An unknown author once said to pilgrims: “A fugitive is one who is running from home; a vagabond is one who has no home; a stranger is one away from home; and a pilgrim is on his way home.” And also, Dr. Scott Hahn, a former Protestant pastor and a Catholic convert, said: “Nothing makes Scripture come alive or renews your faith like a pilgrimage to the Holy Land!”

It was my dream to visit the Holy Land, the places made sacred by the conception, birth, public ministry, passion, death, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, since the time of my theological studies in preparation for my ordination to the priesthood. Studying the Holy Scriptures and the teachings of the Catholic Church founded by Jesus inspired me to have a deep desire to travel to these holy places of redemption.

My long standing dream to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land was finally fulfilled more than two years ago during our 2011 Presbyterium. After a short discussion, we agreed to push through with the idea. A quite number of priests were willing to join the pilgrimage by putting their names on a sheet of paper. This pilgrimage also was a part of the Year of Faith’s Strategic Plan which was made last December, 2012. We assigned Fr. Bonifacio Ampoyas to contact a travel agency to process the said future plan. After several months Fr. Ampoyas declined the assignment and so Fr. Ernesto Bendita was asked to be the contact person. He accepted it. Executive Resources, Inc. of Manila was contacted and processed everything. And so last October 10 to 19, 2013, we scheduled the pilgrimage and 28 people from the Diocese of Marbel, priests, our bishop and lay people, joined. Additional 3 days we spent in Dubai last October 19-21, 2013. Actually all of us were 39 pilgrims because 10 pilgrims from Manila and Luzon and a tour guide from Manila too joined us.

Last October 10-19, 2013 a group of eight priests, 1 Bishop and nineteen lay people from Diocese of Marbel, Koronadal City, set off on a pilgrimage to celebrate the Year of Faith, following our Good Shepherd throughout the Holy Land, and we walked in His footsteps.   We began our journey in Amman, Jordan at Mount Nebo and ended in the Western (Wailing) Wall.  A few of us, including myself, have tried to retrace and record their memorable moments of our pilgrimage of faith through writing some notes, videos and pictures.

One thing that surprised me of the pilgrimage was the spiritual side of it. It was because it helped us a lot to tune our souls in to what we experienced there. It gave us a chance to get to know each other, especially those coming from Manila and Luzon and a chance also to share faith stories that enriched each other. The pilgrimage reminded us that this was a chance to go to a place that has been made holy not only by the prayers of so many people who have gone before us but especially by Jesus Himself who walked in this place. This is a place where God seems to be particularly close to His people. If we look back in the Bible, there are many places where this happened and Holy Land is one that has offered us an encounter with God.

This Pilgrim’s Note of mine is in the processing of editing and in need of suggestions to improve it better.  Please be patient: most days have pictures to correspond with the narrative. However, these will gradually be transferred to the relevant blogs that I will create soon.


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