Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Camino De Santiago Day 5

All good things must come to an end.  There was a slight bit of hesitation as I prepared for the last leg of the journey.  Everything just went like a blur. It seemed that it was only yesterday when I started the walk and now it was coming to a close.

The group that slept at the private albergue which was about 500 meters away would be passing at our albergue at 6 am.  It was still dark when we stepped outside.

We actually walked for a few meters already along the main road when I recalled from the day before that the yellow sign was actually pointing to the left of the fork towards the wooded area. I told the group and we had to retrace our steps.

Further on we passed by a rather scenic route, one that had a distinct S- shape from ahead. The ground was patched on the sides with brown leaves, the morning sun was giving a soft glow to the foliage. I just felt it was a great moment to capture each one’s shot. I was quite pleased with the shot I got of Ze. I think the photo perfectly captured the joy of the present and the wonderful journey that lay ahead. In fact Ze made it his profile pic a week after our walk.

One of my favourite shots of the walk

We stopped by for coffee, our last breakfast together. I cannot recall exactly the details that transpired during our breakfast, but I remember getting a good shot of Kacha while she was enjoying her morning cup.

Kacha enjoying her morning cup

Six kilometers to go

The view on the last stretch of the walk was not as lovely as that of the previous days. This is expected as we were headed to an urban area.

A few kilometers before the final stop, Kacha opened up regarding her reason why she made the Camino. How I wish she had opened up a day earlier. It would have been an interesting topic to talk along the walk. Out of respect for her privacy I would leave out the details.

Suffice to say, each person has a different reason why he does the Camino. Some do it for the physical challenge. Others do it for the religious experience. Still others do it as a form of personal meditation, taking the time off to ponder upon personal issues. Perhaps the change of setting can clear out these things. In hindsight I think I did the walk both as a personal challenge and a form of therapy.

I thought it was a bit anticlimactic when reached the Cathedral of the Santiago De Compostela. I was expecting a feeling of jubilation upon entering the gates of the final stop. Like I would be hearing angel voices or perhaps like I would be having goose bumps.

But instead I felt numb. Maybe because the view was not as grandiose as I expected because the church was being renovated. I thought the scaffolding in front was an eyesore. Or maybe I built myself a shield because I didn’t want to feel so much sadness when we have to part ways.

Congratulatory hugs to everyone

Group shot at Santiago De Compostela Cathedral entrance

Santiago De Compostela Cathedral

Upon reaching the square in front of the cathedral we gave each other hugs and shook hands. We got our certificates in no time. We said goodbye to Kacha who was staying at Santiago for 3 more nights. We promised to stay in touch with one another. She gave us a final wave and disappeared among the crowd.

We started heading to the bus station 10 minutes before 2’oclock.  We learned the hard way that the bus station was rather quite far from the center. We were hoping to catch the 2 pm bus to Vigo but missed it by a mere minute. Actually Chico hurt his hand in his rush to catch the bus for us. We had to wait in the station for 2 hours for the next trip.

We took the 7 pm bus to Porto from Vigo. If it was any consolation even if we had taken the earlier bus from Santiago we would have left at the same time from Vigo because the 7 pm bus was the only trip to Porto that day.

Ze’s family dropped off at Braga. Ze and I were to continue to Porto but Chico was staying behind.

Chico gave me a salute as his farewell gesture.  I would like to remember the last part of my Camino Portugues with this scene.  

Farewell shot of Chico

I was a bit sad when this scene first flashed before me, but now as I look at the shot again, it made me smile. It reminded me of the bond that was formed among us during our Camino de Santiago. A bond that will stay with us forever.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Camino De Santiago Day 4

The morning we started on Day 4 was chillier than usual. And foggier.

I now write this blog a few months after our walk and my memory is a bit hazy.  I had to review the photos taken just to recall how things have unfolded.

I cannot recall much for the morning part except that we passed by a rather scenic path beside the main road that snaked through the woods.  I just used my phone to take the shots.

On the way to Padron

After traveling for the past 3 days the scenes just somehow become the same. Unless there is a familiar marker or a photo was taken, I would not have a vivid reminder of that part of the route.

