I again walked to Antipolo Cathedral on the eve of Good Friday, and although it was my fourth consecutive year to do it, it was the first time that I did it alone.
I made the vow to do the Alay Lakad annually back in 2010, when my Catholic soul felt somehow ‘fulfilled’ after doing it for the first time. We were a group of ten back then, all first-timers, and today I am glad that majority of those I went with that year still continue to do it every year, even if not with me anymore.
I found myself with a different group of five the following year, although my ‘kid Friday’ back then went with me, of course. And then my Alay Lakad company became less every year. In 2012, I just went with a friend, and then this year I was alone.
It was fun. I was alone, but then again not. From the Immaculate Conception Parish in Pasig City, I walked with a throng of strangers. They were in groups or pairs; some walked with their families, others with their friends, and then some were with their religious groups.
There were more pilgrims that walked from Pasig Cathedral this year compared to last year, but then I was a little surprised upon reaching Ortigas Avenue because there were obviously less pilgrims this time.
I walked fast, only stopping to buy a bottle of Gatorade in one 7 Eleven store. It took me two hours and eleven minutes, from 10:15 PM Thursday up to 12:26 AM the following day, to walk from Pasig Cathedral up to the first Station of the Cross. It took me almost three hours, however, from the first Station up to the Antipolo Cathedral (also called Immaculate Conception Parish or National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage). Of course, it was because I stopped at every station to listen to the recorded message, and also because it was impossible to walk faster than the pace of the people around.
As usual, there were a lot of teens who joined the ‘walk,’ but what surprised me was to see a mother carrying a less-than-a-year-old baby on that part between the fourteenth station and the church. It was the most crowded part that you’d feel the breath of the one behind you on your nape. You wouldn’t have a choice also but to go with the flow, and by flow it means two to five steps at a time.
I eventually lost sight of the young woman with a baby before I reached the church’s door where everyone would throw coins and make wishes. I just hope they made it through safely.
As for the wish, it was the same one I usually say every time - good health for me and my loved ones.
It was almost 4:00 AM when I hopped on a tricycle, telling the driver to take me to the highway. I meant the one near the first Station of the Cross, but he took me to that road that’s just a few minutes walk from the municipal hall. I had a bad experience there last year because there were no buses and the people became barbaric whenever a Crossing-bound jeepney would pass by. What I did that time was to hire another tricycle to take me down the road to that first station where a lot of buses were waiting. It was a good thing that this time, I was able to chance upon a still almost empty Crossing-bound jeepney before I gave up and hired another tricycle like last year. It was barely two minutes after I hopped on, though, before it got full.
I was only able to take one decent photo with my phone’s camera throughout the whole experience. I decided to leave the big camera behind because I wanted to concentrate on the pilgrimage and not on taking pictures. And then I secretly hoped I had a better camera phone than what currently have.