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One Step at a Time!

CEBU, Philippines - “Due to foot blisters, I was forced to wear these sandals for the run. I have used them from Ilocos Norte to our endpoint today,” I informed a group of policemen in their athletic uniform, as I held up my worn leather sandals, still in one piece despite having seen better days. The men and women in blue were gathered at Camp Batalla in Zamboanga City, scene of an ugly incident in 1987 and a stone’s throw from the seaport – the endpoint of the run.

These sandals are reminders of an incredible journey – called Takbo Maharlika (TM) - I have just completed in accompanying Samson R. Tucay, as he ran the length of the Maharlika Highway, now know as Asian Highway (AH) 26. We are an odd couple, to borrow the title of a a newspaper article last year, since he is a retired 59-year-old PNP general while I am a diocesan priest from Cebu who volunteered to keep him company. He represents running; I represent prayer. But he has make me run and I have made him to pray more. In our daily fora, we called on people to bring together prayer and fitness into their lives as foundations for good citizenship and leadership.

We started in Laoag City on August 8, 2011 and ended in Zamboanga City last March 23, 2012, about seven months later. That first 10 kilometers in Laoag still needed to be replicated about 200 times as we ended up completing 2387 kilometers or about 83% of the total highway we were allowed to run through. This translates into 2,864,400 steps!

Takbo Maharlika took us through 11 regions, 30 provinces, 13 chartered cities outside NCR, and in Metro Manila, from Valenzuela City through EDSA to Muntinglupa. We ran and walked with at least 30 thousand police officers, soldiers, barangay officials, students, pastors, priests, and other Filipinos. We shared TM advocacy to at least 50 thousand who attended our 160 or more fora. We met many inspiring individuals along the way. Bishops and priests shared with us not just their food and residence but also friendship and laughter.

Our footprints, if any, have quickly disappeared. Security concerns prevented us from running the entire highway. After the first 320 kilometers, we decided to alternate our running and to walking four km. and running eight km., so others may join. Human limitations, and there were many, leave no room for boasting. We were not trying to set records. Rather, we were coming together to change ourselves and the Philippines, one step at a time.

Palm Sunday celebrates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The prophet from Galilee had travelled around 104 km. All the gospel accounts of the entry involve a colt or an ass that Jesus rides on. If anything good came out of Takbo Maharlika, it was not because of the pair that ran the highway but of the “RIDER” to whom we tried to make ourselves available.

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Yes, one step at a time.

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