I recall giving a mock photo contest to Ze and Chico. There would be a photo subject and the one who could take a better photo wins. It was amusing to see the healthy competition between the two.

Taking photo of the same subject

We stopped at Padron for lunch.  It was easy to remember Padron because of the gnarly trees lining up along the riverbank.  There was a green metallic bridge across the river which though functional for pedestrians like us, rather spoilt the rustic setting of the town.


It was Holy Thursday that day. We were advised to buy stuff already that day - the supermarkets will be closed the following day since it will be a holiday. We were also told that the supermarket will be closed at 2 pm that day. We decided to split the group. One will be ordering lunch and the other will already proceed to the store to buy stuff.

This part of the walk I can vividly recall because while waiting for the others I gave a puzzle to the two brothers who were rather hell-bent to solve it.  They took their own private space and were deeply absorbed. (One puzzle I gave them has the theme of a truth teller and a liar and a constraint of only one question).

Ze thinking hard on the puzzle

Chico in deep thought as well

Earlier Chico was trying to learn some Polish courtesy of Kacha. I think he has gotten to a point where he could speak with an accent similar to a local. However when the time came that he had to use the phrase  (we met a Polish pilgrim while crossing the bridge in Padron) he forgot about it. I thought that was funny hence I remembered it from the walk.

In the afternoon we were singing songs along the way. We sang our hearts out as if we were being filmed in our own MTV. There was a part of the walk were the brothers gave us a sample of Fado, a music genre in Portugal which is characterized by melancholia.

 The whole group was very much enthusiastic whenever I ask them to pose for a shot. Perhaps it was slowly sinking in to everyone that it was our second to the last day together and the inevitable parting of ways was about to come. The past few days of walking somehow bonded us through a unique experience that only can be experienced from the Camino and it was a bit sad that the journey was soon coming to a close.

Firing squad pose

We had to wait for a person to get this shot

Chico gamely posing

Through a tunnel

I recall that the afternoon heat was sweltering I had to change into walking shorts and remove my sweater and just leave a layer of clothing. We passed by a stop where a foot bath was set up.

Foot bath

Ze and Kacha where somewhat doing a role play at this point conversing like Ze was the emperor and the Kacha the wife. I don’t remember much details because I was zoning out. I guess I was getting a bit sad that in a day’s time the walk was going to be over.

The recommended stop for the day would have been Padron but Ze’s mom wanted to catch the pilgrim’s mass in Santiago at noon so we continued on.  We were planning to have only 10 kilometers of walk for the last day.

The albergues at Teo were full by the time we arrived. A private albergue that costs 10 euros/ person had 4 slots left. We gave it to Ze’s mom, aunt, his cousin and Kaja. The next albergue was also full but we're able to find space underneath the stairs. The person in charge of the albergue has already left so we did not pay anything.

It was sweet of Sarah (whom we met in the private albergue) to walk us to the municipal albergue. As a token of appreciation I offered to walk her back while Ze and Chico were preparing for our meals. I didn't know back then that it would be the last time we'll be seeing her as we didn't meet on the last day.

The brothers did not have to do any cooking actually because the other pilgrims have some macaroni pasta left for us.

Macaroni for dinner

Since it was a municipal albergue it had minimal amenities. The shower was even communal.  It was my first time to take a shower in a communal bath and I was a bit embarrassed. Fortunately the other pilgrims have already slept so we just had the bathroom to ourselves. The heater was not quite functioning well though. I gave out a bloodcurdling scream when the first blast of icy cold water hit me.

As we were lying on our mats underneath the stairs that night I could not help but remember Harry Potter. Did he also sleep underneath the stairs too? I cannot remember now. But I did not feel sorry. In fact I slept much better that night compared to the night before because the spot was cozy.

What a stark contrast. When I used to work in a multinational company I get to sleep on king size beds of five star hotels. That particular night I was lying down in a humbling place. But it was a five star experience. The experience of being a pilgrim in the Camino.  And no overnight stay in a five star hotel could ever match that experience.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Camino De Santiago Day 3

On the third day I decided to stay behind and walk separately from Ze’s group.  There were two reasons. First I wanted to have a little bit of spirituality in my Camino so I could have a silent conversation with God. And being alone would help that. 

