by Novice Alfie Matulac
Half naked children scavenging for food in piled up garbage, a group of youngsters smoking in the waiting shed, construction crews working very late, a homeless family sleeping under the bridge, and young women dressed in seductive attire in front of a beerhouse waiting for their customers to come; these were some of the harsh and disparaging realities of the people we encountered on the long and tiring trek toward our destination. On January 15th, Novice Master, Fr. Charlton, Novice Adornaldo and I started our first-ever pilgrimage by means of walking. From Quezon City we walked to The Shrine of Our Lady of Good Voyage in Antipolo City, Rizal (also known as Antipolo Church). The 35 km walk took six long hours, making our legs ache and our feet sore. I remembered that during that long walk, we came to the point that we were dragging our feet just to keep going. When at last we reached our destination, though exhausted, I sensed the fulfillment deep within us as we recited the Hail Mary while holding onto the grills of the gate at the Shrine. Ours was an exhausting but enriching experience; the realization that life is a long and tiring journey, and in the process along the way there comes a point that we want to give up, saying to ourselves that we can’t go on anymore even a single step. But if we have something to aspire for, it will empower us and bring us to the awareness that we can go beyond our expectation. The first hand encounter of the people along the way of our pilgrimage made us realize that we who are aspiring to be religious should be sensitive to the needs of these people, and that our prayers should focus on alleviating their suffering.