The Camino has been on my bucket list ever since I saw on Facebook the people sharing their wonderful experiences, and it got me interested.
I was also curious to experience a spiritual journey through nature.
So I told Luzanne Manlapit about it and she researched and found two tour operators who specialize in Camino tours.
We learned from a tour group that we could have our private group if we were a minimum of eight. So Luzanne asked her group of friends from Rustan’s (former and present) if they were interested, and we ended up being 12.
I really did not prepare for the Camino walk. I knew I had the stamina for it, since I exercise almost every day.
I just made sure I broke in my shoes before the trip, and I was more hyped up on making sure I would not get blisters. (So I brought petroleum ointment.)
It took us five days to complete 116 kilometers. This was written on our certificate. However, my Jawbone showed 123.80 km. We would average 20 km a day and start at 9:30 am most days. Rain or shine.
The group got divided into two to allow us to walk at our own pace.
I ended up with Marilen Bantug and Catherine Huang. Sometimes the three of us would get separated and end up walking alone, just meeting at the check-out point which would normally be every 5 km, and rest for about 20 minutes. Then at lunch we would rest for about an hour.
In total, a day for us would last seven to eight hours. The other group took a bit longer.
The first two days was the toughest for me since you really did not know what to expect. You could be walking for about 20 minutes, then all of a sudden you see this really long steep hill that seems forever and you tell yourself, can I do this? OMG, it’s so steep, how many more steep hills are there?
At times you walk over rocks, boulders, puddles, and in your head, you tell yourself, oh no, my shoes will get dirty/ my feet will get wet… Of course, when you climb up, the walk down is just as steep and you’re thinking, OK, how do I walk down and protect my knees?
The weather was great on the first day. But the following days it would rain almost all day.
By the third day to the fifth day, however, all my fears had disappeared and I didn’t care anymore. I eventually didn’t carry my backpack and only brought my credentials to be stamped in each cafe-church we visited, and my phone to take pictures.
I removed my poncho and just wore a waterproof hat to protect my head from the rain. I had one walking stick to help me with the puddles and keep my balance on the rocks, and a belt bag with a water bottle and some money.
Now that I have been able to complete the last 116 km, I feel I would do it all over again and this time I would like to try to do 200 km.
What did I feel while doing the walk once I conquered my fears of personal discomforts in life?
I was able to pray and thank God for the beauty around me and appreciate that less is more, and that we can very much indeed survive our daily life even if we didn’t have all these things to carry around in our bag.
It’s tough to do and I still find it tough to do now that I am back home.
But I make a conscious effort to lessen my load.
I also loved the fact that I met so many other people along the way from all over the world, people who did anywhere from the 800 km trek to 300 km to 100 km from all parts of Europe. I even met a man going the other way—starting from Santiago de Compostela walking to Rome.
On the last day, the sixth day our last 5 km, we all stayed together for the first time and we all entered Santiago de Compostella at the same time.
In front of the cathedral, we all hugged one another and I noticed how most of us were in tears.
It was such a beautiful sight and to know that we were able to finish the Camino. And now we could look forward to hugging the Statue of St. James and visit his crypt where his bones are buried, and be able to celebrate mass with all the other pilgrims.
At the end of the mass what was most exhilarating and breathtaking was to experience the Botafumeiro (“smoke expeller” in Galician), a very rare experience as it happens only every Sunday and on special occasions.
When the Botafumeiro is swung, the cathedral is filled with the smell of incense.
To lift the description from the internet:
“The Botafumeiro is suspended from a pulley mechanism in the dome on the roof of the church. The current pulley mechanism was installed in 1604.
“The present Botafumeiro is made of an alloy of brass and bronze and is plated by a very thin 20 micrometer layer of silver. The current Botafumeiro was created by the gold and silversmith José Losada in 1851.
“The Santiago de Compostela Botafumeiro is one of the largest censers in the world, weighing 80 kg and measuring 1.60 meters in height. It is normally on exhibition in the library of the cathedral, but during certain important religious occasions, it is brought to the floor of the cathedral and attached to ropes hung from the pulley mechanism.
“At the top of the swing, the Botafumeiro reaches heights of 21 m. It swings in a 65-m arc The maximum angle achieved is about 82 degrees…
“One tradition has it that the use of a swinging censer in the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral began in the 11th century. Arriving pilgrims were tired and unwashed. It was also believed that incense smoke had a prophylactic effect in the time of plagues and epidemics.”
That day in the cathedral, the scent of incense marked our moment of prayer. We thanked God for this precious blessing called life.