Tuesday, January 14, 2020


WHAT IS THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO? For those who have no idea what this is, it is the oldest known pilgrimage route in Europe. Its most popular route is the one called Camino Frances. It starts from St. Jacques Pied-de-Port, France and rolls out west on the plains and hills for 790 kilometers until you reach Compostela, Spain, where the remains of St. James the Greater is buried in a crypt underneath the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrimage changed many people’s lives or started a new one, in case you do not know that.

St. James evangelized the Iberian Peninsula, west of the Ebro River, right after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and was ordered beheaded by King Herodias when he went back to Jerusalem, thereby, giving him the distinction of the first among the Apostles to shed his life, or martyred, for the Christian faith. His disciples brought him back to Spain and buried him in a cave and forgotten until a monk dreamt of St. James under a “field of stars” which led to the discovery of his grave and given a proper burial on the present site.

When the faithfuls heard of this, pilgrims begun to set out on a holy journey from as far as Dublin, Oslo, Morroco, Istanbul, Malta and Moscow, to atone for their sins and to gain for themselves spiritual indulgences. For more than a thousand years, the Camino de Santiago provided more than a million pilgrims hopes of prayers fulfilled, of new beginnings, of stepping out of their traumatic pasts and of redeeming themselves before their families, their communities and their Creator.

Walking the Camino de Santiago is not an obligation nor it is the sole domain of Christianity. It welcomes everyone regardless of faith, color, gender preference, economic standing and creed. However, it really is not possible for a poor Roman Catholic from the Philippines taking a shot at redemption in his own terms on the Iberian Peninsula. It can never be unless he wins a million in a lotto draw, talented enough to play for Atletico Bilbao or be in a state of an out-of-body experience. Economic considerations dictate that. 

But it does not have to be that way forever. In order for the Camino de Santiago to be accessible for everyone, it has to morph itself and be replicated everywhere so that the poorest of the poor could have access to the spiritual rewards that everybody has been talking about for a millennia. Every Filipino pilgrim returning or of those who have read about it yearned to have one or something like this in the Philippines and those prayers were indeed heard upstairs.

Shall I talk about the Camino de Santiago in Cebu? Well it took a Cebuano priest, Fr. Scipio Deligero, to have this realized. He had not been to Spain but he knew the significance of a Camino in Cebu since he was, at that time, the parish priest of the Archdiocesan Shrine of Santiago de Compostela, located, of all places, in Compostela, Cebu. The namesakes of both the cathedral and the town in Spain is right there on that sweet spot of Cebu; the same Cebu which figured prominently in Antonio Pigafetta’s diary of 1521.

I have read also about the Spanish Camino and had been planning in 2012 (which I never did) to establish a pilgrimage route that would start from Cebu City and ending at the Municipality of Badian, because St. James the Apostle is the patron saint of the latter. I did not know then that the Municipality of Compostela also has St. James the Apostle as their patron. It was my meeting with Fr. Deligero in March 2017 that changed all that and then we had our first-ever Camino de Santiago in Cebu a few months later.

We started from Badian on July 6, 2017 and reached Compostela ten days later. The first pilgrims were myself, as guide; Fr. Deligero; the mayor of Compostela – Hon. Joel Quiño; the couple Roderick and Jem Montesclaros; Mizar Bacalla, lay minister; Roger Montecino; Alvie Rey Ramirez, the assigned photographer; and Jonathaniel Apurado, the non-Catholic among us as our sweeper and medic. We succeeded and reached Compostela in ten days despite the difficulties encountered on the first few days.

The 10-day Camino de Santiago or, to its more appropriate designation, Camino Cebu, traverses over the mountains of Cebu Province from south to north. It is about 175 kilometers long and the pilgrims are assured of proper rests among the convents of the mountain parishes located along it. The last day is the highlight of this local Camino as it passes by a giant cross on the hill. Following tradition of the older Camino, pebbles are placed on the bottom of the cross.

On July 14-15, 2018, the Archdiocesan Shrine of Santiago de Compostela introduced a very short Camino of two days and 28 kilometers. It starts from the parish, cross a river on a footbridge into Liloan town and back to Compostela through a hanging bridge. The second day passes the giant cross and go down and back to the parish. Fr. Gonzalo Candado, the parochial vicar of the parish, and then deacon, Fr. Vhen Fernandez, pioneered this route along with 65 other pilgrims which included me. This 2-day Camino can be done anytime and many such sequels followed.

On January 27, 2019, I led again another party of pilgrims on the Camino Cebu. The arrival of these pilgrims of this Camino on the tenth day will coincide with the start of the 2nd National Congress of St. James the Great Parishes and Devotees on February 5, which both the municipality and the parish of Compostela are jointly hosting. Meanwhile, another 2-day Camino Cebu was held simultaneously on February 4. There were 78 pilgrims for the latter and there were eleven for the longer and harder Camino.

