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The Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago at Galicia, Spain

I am a sucker of tours – anything related about culture and heritage. I am such a sucker that I was able to build a business out of it by selling tours myself.  Now that I am making a bit of money out of it, I have become more curious how are the tours around the world are done.  Let me cite an example – a pilgrimage tour. 

Locally I can only think of the Visita Iglesia – visiting churches on Maundy Thursday and Holy Friday for just a daytime duration. I did organized visitas to iglesias en Cavite, Batangas, Bataan y Pampanga recientemente so I can relate a bit to this.  

Pero en otras partes del mundo,  puedes un mes o mas.  Un ejemplo es Way of St. James o El Camino de Santiago en Español, a revered site visited by millions of peregrinos or pilgrims to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwest of Spain where tradition has it that the remains of Saint James (one of Twelve Apostles of Jesus) carried by boat from Jerusalem is buried. This route can be traced to Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Italy and finally to Spain even declared as the first European Cultural Route and was also named one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.

As I listen to Fr. Ben Nebres, former President of Ateneo University, he was 71 years old that time sharing how he did his solo peregrinacion a pie durante 37 dias (on foot for 37 days) on 2011, I can’t help to wonder how he did it. He talks about his first week on how his body underwent physical adjustments then his second week the challenge becomes more mental like fighting the boredom of endless walking and Why-I-am-doing-this-by-the-way question. However the succeeding weeks gave him majestic sceneries of low-lying clouds, cadre of ships and goats passing by the road to the point of getting stuck for 30 min because he could not pass through and endless treeless mesetas (high plains). 

He can actually take a bus or ride a car to arrive quicker in the final route but he said the joy of walking is priceless because along the way he met a lot of pilgrims with different stories to share.  He remembered a newly-wed French couple who wanted to start their married life with this pilgrimage tour, a Japanese man who has been walking for 5 years and this old Galician man in one of the roads who is asking a few cents to be dropped to a hat he is holding upside down because he would like to guard this place from rapid technology advancement. 

Another one  is this newly ordained only in his thirties priest whome he said is very good looking he met in one of the churches he dropped by. Now after hearing this, the ladies in the audience including me has become more attentive of his lecture more than ever.

In St. Jean Pied de Port, a French town is where Fr. Ben started and registered to the Pilgrim Office  to get his Pilgrim passport. Reaching Spain, he mentioned a lot of historic places like the Pamplona (known for the running of the bulls feast), Burgos (birthplace of Spain’s national El Cid Campeador), Sarria (with a lot of beautiful chapels along the way) and Sto. Domingo de la Calzada at La Rioja where there are live roosters in front of the cathedral always. He joked his walking from 22 kms to 30 kms DAILY gave him the opportunity to discover the parts of his feet that he thought would have never existed. He always look forward the menu del peregrino  when gets back to his room cada noche porque un  botella de vino! He proved that his feet become a size bigger after weeks of walking that he needs to buy a new pair of shoes and the worst thing that a walking pilgrim should never let happen is to have blisters. There is nothing to worry though as the way going there hay un mucho de farmacias. He has never seen a drug store that has a lot of different medications specifically for a foot! 

The reward in reaching Santiago de Compostela is to attend its famous noon mass to witness the unforgettable ritual of the swinging of botafumeiro, the world’s greatest dispenser of incense swung by 8 men in which I saw in the video it almost reaches the ceiling of the transept!  Of course the highlight is to visit the high altar then kiss the bronze statue of Santiago and venerate his remains beneath it. There is also a hearsay that one can see the Milky Way there in a star-studded night! When his journey is about to end and his friends waiting for him who have taken a different route, he felt sad. But he is happy at the same time  that he got his credenciales for completing this as attested by a lot of sello (stamp) all over it and his scallop shell. After all he did serious walking exercises for this just like an athlete prepares for a super duper tough race. 

This talk Memories of a Pilgrimage by Fr Bienvenido Nebres happened in Shangrila Plaza, Boni on July 5. Photos are from the exhibit of the same talk. 


  1. of "majestic sceneries of low-lying clouds, cadre of ships and goats passing by the road.." me too

  2. Inspired by one of paulo coelho's books :)

  3. oh Paulo Coelho is one my favorite authors too. Last book I bought is his Aleph :)