parked SUV suddenly handed me a bottle of cold mineral water and tuna sandwiches inside a Starbucks paperbag. Later, a man near a fruit stand pressed some money in my hand and told me this was his expression of support. When I reached Mabalacat, the owner of a military surplus store gave me a head lamp after asking me to pose for a picture with him.
            There were no more trees that lined the road between Bamban and Capas. The heat became unbearable I had to use my umbrella while praying the rosary. I was aware that I was walking part of the route of the Bataan Death March.
            I finally reached the parish in Capas at 4:15 pm after covering 40 km. The parish priest, Msgr Tanedo welcomed me and granted me hospitality.

Total distance covered: 1530 km.

May 13, 2011

            Early this morning, I felt a slight pain in my big toe and shin so I decided to walk very slowly and leisurely. My priority is to prevent injury - especially shin splint or tendinitis. (This is what I experienced during my pilgrimage in the Camino de Santiago which was miraculously healed).
            Along the way I saw slogans painted in red from the NPA (New People's Army). I was passing an area where the communist guerrillas first spread and where they continue to operate.
            I reached Hacienda Luisita at 8 am and stopped by Starbucks for cappuccino. After 30 minutes I was back on road. Upon reaching Tarlac City, a group of young people and some members of the Couples for Christ mobilized by Fr. Melvin Castro (executive secretary of the CBCP-family & life commission) welcomed me and walked with me to the Cathedral. They were wearing shirts and caps with anti-RH bill signs. They were glad to hear that one of my advocacies was against the RH bill.
            After an hour's rest, I was back on the road alone again by 11:30. I had to bear the heat, hoding an umbrella with my left hand and fingering the rosary beads with my right. I reached Paniqui at 5:30 after covering 40 km. The parish priest, Fr. Fred Dizon, welcomed me and gave me accomodation.
            Total distance covered so far: 1570 km.

May 14, 2011

            The hottest day so far - it felt like 40 degrees celsius especially between 11 am -2 pm. It was still cool when I started at 5 am, but by 9 am it got hotter and hotter that I had to use my umbrella.. I did longer rest stops at around noontime as the heat became unbearable and I felt weak.
            After passing Urdaneta, it became cloudy. I felt reinvigorated. I reached Binalonan, Pangasinan by 5 pm after covering 45 km. The parish priest, Fr. Jimmy was out of town but he asked some friends to welcome me and to take care of my accomodation. So after dinner at the rectory, Rolly & Tita Hernandez brought me to their house where I will stay for the night.

Total distance covered: 1615 km

May 15, 2011

            I said the 5:30 morning mass at the parish church of Binalonan. I also preached at the 6:45 am and 8:00 am masses. The parish priest, Fr. Jimmy and his assistant Fr. Irong wanted their pashioners to hear my message of life & peace.
            I was able to leave at 10:15 accompanied by Fr. Irong and 3 other young people. They went with me as far as the next town - Pozzorubio, 5 km from Binalonan.
Even if it was very hot, I was glad to see long stretches of tree -lined highway which provided shade. Being a Sunday, I wasn't fasting so I took a lunch break at a roadside restaurant.
            I did some intermittent running later in the afternoon. The Cordillera mountain range was looming ahead of me.
            Throughout the day I experienced once again the generosity of some people who provided me with material & financial support - from my hosts Rolly & Tita, from the parish, from young girls along the way, poor men with their few pesos. Some asked to pose for a picture with me.
            I wasn't too sure where to sleep tonight. I knew there would be no parish on the Kennon road to Baguio. I even wondered if I could find a lodging house. Fr. Jimmy suggested that I sleep in the rectory of the Rosario parish, over 25 km from Binalonan. But when I went there, the girls in the rectory told me that the parish priest was in the US and they couldn't accommodate me. A tricycle driver told me that there is a cheap lodging house near the checkpoint at the beginning of the Kenon road. So here I am after trekking for 27 km. I'm thankful that some people gave me more than enough so I can pay for my overnight stay in Aqua Vida. No need to sleep in the rough.
            Total distance so far; 1642 km

