“Panaad Festival,” also known as “Walk of Penance” is a feast that is celebrated by devout Catholics in Camiguin. During this feast, people would walk around Camiguin with the intent to show a penitent heart before God. Since it is Holy Thursday, they want to feel the sacrifice that Jesus made when he died on the cross of Calvary.
I didn’t believe much in doing penitence. But last April 21, 2011, I decided to go with my friends on their journey to Mount Ilihan.
Ilihan is one of the highest and most popular mountain in Camiguin. Walking there felt like a real road to Calvary. My legs went numbed before we even reached the foot of the mountain. The weather was cold, but out of fatigue, I felt so hot that sweat came running down my cheeks. I ran out of breath, but we are determined to reach the top. It felt easy at first, but the higher we got, the more difficult it had been. There were thorns. There were rocks. There are areas where there is nothing to hold on to, yet we continued.
When we reached the middle, dew began to fall. The narrow pathway became slippery and we need to put ourselves in proper balance so we won’t fall. There was no way we can stop there. There are only two options – to move up or to go down. Moving up seemed to be the practical way, so we moved forward.
There are fourteen stations of the cross from the foot to the mountaintop. When we reached the eleventh station, I almost feel the victory. However, the way to the twelfth station was far more challenging. It was made of bamboo ladder with slippery mud flowing on it. I wanted to quit, but why should I go back when the way up is shorter than the way down?
“How many steps are there left?” I asked a friend.
“One hundred plus,” she answered.
I started counting every step of the ladder. To my dismay, the ‘plus’ means a hundred steps more. There are actually two hundred eighty six steps from the twelfth station to the fourteenth station. It was a long and winding road. I hadn’t even enjoyed the feeling of reaching the top. I only felt hungry and tired. I wanted to rest, so I slept.
Dawn came and we woke up. The sun rose beautifully before my eyes and for the first time, I saw a thousand miracles in just one view. The cool April breeze, the sun rising on the east, the trees that grows so beautifully, the calm sea at the other side of the mountain, the sound of the waterfalls at the nearby place and many other sceneries. They are simply breath-taking.
There, during that one night in Mount Ilihan I learned lessons for life. That life is a journey with lots of big rocks to discourage and tempt me to stop. That it has lots of thorns that would cause me pain. That it is full of slippery slopes that would make me fall. However, if I persevere, I will see miracles unfold and I would be able to appreciate the great things those challenges would bring.
Today, when I think about those people who walked around that beautiful island, Camiguin, I could no longer say they’re insane. They are simply people who wanted to see the reflection of God’s goodness – people who want to find an inner peace.