The roots of our Christianity is directly traced to the crown of Spain, although not originally Spanish.
The Republic of the Philippines is 92.5% a Christian nation (83% Roman Catholic / 9+% Protestant).
This year, the 500th anniversary of our first contact with Europeans, we have observed with appropriate rituals and official remembrances the coming of Ferdinand Magellan and more importantly, for our fair islands ‘Las Islas Filipinas,’ the introduction of the cross of Jesus and Christianity.
To be historically precise, however, Spain transferred and transported a new Faith to us. Spain herself was unquestionably first a recipient of this religious way of life before she could have become a benefactress of that faith to others. Spain was first ‘missionaried’ into receiving this new faith, long before she was able to launch her own missions on behalf of the Cross. And that must have taken a span of some centuries!
Unless we have forgotten, Christianity is of and out of the Middle East. You know, places like Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, Jerusalem, Palestine. But just as Judaism (that is what they call the religion of the Jews!) is of and out of the Middle East long before Jesus Christ was even born, the Jews were originally from the Middle East. And so are the Muslims, albeit they arose many centuries after the first Christmas.
Goodness, come to think of it, Abraham and Moses, Jesus and Mohammed were all Arabs. Arabs are all Middle Easterners! Therefore, an Arab must have brought Christianity to Spain.
Well, ecclesiastical legend says an Arab, one from Syria--St. James the Greater; and he from Bethsaida, Syria, preached first in Spain and helped spread Christianity. The New Testament identifies him as one of the Twelve Apostles. He was one of the three apostles closest to Jesus along with John and Peter. Beheaded even before Peter was even arrested, Catholic Church history says he is the ‘first apostle to die preaching the Risen Christ.’ St. James is the patron saint of Spain. In his name, under the auspices of the Spanish crown, the Portuguese mariner Ferdinand Magellan introduced the religion predominantly practiced in the Philippines today.
By the way, James is not the English version of Jaime, as most of us ordinary folks are prone to conclude. James is English for Santiago, or simply Tiago. Might you remember, perhaps, Shakespeare’s “Othello?” The villain there is ‘Iago.’ In Latin, that would be ‘Iacobus’ and in fact a derivative of the Hebrew ‘Ya’akov.’ And so, St. James is Santiago.
Catholic Church tradition also says that the mortal remains of St. James the Greater were returned to Spain and buried in a spot from which arose a shrine venerating his memory. The city grew to be known as “Santiago de Compostela.” It is the capital of Galicia province which traces its origins to that Shrine, now a celebrated “Archcathedral Basilica.” (Compostela is “field of stars,” in Latin “campus stellae.”) The Shrine has been a destination of “the Way of St. James, (Camino de Santiago) a leading Catholic pilgrimage route since the 9th century.” The city had to grow to accommodate the thousands of pilgrims who continue to visit and gather by the Shrine yearly. The old town has been declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The full course of the pilgrimage when following the most common route begins at Spain’s border with France and over the Pyrenees. This Camino Frances or the French way has a distance of over 750 kilometers. Such a walking pilgrimage would take several weeks up to a month, depending upon one’s pace. A shorter distance of some 113 kilometers to the tomb of St. James commences in the town of Sarria, to be walked into daily distances of 20 to 25 kilometers. Hundreds of thousands take this route annually.
This pilgrimage is a network of routes starting from virtually all corners of central and western Europe, all leading up to Santiago de Compostela. One must walk at least one hundred kilometers over several days, in order to earn the now “traditional Compostela certificate” authenticating one’s pilgrimage.
For over 1,000 years, “Camino de Santiago” has served as an important pilgrimage. In fact, it is the third most important Christian pilgrimage after Jerusalem and Rome. Pope Benedict XVI spoke of it as “a Way sown with so many demonstrations of fervour, repentance, hospitality, art and culture which speak to us eloquently of the spiritual roots…”
In that regard, a pilgrimage differs from simple tourism. Pilgrimage is travel for a spiritual purpose. The word itself does imply a religious context. Not quite exclusively, though. It has been said that such a journey is an opportunity to free one’s mind, an attempt at contemplative self-discovery and introspection. Some may view the journey as a challenge, a personal achievement. Inevitably, through meeting folks of diverse backgrounds, there evolves camaraderie and interaction shaping one’s better understanding of humanity. Indeed, each one fashions his own personal objective, to find out what it was all about in the first place, only at trek’s end.
Before I end, here is a disclosure: Please allow me to disavow the seeming erudition I may have displayed. Much of the foregoing data and information I gathered and learned from various internet consultations.
Personally, I find it a romantic notion that on the 500th anniversary of Spain bringing Christianity to our beloved country, a fortunate Filipino who is blessedly able or one who endeavors to be so enabled, can indeed pay homage, undertaking a walking pilgrimage to whence and by whom, our Christian faith was come. Mother Spain!
I am incurably romantic. I will perform the ritual of fortitude. I will do the “Camino Santiago!”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.