May 16, 2011

            I was planning to just walk slowly up to Baguio via the Kennon road but after 30 minutes of meditative walking I felt so fresh and alive that I started to run uphill intermittently, with some walking breaks (Galloway method).
            For the past weeks I've done more walking and less running because I wanted to conserve energy and prevent injury. But today I threw caution to the wind and did more running even if it was mostly uphill and carrying an 8-kilo pack onmy back. Anyway, I told myself, tomorrow is rest day and I have time for recovery.
            I love to run especially in the mountains. This is where I get my runner's high. Running up to Baguio brings back memories of similar runs in past - Busay & Kan-irag mountains in Cebu, Bukidnon-Davao, Pyrennees in France. But I know that I can't overdo it because I risk injury. Even if walking does not really produce a high or ecstasy like running, it is necessary in order to survive and to continue my journey. So there are days when I do more walking and less running, and days when I do more running combined with walking breaks.
            The last 8 km to Baguio was mostly on the steep zigzag road. This time I did more walking. I arrived in Baguio at exactly 2 pm after covering 35 km. I stopped by Don Enrico's for pasta & spaghetti before proceeding to the cathedral rectory. Fr. Manny Panayo, the parish priest, welcomed me and provided me with accomodation. Fr. Manny remembered me well because two years ago, I conducted a retreat to the priests of the diocese of Baguio. They all went to Davao for their retreat.
Since tomorrow is his rest day, Fr. Manny went
Home. So, I'm the only priest here, with the cook and the convent boy.
            Tomorrow is rest day.

Total distance so far: 1677 km

May 17, 2011

            It is my rest day here in Baguio. I did my laundry this morning and later went to SM to buy some pairs of socks and a sweater. It's cold here in Baguio and I expect it's going to get colder as I go up higher in the Cordilleras. Tomorrow I continue my trek across the mountains of Benguet, the Mountain Province, Kalinga & Apayao. This will be the most difficult and exciting stage of the journey. I'm not sure if I will be able to update my blog daily. It will depend on whether there will still be strong cellphone signal.

May 18, 2011

            It was very cold early this morning, I had to wear my jacket. As I continued to ascend the Cordilleras along the Halsema highway my right knee became a bit painful. I was very worried that this could develop into an injury like what happened when running the Rome marathon 16 years ago. So I decided to walk slowly. I found a stick that I used as a walking staff. It helped, the pain disappeared.
            The last time I was here was in 2008 when I went around the country on a mountain bike. That particularly day I biked from Bontoc to Baguio for 15 hours - from 5 am to 10 pm. So it was already dark when I went through this section of the Halsema highway. This would be first time to see it at daytime and appreciate the view.
            The view around me and below me was just spectacular. But then in the afternoon the fog came and covered everything. Suddenly a heavy cold rain began to fall and the wind increased its fury. I had to find shelter. After 30 minutes, the rain eased but did not stop. So I continued walking, wearing my sandals, jacket and umbrella. The ascents became more steep and it got colder. The rain finally stopped late in the afternoon.
            I reached Sayangan at 6 pm after covering 50 km. It was colder than this morning since we are now over 7000 feet above sea level. Fr. David warmly welcomed me. He lent me a winter jacket and thick jogging pants. He told it would even get colder at night and early morning. I took a warm bath before joining Fr. David and the seminarians for supper.
            Total distance covered so far: 1727 km

May 19, 2011

            I thought I was in Rome in the middle of winter when I woke up at 3 this morning. It was just so cold. I wore 3 layers of clothing - with my jacket over my sweater when I left the rectory at five. But as the sun came out I peeled off the jacket.
            Before six I arrived in Catlubong - the highest point of the Halsema highway and the Philippines (7400 ft). As I gazed at the view, I was overwhelmed by the beauty that I saw - my eyes swelled with tears. I praised the Creator and started to sing: "Sing to the mountains..." and "Though the mountains may fall and the hills turn to dust, yet the Love of the Lord..."
            I just love mountains. They make me more aware of the Divine presence. That's why I climbed Mt. Apo seven times and live occasionally as a hermit in the mountain of Busay. I get my runner's high in the mountains. This also why I go through the Cordilleras on my way to Aparri.
            Along the way, an elderly woman on her way to her flower & vegetable garden walked with me for a while and gave me some bread. As we conversed she told me that this journey would lead me closer to God. She was right.
            Later another elderly woman also walked with for a few minutes. She told me that she had been waiting for me because she heard from a neighbor that I would be passing through. She is active in her the parish and in the Basic Ecclesial Communities and she just wanted to welcome me.
            Today, I did less running and more slow walking. I noticed slight pain in both knees especially on steep ascents. With 9 more days left I have to be very careful that I don't incur injury. I will have to resist the temptation to do more running in the mountains. What matters most is to reach Aparri on foot - with more walking and less running if necessary.
            I reached Abatan at 3 pm after covering 35 km. Fr. Mario Tambic, the parish priest, welcomed me to the rectory.
            Total distance covered: 1762 km

