One of the new traditions people do during the Lenten Season here in the Philippines is the Alay Lakad. People, usually Catholics, walk miles and miles of road to show their devotion, and sacrifice for their faith on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. The walk culminates into a church sanctioned by the Diocese, and once there, the devotees pray, and perform rituals to absolve themselves of the sins they committed in the past year. Here in my hometown, Lucenahins and Tayabasins from all walks of life march towards Kamay Ni Hesus Healing Church in Lucban for the annual Alay Lakad.
The only time I did Alay Lakad was way back in 2014. We were a group of five. It was my first time doing Alay Lakad while my other companions have done it before. Mind you, I did not have any practice before doing this so I consider this one of my achievements. From Lucena to Lucban, this Lakbay Kamay Ni Hesus roughly covers 28 kilometers of roads to walk on to. Not only that, the road is elevated, and there are parts that are very steep to climb on your feet.
Our journey then started at around 6 pm at St. Ferdinand Cathedral. From Lucena, it took us roughly two hours to arrive at the Plaza of Tayabas. There, we drank and ate to replenish our aching bodies of nutrients. But that was only the beginning apparently because going from Lucena to Tayabas was the easiest part of Alay Lakad. Easy it may seem because you’re only going to walk but it was still exhausting especially for a first time participant. The only consolation is that if you are famished or parched, there are households giving free water, and pandesal. It’s like their yearly devotion, too. They never fail in helping the participants in their plight. Sometimes, there are free coffees, and lugaws, too.
From Tayabas to Lucban, it took us roughly six hours. Yes, we arrived at around two in the morning with the sea of people taking us under its waves. The crowd was overwhelming. It was a wonder to see, and feel the Catholic faith still alive even in the modern age. It’s hard to move because there is nowhere to go to. People were everywhere. The only thing I was thinking in that moment as I was walking along side thousands of devotees is how my first Alay Lakad is a success, and every sweat that went out of my body, every aching joints, and muscle is a sacrifice for my faith, and for the absolution of my sins. It was tiring, and you’ll feel your body aching all over but it was worth it. It’s for the greater good, anyway.
I skipped Alay Lakad last 2015, and 2016. Aside from having no one to go with, I actually wanted to observe the Lenten Season quietly. But I actually missed it. It was a good experience, and so this year, I decided to do it again.
The original plan is to do Alay Lakad in its original form but that proved to be problematic for some as there were questions about the inconvenience of going home. Yes, since there are so many people doing this, you’ll have a hard time getting home due to commuters swarming the jeepneys or even buses like bees on a beehive. It’s like the Hunger Games for transportation without the eventual deaths of participants. Everyone wants to go home so you’ll have to fight for a seat on the limited available vehicles. It’s like a million devotees fighting for a thousand available seats. Going home is a haphazard affair and that is something me and my companions don’t want to go through in this year’s Lakbay Kamay Ni Hesus. You’re already exhausted from a third of a day’s walk, and you have to fight for your life just to go home. No way. So to not have any problem with our trip going home, we decided to do it on a bicycle since we’re bikers. We’re going to do Alay Padyak.
Our group, Lucena Bike Riders Club, decided to start our journey at St. Ferdinand Cathedral. That will be our starting point. We decided that since we are going to bike all the way to Lucban, it’s much more convenient if we start at around seven in the evening so that it will not be very humid by the time we start. Plus, we have our bike lights anyway if the road is dark.
Once the clock hit seven, most of us who’ll do Alay Padyak’s already in the vicinity of the church. The church’s on its last mass for the day, and us staying there proved to be too noisy for the churchgoers, so we decided to regroup in Perez Park. There, we decided to postpone the ride until eight in the evening so that those who’re still not present will still have the time to show up, and ride with us as a group. It’s a night ride so it’s very important for us to ride as one in case something bad happens. When it was time to go, we were very lucky because the weather was good. There’s a breeze so it’s cool to ride, and there were no sign of rain for the night. It was a great night, indeed.
To be continued…