The second one is that I wanted to focus my attention on revealing the punch line of my April Fool’s day joke to my MBA classmates.

The walk alone was rather refreshing. I had the time to pray the rosary. I passed by an old church and took a UP Ikot photo.

Church in Pontevedra

Further on I crossed a magnificent bridge . I had a sudden realization of the present. It reminded me of the quote by Heraclitus.

 'No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.'

I pondered upon this quote as I was crossing the bridge relishing every moment of it.  There is a slight possibility that some day I will cross the river again but the circumstances will be different and it will be a different version of myself. It reminded me of man’s mortality and somehow it made me sad.

Bridge in Pontevedra

Along the path I saw a coffee shop (smack in the woods which made it somehow out of place) and I paused to prepare the message I intend to reveal to my MBA classmates regarding my prank.

I turned my phone off so that I would have remaining battery for the big reveal. I realized that the view was much nicer than the past two days. Bummer.  I was taking photos of the surroundings but I was not with the group. I suddenly missed them.

Walk in the woods

I overtook a group of pilgrims. I took a shot of group and learned than one of them was from Murcia. They would have gladly welcomed me in their group but I was determined to spend the morning walk alone.

A group of pilgrims

Further on I saw a lady accompanied by two grandsons. They were giving a fruit each to the pilgrim. I guess she wanted to show her support to the pilgrims in this way. I asked if I could have a photo with them. Maybe because of the gesture of the photo shoot or maybe because it was a rare opportunity for her to find an Asian doing the walk much less a Filipino.  Whatever it was, she gave me three fruits, that’s two more than the usual number they give to a pilgrim. I was quite pleased and felt special.

Posing with the lady who was giving fruits to the pilgrims

I decided to have lunch a few kilometers before Caldas del Reis. I was expecting that Ze’s group would at least be there or at least have gone ahead because I have not caught up with them along the path.

In the bar I asked a couple who came from Portugal if they saw them. Much to my surprise they said they have been in the bar a while but Ze’s group have not passed the area yet and they were quite sure of it

I was a bit puzzled because I did not encounter them along the way.

I went to inside the bar to order sandwich. When I got back the couple told me that Ze’s group just arrived and went to the lawn area of the bar. I went out just in time to see Ze. I was so glad to see him that I gave him a big hug. It seemed like we have been separated for ages when it was only half a day that I got separated from the group. Perhaps there is something extraordinary about the ordinary.  But this mini reunion with Ze and the group was one of the things I recall fondly about this walk.

Reunited with the group at lunch

On the way to Caldas Del Reis the sun was really scorching but despite this the group was quite enthusiastic whenever I ask them to pose.

It is day 3 and the journey is coming to a close in 2 days time. Maybe this impending reality is slowly getting through everybody so they want to at least capture every moment of the journey.

Caldas Del Rey the intended stop for the day was well known for its flowing water that there were lots of stations in the place where pilgrims could soak their tired feet. I saw Sarah again while admiring the view of the river. Chico shouted at her and her friend. Since our group was relatively slow the albergue was already full when we arrived.

Fortunately due to the charms of Chico we found an apartment that accepts pilgrims. He was lucky that the lady he asked for a recommendation happened to know the owner of an available apartment. It was quite a steal. For only 6 euros per head we got the entire apartment to ourselves. There was also a kitchen and a washing machine (we had our clothes washed and dried). For that night we cooked dinner. Chico prepared an awesome meal of pork and mushrooms. The way he cooked the rice was also superb, I asked for tips from him.

A great dinner cooked by Chico

Later that evening we had some photoshoots. And then we played some music. I recall that Ze, Cacha and I were dancing on the ledge of the house while the upbeat music is being played.  We danced as if we had our own club and we were oblivious to the people down below. We just wanted to have fun. I can’t recall the reason why Chico was not with us. I think he probably gave his mom a massage.

The flat has big living room

Anyway the dance was quite fun and if not for the biting cold and the trek  that awaits the following day we would have continued on until the wee hours of the morning.

That was another quite memorable moment for me of the walk.