Pilgrimage 2015: Adventure is the Best Way to Learn
by: Madelyn Sabado

How can I best describe my pilgrimage experience? Maybe by telling you in details how this month-long activity ran.

We started our journey here in Manila by being part of the annual program of the Anglican School Commission, dubbed as, Reach-out Manila. This year, other than the 51 Australian pilgrims, there were 9 young people from the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John (CSMSJ) who became part of this program. Moreover, 3 placement coordinators have been chosen as a representative from each community and I am one of those.

Pilgrimage Manila teaching kids.

Pilgrimage Manila teaching kids.

As a placement coordinator, I should always have the patience, understanding, and full energy in our everyday journey. The daily activity was very tiring & exhausting especially when a lot of kids, the hyperactive ones, participated. Teaching is not just telling the kids what is good or right, what is bad or good, or what are the do’s and don’ts. Teaching is how we engaged with the kids, how we connect with them, how we respond to their heart-melting smiles, and how we appreciate even the small things. The goal of teaching is for both the children and teachers to learn from each other.  And I see this on the pilgrims as how they are being affected to the kids they were teaching.

At night, it was good to hear the daily reflections of my pastoral group as they tell us about what they have accomplished, learned, and discovered on their everyday experience. I love the sharing, sincerity and how this activity led the group to become aware on how other people live in other community.

Upon achieving the success of Pilgrimage Manila, I felt rewarded because through this program, we have brought happiness in every child as we see a big smile in their face.

As what the song says “the fruit of the spirit is not the coconut; the fruit of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. And these fruit of the spirit is what we must take on to continue our journey.
During the send-off party held CSMSJ, I thought we are finally done, but then I realized it has just started.

Is it real? I cannot believe I am out of the Philippines. More so, I cannot believe I am in the country where I once wish I could visit. It is really a dream come true for me. Well, thanks for those who made these things possible. I am so overwhelmed by the place that I wanted to shout “Welcome to Europe!”

As we arrive in our accommodation, Citadines Hotel, I was surprised that we were welcomed by Archbishop Roger who just arrived ahead of us in the hotel.

We just left our luggage in our room, dressed up for a moment, and in just a snap of a finger we are now ready to stroll in France (it was not obvious that we are too excited?). Because we are tourists, we walk with a map on our hand until we found our 1st destination, Notre Dame Cathedral. Notre Dame Cathedral was among the largest and most-well known church buildings in the world with its French Gothic architecture and through the famous film, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” After that, we rode on a big bus tour which is a 2-storey leveled bus with an audio guide that tells the background and history on each destination we are passing through. We saw the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum. Although I have heard recently on the news that authorities have started removing them in Paris, I still saw it, the Love Locks Bridge (may forever!).

France really kept and maintained their historical sites that make it more beautiful and interesting. We had our dinner at a French restaurant and I had lasagna. We need to get used to eat pasta, potatoes and bread as there is no rice on every meal here.
The next day, we are told to wake up as early as 7am and so I woke at 6:30am.  I didn’t feel any jetlagged, just this colds I had before we leave Manila. As I woke up, I looked outside the window and inhaled the fresh air of France and realized truly all things are possible with God.

We had our breakfast at a vintage-styled coffee shop which was few walks away from our accommodation. I had a cup of Café Au Lait and a piece of Croissant bread, it does not look like it is going to make my tummy full, but certainly it does. After the French breakfast, we go to the country side of France, our 2nd pilgrimage destination, Taize.

Seriously, I have not heard and was not familiar with this place called Taize Community. When we reached the place, I was amazed at the vastness of the community and its design which was really intended to accommodate numerous visitors.

I was also amazed how many people were there and still more were coming. We come from different countries with different faces, different languages, different traditions and cultures that were gathered in one place to live, work and pray. I found it initially boring as we are going to do same activities for 5 days. That is why I wonder, why many people go in this place? What is it that makes this place different or special? I started to search for an answer that I even asked some people about these questions until I found the answer when I experience it by myself.