May 20, 2011

            The first 12 km early this morning was a slow uphill walk from Abatan to Mt. Data. This was followed by 28 km of mostly intermittent downhill running to Sabangan. I just couldn't resist the temptation to run even if I already resolved to walk slowly to prevent knee injury. I told myself that if any sensation of pain appears I will immediately shift to a walking mode. Fortunately, my knees felt alright. I was conscious of using the chi-running technique (bent-knees, midfoot landing, slight lean forward) combined with Galloway method (3 min run/2 min walk cycle).
            My mind tells me that I should just walk the rest of the way to make sure that I reach my destination. But my body wants me to keep on running, even if I do it intermittently. I should listen to my body and not ignore pain. This means run when I can, walk when necessary. Running produces endorphine & nitric oxide which can me me high (that's why it is addictive). Walking, on the other hand, is like a sedative. Both are necessary. When overdone, running is risky since it can lead to the break down of the body. Walking aids recovery. Combining both will make sure I enjoy and finish the journey.
            Four kilometers before Sabangan, I stopped by a coffee shop which had a good view of Mt. Kalawitan, the Chico river and rice terraces below. I ordered brewed coffee and pancake while enjoying the beautiful scenery.
            I reached the rectory of Sabangan at 4 pm after covering 40 km. The parish secretary, Dorna, welcomed me. She was informed by Fr. Mario (parish priest of Abatan) that I would be coming. The parish priest, Fr. William, has been on a leave of absence and the new parish priest will take over tomorrow.
            I had supper with Bro. Noe (a seminarian) and Serafin (convent boy).
            Total distance from Davao so far: 1802 km

May 21, 2011

            I was expecting a short & easy 32-km day but once again the map/distance calculator was wrong. It turned out to be a hard 41 km trek.
I reached Bontoc at 10 am and stopped over at the cathedral rectory for almost 2 hours. Fr. John Habawel invited me for lunch which I could not refuse. He also contacted the new parish priest of Sadangan to inform him of my coming. Fr. Requino told him that he wouldn't be around but I was welcome to stay overnight in his parish.
            I left Bontoc at noontime thinking I only had less than 14 km to go. The road after Bontoc was mostly narrow and rough, with some concrete sections. There were long stretches where I could not see houses or people. I was completely alone. I reached the junction after 19 km and had to make a 4-km steep ascent to the poblacion. I had to walk very slowly using my walking staff because of the slight pain in my knees. I reached Sadangan before six in the afternoon as heavy rain started to fall. Three seminarians were around to welcome me and brought me to the room they had prepared for me. After supper they brought me to the hot spring shed where I had a very relaxing bath.
            During supper, I was once again asked the same questions that people have often asked: why are you doing this alone? Are you not afraid?
            There are so many reasons why I am doing this alone. I can run/walk at my own pace. I want to spend more time in silence, prayer, contemplation and reflection - thus facilitating my inner, spiritual journey. It is cheaper and easier to get accomodation. It symbolizes my celibate life - I do not walk hand in hand with the woman I love and our children for the rest of my life. Along the way, I encounter people I like who become my friends and perhaps walk for a short while but we go our separate ways hoping we can meet again someday. I may experience community but move on. I become more aware of the invisible loving presence of the One to whom I have consecrated my life. And because of this I am not afraid.
            Total distance from Davao: 1843 km

May 22, 2011

            I celebrated the 8 am Sunday mass and was able to leave Sadanga at 9:30. According to the internet distance calculator, Lubuagan was only 32 km away and I expected to get there before 6 pm. So I thought this was going to be a short and easy trek.
Well, it turned out to be the most difficult day so far. Lubuagan was actually 47 km from Sadanga! There were long sections of the road that were narrow and rough. When the rain came at 3 pm, they became muddy. The sun set at 6:30 and I continued to walk in the dark on a muddy and slippery road, with my headlight showing me the way, and the rain continuing to pour. There were no houses or people along the road. I was already hungry since I didn't have any lunch. Finally, at 9 pm, the lights of Lubuagan became visible as I was descending and I was just filled with joy. I reached the rectory at 9:30 and was welcomed by Bishop Jun Andaya - the Bishop of Tabuk who will walk with me from Lubuagan to Tabuk tomorrow. A hot meal was waiting for me.
            Total distance so far; 1890 km

May 24, 2011

            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.

