This is an excerpt from the book Wings and Wanderlust, the Art of Discovering Your Inner Self, a true story of the daring adventure of a Filipino Programmer in New York turned drifter, hitchhiking 25,000 kilometers for 3 years across Western Europe and North Africa. More than a travelogue, it is a guide to discovering one’s inner self. I called my daring adventure eastwind, the wind from the east. The time – early 80s.
For me, New York City was a ‘spiritual desert’. It was good only if you wanted to make a pile, or pursue a career. Not me. I was looking for something else, more spiritual, more of adventure. A drifter (free spirit is a better term) has no place in the big city. So, after a year, I fled and embarked on eastwind.
After six months on the road from Brussels to Canary Islands on a frenzied pace, I hit Lisbon like a lightning bolt. It was time to stop soaring and start gliding. I embarked on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Fatima, a 7-day 80-kilometer hike from Lisbon. This was the time to pray that I could “find myself” somehow. Eastwind was motivated not so much by adventure but by a feeling of absurdity. I needed a spiritual oasis somewhere in the vastness.
to be idle is not evil you must be empty so you can be filled nothingness complements fullness they are cosmic partners like yin and yang like light and darkness yielding shadows and shapes when no thoughts enter your mind you discern your true self you become aware of your fullness when the pool water is smooth as a mirror you begin to discern your cosmic self which you may have never seen before Day One To walk 80 kilometers, I had to travel super-light with a backpack of less than 1.5 kilos. I had beach sandals, no tent, no umbrella. It drizzled only once on Day 4. My guardian angel made sure. I had candles instead of flashlight, a map, and a wine skin bag full of milk.
I took the bus to the outskirts of Lisbon. As I walked north, the city gradually faded; the traffic vanished; the noise dwindled. I was tired at the end of day 1, but it was good for the soul. I slept in the open air always, except Day 4, anywhere convenient in the farm fields.
Day Two On Day 2, I was in the purity and magic of the Portuguese countryside. Suddenly, there were quaint villages. The road narrowed but never ended.
I prayed the rosary about 4 times a day. I did about 2 kilometers per hour, or one kilometer in 20 to 30 minutes. I walked about 5 to 6 hours or 10 kilometers a day, minus rest and lunch, from seven in the morning to five in the afternoon. I hiked the 80 kilometers to Fatima in seven days.
Day Three I awoke near an empty village plaza, not a soul. I brushed my teeth in a quaint fountain, as if it were my hotel suite. I did not take breakfast until nine. I bought provisions in small village stores, fresh fruits, bread, tomatoes, sausages, and occasional canned sardines, a luxury item.
Entering another village, a bunch of children ran to greet me. They were all shouting “Peregrino, peregrino” (pilgrim). They crowded each other, giggling and staring at me. They suddenly dispersed into a nearby orchard, and came back with 2 kilos of peaches. I could only take half a kilo. An old woman came out of a house, shouting at the children. They stole the peaches, I guessed. I waved and smiled at her. Her anger dissipated into a smile. I had to eat them right away because they were getting heavy. The children followed me to the edge of the village. They were singing and shouting and I felt embarrassed because people would come out of their houses and stare. After the village, the silence screamed at me.
Day Four In the late afternoon of Day 4, it started drizzling. I saw a sheep shed. It smelled a bit of sheep shit, but I had no choice. The farmer let me sleep there. I remembered Jesus born in a manger inside such a sheep shed. Imagine, the Creator of the Universe born on itchy dried grass in a smelly shed. It was a mind-boggling thought – the humility of the Creator. Now I prayed to Him to guide me, not so much to Fatima as I knew the way, but to the chaotic world out there waiting for me.
Day 5 On Day 5, I spent the night under an olive tree on top of a knoll. I could see the panorama of the valley below, olive trees all around, reminding me of Gethsemani. There was a stone fence down below twisting and turning, vanishing into the bluish mist. It looked like a painting. The faint peal of sheep bells made my skin hair stand on edge. I wondered if the bells were tolling for me, not for the end but for the beginning of my life.
It was here that Our Lady of Fatima gave me the gift of inner peace. It was overwhelming. I was almost in tears. It was my ‘reward’, her way of showing her presence. The moment was intense and magical. I can never forget that feeling because it is so clear to this day, so overpowering, and so rare in a lifetime full of schedules and tasks and storms and whirlwinds. inner peace may not always be a gift you may have to earn it when you finally find it you will discover it was built into your soul long before you were born when you were crafted in a super-nova billions of years ago you just have to make it come out somewhere sometime somehow otherwise life is absurd
Day Six On day 6, my pace was faster to make it to Fatima by day 7. There it was at a distance, the gothic spires reaching up to the heavens. I reached Fatima at night, and ended up sleeping outside the giant portals of the church. Every hour, until dawn, the huge bells rang and echoed in my soul. I could hardly sleep.
Day Seven At the crack of dawn of day 7, I was up, afraid the early church goers might see me sprawled at the door step of the church. Everything was grey and misty. At a distance, I discerned a crowd. It was an early outdoor Mass near where they had a spring of the miraculous water that had cured thousands of people in the last few decades. After Mass, I put some water from the spring on my forehead. That was the end of the pilgrimage. I was not expecting any miracles.
Epilogue I discovered later, my 4 rosaries a day were powerful. I was to be a writer for the Lord two decades later. After the pilgrimage, I was no longer worried about “finding myself”. My self-discovery would come in His time, not mine. I knew eastwind would end in a nice way. I lost my worries at Fatima. I would later on write many articles on Fatima.
It was strange. I could go from total darkness to blinding light without flinching. Life on the road was a pendulum swing, from the chaos of Las Palmas to the serenity of the Papagayo cave, from passion with Vicky to prayer at Fatima, from total solitude in Madrid to total immersion in Andorra, from bonding with Filipino sailors in Athens to hitchhiking with two blond Swedes in Copenhagen, from being a janitor in Amsterdam to being a systems analyst in Eindhoven. Thank you, guardian angel, for the serendipity. Please give it as a gift to the OFWs to find themselves.
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