Taize is a community where you can experience a simple way of living without the use of smartphones or any gadgets, away from distractions, worries and even pollution. Taize is a perfect place to go for prayer, silence and to have connection within and outside ones’ self.

The prayers that we attend three times a day showed me that we can all be united to worship God. It also gave me goose bumps on every song we sang and how the different voices blend, so sometimes I would rather just listen than sing. And also, through the silent prayers we do, I had the time to talk and thank God for everything.
I found silence in Taize. The silence that is not that easy to find in Manila. Through this silence, I find time to relax, to unwind, to set aside my worries and stay away from distractions. This is also a great place to spend time to reflect and “journalize.”

One thing that I cannot forget in Taize is the connection that was built among the people in the community. Despite our differences in language, culture & tradition, we find ways to understand, to talk, to play, to share, and to work together. The connection we built among us led us to build our faith to have spiritual connection with God through attending the mass together, sharing our thoughts during our bible study and through prayer.

To live in simplicity is what Taize wants us to embrace; to use the facilities they can provide, to eat the food they serve and to enjoy the way of living they want us to experience.
It is not the people, the food, or even the place that I found beautiful in this community; it is the experience, the feeling and the connection.
How great our God is in creating a wonderful place such as Taize – a large community where kindness, trust and love are present.

After the wonderful experience in Taize, we are headed to the last chapter of our pilgrimage.
Am I at Hogwarts School of Harry Potter? Ah no! It is Canterbury Cathedral.
Isn’t it surprising that a young person from Manila had the opportunity to talk and had a coffee with the Archbishop of Canterbury? Isn’t it amazing that I will enter the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion and will see the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury? Isn’t it exciting that I will attend the mass, had a tour inside and know the history of this beautiful church? Well, everything was made possible.
We started our day in Canterbury with a brief conversation with the Archbishop Justin Welby.
The next day, which is Sunday, we attended the mass in Canterbury. The look and design inside and outside of the cathedral is really impressive and every corner inside the church has its stories. After mass, we had the opportunity to talk and have some coffee with some of the members of the congregation.
On our last day, we toured inside the Cathedral led by Rev. Claire who is one of the clergy at the Cathedral. Big thanks to Rev. Claire as we were able to know some of the history of the church.
After this amazing tour in and out of Canterbury Cathedral, we are now going to London.

London is like home for me, because of the many restaurants and Filipinos I have met there. Attending mass at Westminster Abbey was a great privilege, and to be seated next to the choir is excellent. After the service, we had our dinner and a farewell party for Archbishop Roger as this will be his last day with us. It was a great night to thank him for his participation in the pilgrimage and for accepting the challenge to become one of the pilgrims.
For the next three days we were in London, we toured, strolled and discovered the beauty of the City. We went to Churchill War Rooms, Science Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Buckingham Palace, M&M’s Chocolate & Nickelodeon World and Tower Hill. We also had the opportunity to enter the Parliament House and the Big Ben, through the help of Fr. Steven Saxby who accompanied us.

We ended our journey with a fellowship dinner. It is also a great time for us to be thankful to our two organizers (Fr. David & Ms. Lyn) who spent a lot of their time and effort just to make this pilgrimage amazingly and wonderfully successful. And as we say “goodbye” to each other, we say “hello” on our next journey back to Manila.

Our journey can be described through a verse in the Bible which states,

“be the salt and light of the earth…”

Like salt our journey tells us that we are “seasoned” on our daily experience as we discover things, engaged with other people and to live in a moment. Salt is also used as a preservative which tells us to “preserve” what we have learned on our journey. While the light which reminds us to always “seek” for more knowledge and new experience. Since light also spreads out its brightness, means that we have to “spread out” what we have learned and experienced.

More photos below:


With new-found friends.


With the brothers at Taize.


With the Archbishop Justin Welby.