THE first time I came in contact with pain and suffering during the Camino de Santiago walk, it was really traumatic. But the realization that you can still continue despite pains felt from all over your body, that you can’t wait for the pain to subside before taking the next step the following day is in itself a lesson. For some pilgrims, having horrible blisters during the walk was an ordeal. Thankfully, I did not suffer any but the pain and exhaustion were so difficult to bear. When faced with pain, there is a temptation which leads us to become self-centered. It’s a situation where you always think about yourself and indulge in self-pity.
I considered the last day, the scenic St. Jean Pied de Port to Roncesvalles (navigating the scenic but very brutal route Napoleon) the most difficult part of my pilgrimage (I only joined the group in the last phase but still managed to log in almost 80 kilometers). The morning started with a really steep climb of 1,450 meters and downhill of 500 meters. Midway into the walk, one can easily get lost as the road becomes narrow, rugged and very muddy. There was a point where the high altitude became so torturous and my lungs were ready to surrender. But meditation and introspection and pulling myself into a state of silence made the walk more bearable. I then found my rhythm and stayed focused.
For the distinguished Caminoans who braved the 10-day, 206 kilometers walk, it is just but fitting to recognize their own journey of pain and sacrifice. Congratulations to Jun Selma, Bob Gothong, Jose Soberano III, Nonoy Tirol, Vic Yuvallos, Ramon Villordon Jr., Kim Kwang Seok, Shean Bedi and Fr. Joe Quilongquilong (JQ). To Caroline, our skillful French guide and driver Stephan, thank you! You all have my respect and admiration!
9/25 08 kilometers
9/26 19 kilometers
9/27 24 kilometers
9/28 18 kilometers
9/29 23 kilometers
9/30 18 kilometers
10/1 18 kilometers
10/2 22 kilometers
10/5 30 kilometers
Suffering passes, but having suffered remains
In our life journey, we do encounter difficult and tense moments because of personal tragedy, family conflict or a reversal of fortune. But whatever pain and suffering that we are all going through must never defeat us. The expression “whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” is completely true. The way a person deals with emotional pain or any type of pain shows a person’s true character. How an individual overcomes these challenges with hope will define his or her resiliency and strength in the face of mounting adversity.
I can forget many things about the pilgrimage, but I will never forget the masses or rosaries on the bus, while walking on uneven roads, on top of a mountain or in several Romanesque centuries-old churches. It was an experienced like no other! It dawned on me that the masses are really special as it puts ourselves in deeper seclusion because we distance ourselves from all distractions.
The purpose of the pilgrimage is not to get to Santiago, the real purpose is all about self-discovery and an encounter with someone. I have noticed that the goal we seek happens during the Holy Mass officiated by our spiritual advisor, well-loved Jesuit priest and theologian Fr. JQ as he connects our daily Camino of life. Summarizing the regular homilies and trying to make sense of our daily physical struggles, Fr. JQ contextualized a pilgrim’s journey by connecting all our sacrifices to our life journey, constantly making us realize that “suffering passes, but having suffered remains.” His messages are personal and really hit home!
To those who are contemplating on embarking on this Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, do it. It is an opportunity of a lifetime. It is like a vitamin for your soul. As fellow Caminoan, Jun Selma would forcefully say, WWC (While We can)! Buen Camino!