The pilgrims that were with me then were Fr. Wilfredo Genelazo of the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima of Basak, Mandaue City; Randy Salazar, adventure entrepreneur who would walk the rear; ship electrician Rafael Gica; journalists Erl Durano and Grace Lina; Big C survivor Renita Reynes; Jocelyn Baran; travel tour operator Jean Antipuesto; Sheen Mark Deligero; and Razsil Zuasola. I led them on a much-better route than the last one and at a much better pace which ended each day ahead of schedule.

The 2nd National Congress was an occasion where the Camino Cebu was officially recognized by the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela, Spain as an equal to their own Camino de Santiago. Msgr. Eduardo Villaverde Temperan, chancellor of the Galician cathedral brought very special gifts to Cebu: relics of St. James and a document called the “spiritual bond of affinity”, signed by the Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela, Spain. The document states that what spiritual indulgences you received by walking and completing the Camino de Santiago in Spain is the same as walking it here and vice versa.

The congress was a success and it gave the Archdiocesan Shrine of Santiago de Compostela a sense of urgency to put itself on the map of pilgrimage routes and religious tourism, most notably, for the occasion of the 500th year celebration of the Christianization of the Philippines come 2021. A huge structure, designed to hold an 11.5 foot botafumeiro was constructed for this purpose. It is now almost finished and soon the giant censer would be hanged and swung from the rafters, following the tradition in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

The Camino Cebu made it synonymous with me. Individuals and organizations sought me out to guide them personally, whether it be 2 days or 10 days. A mother and daughter from Los Baños, Laguna walked the 10-day Camino on July 8-17, 2019. Dr. Marianne Leila Flores, a professor in veterinary medicine of the University of the Philippines, decided to treat her daughter, Frances Marie, to a journey of meditative walking after graduating fine arts from the University of Santo Tomas. Both were a revelation when the Camino went on its final days despite receiving a sad news from home.

Notable pilgrims that I have guided on the 2-day Camino Cebu were five original members of the Cebu Mountaineering Society who laid aside their adventures for a while and walked the Camino in the middle of Lent of April 2019. Fr. Jose Quilongquilong SJ, spiritual director of the Ateneo University System, walked at the spearhead of 35 businessmen and veterans of the Spanish Camino, known as the “El Caminoans”, in August 2019. Last November 2019, Fr. Gerry Quejada, chaplain of PAREF Springdale School of Cebu, walked and finished the Camino, even with the pains of an old injury, and brought six of his wards through to the welcoming peals of church bells.

Could a Camino de Santiago in Cebu be possible? Quite positive. Just this January 12, 2020, three pilgrims reached Compostela after starting in Badian ten days ago. These were Rafael Gica, a repeat pilgrim; Vladimer Acain, a master of an ocean-going vessel; and Markus Immer, a 68-year old Swiss national who dreamt of walking the Camino del Norte and the Camino Primitivo in 2021. The routes of the Camino Cebu are now established, although not as perfect as in Spain which has signages and albergues along the way. Ours is still primitive and it may well be a Camino at its still unadulterated form prevalent during the medieval years.

But last June 18-22, 2019, through the request of Fr. Deligero before he would finish his term in the Archdiocesan Shrine of Santiago de Compostela, I established the third and last route of the Camino Cebu – the one coming in from the St. James the Great Parish in Sogod town; which can be walked in five days over the mountains of Carmen, Danao City and Compostela at about 65 kilometers in length. St. James would play an important role come 2021 during the quintecentenial commemoration. It was he who introduced the Christian faith in Spain and from them we got ours in 1521. Buen Camino!

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Wednesday, January 1, 2020


HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! Did you missed me? For a lot of people who had been following my blog, the silence is deafening. I apologize for that. I had been unfortunate with my desktop computers. I could not understand how easily it melts down. I had three PCs crashing one after the other in a span of six months between 2018 and 2019. All were clones though and I cannot do about it since its working environment is warm and without an air-conditioning system. The fourth one after the three, a second-hand branded desktop did not fare either.

I got discouraged by the crashes and my zeal to write articles disappeared altogether and I have to console writing my opinions and activities on Facebook instead from an Internet cafe. Of course, I got a good following there and social media helped a lot in increasing readership of my WARRIOR PILGRIMAGE Blog when the machines were running healthy. This is one hell of a blog and it is a waste that it had to end that way. But, no way. I need to resurrect it come what may. I need to retrieve my data on those hard drives.

