Brother Ciriaco Santiago is walking from St. Jean Pied de Port in France to the tomb of St. James in Spain to raise awareness.
Joe Torres, Manila, Philippines August 10, 2017
La Croix International
A Filipino Redemptorist is walking about 800 kilometers on an ancient pilgrim route to the tomb of St. James in Santiago de Compostela in Spain to raise awareness about drug-related killings back home.
Brother Ciriaco Santiago began his “pilgrimage for a cause” on the “Camino de Santiago” or “Way of St. James” on July 21 for “the poor who fall victim to the senseless killings every night”.
Some 10,000 suspected drug users and dealers have been killed, mostly in the Philippine capital Manila, since President Rodrigo Duterte declared an “all-out war” against narcotics last year.
“Brother Jun”, as he is known to his friends, joined a group of photojournalists documenting the almost nightly killings last December.
Several months later, the religious brother accumulated thousands of photographs of the grisly murders, the wakes of the victims, and the reactions of their families.
During his pilgrimage, which started in St. Jean Pied de Port in France, the Redemptorist brother was leaving images of victims along the road with a note calling for a stop to the murders.
At Alto de la Grajera, one of the highest points over the city of Logrono in Spain, Brother Jun said he was “struck by crosses that have been made out of strips of bark [of trees]” that are placed on a wire fence that separates the pilgrim road from a busy motorway.
He left three images of the killings, describing it as “a timely reminder of the crosses” of a “sacred journey” and the “people’s crosses”, especially those carried by the families of the victims.
On his Facebook page — “Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage for a cause” — the religious brother said pilgrims asked him about the stories behind the images.
Brother Jun posted the first photograph on July 28. It was a picture of the lifeless body of a suspected drug pusher cradled by his partner beside a cardboard sign that read “Drug pusher, don’t emulate.”
“With this, I offered a simple prayer,” said the religious brother whose journey has already taken him “to the wet and cold, and to the hot and dry roads” of Spain.
“It is beautiful, calm and peaceful, a perfect time for reflection,” he said of Estella, Spain.
Despite his blistered feet, the Brother Jun said he is “fueled by faith and the stories of the families that perished back home”.
“The vast open plains under the scorching sun seems like a test of will and endurance,” he said. When he is exhausted, he noted that the “clouds would shelter us and we find the strength to continue on”.
Brother Jun first thought of undertaking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage as a thanksgiving for his religious vocation, until it became a “journey of prayer” for those who perished in the war against drugs.
In an Aug. 4 post on Instagram, the Redemptorist brother reminded himself to “never worry about the outer path” and instead focus on the “awareness for the inner journey”.
He said he does not notice on the road to Villafranca whether it is flat or mountainous, whether there is sunshine or cloud.
“The outer is fixed, the inner was once again challenged by the ringing of the bells of justice, that still needs to be heard,” said the religious brother, adding that “May justice prevail in the Philippines”.