May 25, 2011

            After having coffee and oatmeal with Bishop Jun, I asked for his blessing and he saw me off at 5 am.      I was expecting to be fully recovered and fresh after a day of rest. Instead I felt sluggish and weak. The heat added to my lethargy. So I made frequent long rest stops, drinking cobra energy drink.
            The road became more rough and dusty so I walked slowly. I got several text messages warning me about the supertyphoon which is coming soon. When it started to rain by 3 pm, I thought that this was already the effect of the storm but it did not last long. After the rain stopped I felt stronger so I did some intermittent running on the hilly rough road. I expecting to be doing 43 km today but when I reached Tuao at 7 pm, it turned out to be 48 km. I went to rectory and met Mgr. Bacule. He told me that he had just been newly assigned to the parish last week and the whole place was still a mess and could not accomodate me. So he brought me to the nearby Basilica of Piat and introduced me to Mgr Othello who invited me for supper and gave me a room at the pilgrim hostel.
So here I am at the shrine of Our Lady of Piat - a popular Marian pilgrimage site since the 17th century.
            I am one day ahead of schedule. Had I been given accomodation at Tuao, I would have walked the 10 km distance tomorrow and spend the rest of the day in recollection and then move on to Gattaran on Friday. But since the typhoon is expected to hit Cagayan Valley on Friday, I will have to reach Gattaran tomorrow afternoon and then take shelter from the storm on Friday. I am not sure if I can reach Aparri on Saturday if the super-typhoon Chedeng pass this area. Everything seems to be uncertain at the moment.

Total distance covered so far: 1980 km.

May 26, 2011                                                 

            After concelebratimg at the 6 am mass, I had coffee with Msgr Othello and the other priests. Mgr Othello told me that he had just called the parish priest of Gattaran who told him that he won't be around and that I couldnt be accomodated. Mgr. Othello told me that he already called his friend who will put me up.
By 7:30 I was on the road. It was very hot in the morning . I felt tired that I made a lot of rest stops. The rain and wind came in the afternoon. I thought the storm had already come but it did not last long.
            By 4 pm, I was able to cross the Cagayan river by motorized banca. I continued my trek along the national highway. It was already 7:30 pm when I reached Gattaran after covering 43 km. I was met by Joey who brought me to his home. His wife was cooking dinner when we arrived. After taking my shower we had dinner together.
            Tomorrow is the last day of my journey. If everything goes well, I should be in Aparri in the afternoon. I hope the storm does not come our way tomorrow.
            Total distance so far: 2023 km.

May 27, 2011


            I was very apprehensive as I left Gattaran early this morning. Storm signal no. 1 had been raised over the area. The rain and wind became stronger as I walked along. I kept on singing loudly the song that I learned as a young seminarian:
"When you walk through the storm, hold your head up high, and don't be afraid of the dark... Walk on through the rain, walk on through the wind... Walk on with hope in your heart and you'll never walk alone..."
            I found this song very meaningful today. It was no longer just symbolic, it was real. You'll never walk alone. Yes, even though I walked alone, I was not really alone - the Lord was with me. This is why I remained calm and unafraid as I continued my trek towards Aparri.
            There were times when the wind and rain became so strong that I took shelter. The weather improved in the afternoon. I did some intermittent running. I finally reached Aparri at 5 pm having covered 37 km for the day and 2,060 km for 57 days. Typhoon Chedeng couldn't stop me from reaching my destination.
            I reached Aparri quietly like a true solitary pilgrim, without any welcoming group or streamer, without any media coverage. There was no official finish line or medal that awaited me. Fr. Adalbert, the parish priest welcomed me. He was expecting me to arrive tomorrow.
            Tomorrow, I'll spend the whole day resting and reflecting on this whole experience.
            I am just so glad to complete my journey. True joy comes not only in reaching my destination today but undertaking the whole journey for the last 57 days. After all what matters most is the journey and not just the destination. I could reach Aparri much quicker by taking the bus or plane but I wouldn't have the same satisfaction and joy of doing it on foot alone for almost two months across the country. I will always treasure what I experienced and the effect within me.


May 30, 2011

            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.