Then one day, I was able to scrape enough funds to procure myself a used SONY VAIO laptop computer. I did not immediately churn out articles for I was afraid it would go on the way of those four busted machines. I took time and tested this smaller machine at inconceivably long hours of operation and I felt satisfied only on the last days of 2019. It gave me hope. Finally, I could move on and write. Right? Yes and No. I will explain this later.

Even while I was enjoying the better qualities of the Sony Vaio, a second laptop arrived from the United States. It was a DELL LATITUDE and it was given as a gift from a friend who missed the WARRIOR PILGRIMAGE churning out article after article every week, every month, every year for eleven straight years. Five hundred sixty-three articles until March 16, 2019 when “Murphy came to town”. This second laptop becomes my backup and now I am going back to blogging paradise, many thanks to my friend who liked it that he remained incognito.

Going to that “Yes and No”. It is complicated right now. If I focused writing more for my blog, I would not have time to write for my other pending projects: WRITING BOOKS. Believe me, I have three pending book projects which needs to be finished the soonest time possible and I am afraid it begins to take shape as mere memories. These are (1) ETHICAL BUSHCRAFT; (2) A WARRIOR’S PILGRIMAGE: The Making of the Cebu Highlands Trail; and (3) THRUHIKING AN ISLAND IN THE PACIFIC. All are non-fiction.

I also have other books to write which had not gained a toehold yet. One is the study of animal trails and the other would be a couple of guidebooks for the two long trails that I had established in Cebu. I need to finish all these books before I turn sixty. I am not strong anymore to do so many activities on the mountains every weekend. I get injured too easily now. I do not have that mindset of invincibility anymore. I could feel myself more and more human.

Going back to my blog, I used to publish an article a week that accumulate to 50 articles a year. Regular. That made me and WARRIOR PILGRIMAGE a bit busy in blogosphere. There was passion and fire then. This day, I decide to publish articles on a whim. It means I may leave a month empty and unproductive and awash the next with as many as, maybe, twenty. That way I do not have to worry about backlogs and, that way too, I will not be a slave to my own system.

WARRIOR PILGRIMAGE is definitely making a comeback. I promise you this first day of 2020, but it will not be the same. No more endless sequels. Just stories that would entertain you. Stories of the world I am in – Bushcraft and Survival, Outdoors Education and Guideships – the three main activities that has been my bread and butter. Stories which teach good values and build character. I have journeyed far and wide in the bloodstream of years. It is time to give back to what I learned through this blog.   

This January, I will guide pilgrims on a pilgrimage route that I had helped establish in 2017 with the Archdiocese of Cebu – the CAMINO CEBU – the poor man’s Camino de Santiago yet the longest of all caminos in the Philippines at 175 kilometers, walkable in ten days. On this same month, I would travel to Luzon on the invitation of Project RONIN, to introduce my basic wilderness survival program on their members in the forests of Rodriguez, Rizal.

Because of this blog, my skills and activities became known nationwide and I would take advantage of this opportunity again to advertise myself as I have done so in the past. I can do that in Facebook, like most people do, but a blog is different. It gives you more credibility and you are spread out globally to people who really read. Did you not know that WARRIOR PILGRIMAGE was included in the Top 40 Bushcraft Blogs in 2018? Mine was the only Asian blog to be part of that international list dominated by the US and the UK. 

This June, I would convene the tenth Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp for the last time. The PIBC was introduced in 2011 as an annual skills-learning camp to the local outdoors community and it had a good reception of attendees every year. This is one of my flagship events which gave me a unique identity in Philippine outdoors and where the campers became the core of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. The Guild shall convene the PIBC henceforth on the next succeeding years.

Also this year, I would organize a certification program for Bushcraft Camp Instructors which, hopefully, would be funded by a national government agency. This is to prepare the people who would handle training for the PIBC and similar courses and to equip them more knowledge in the environment they would be working in. I believed it is time to recognize the jewels among the rough cuts. I am selecting the best people for this. People who have learned from me.

Later this year, I would help organize a bushcraft skills challenge, possibly (and hopefully), with sponsorship from an international company. I will not divulge how it would be done as it is still under wraps. This would be different, that is all. For the rest of the year, I would be refining the route of my other flagship event – the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL – and I will still accommodate paying hikers only by segments, which it has eight. Hiking through it in one walk is out of the question unless you have a good reason that I cannot refuse.

So do not be sad, I am on a comeback trail. I would be here for as long as I am physically and mentally able. This marks the first article for 2020 and the 564th overall. This blog would be giving updates on the progress of my unfinished books, maybe give a peep of selected chapters. I will light the path for you this time and do not fail to comment in or share my articles. Thank you for your patience and I will write for you with a vengeance to atone for my long absence.

Document done in LibreOffice 6.3