*This article was written before Cardinal Chito Tagle was elevated to the College of Cardinals.
I have been privileged to travel with the good Cardinal Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle twice: four years ago, in Europe when he was still the Bishop of Imus, Cavite; and recently, in Israel, a couple of weeks after the announcement of his appointment as the new Archbishop of Manila. Both were pilgrimages that my JesCom team and I had to film.
That the trips were unforgettable is a huge understatement. I have learned so much from travelling with Bishop (as we still fondly call him despite his new title) that I thought I should share these valuable lessons with you. These nuggets of travel wisdom ought to be remembered by all travellers.
1. See everything with the eyes of a first-time traveller.
As a member of the International Theological Commission of the Vatican since he was a young priest 14 years ago, Bishop frequently visits Rome to attend conferences and meetings. But you wouldn’t think that with the way he still marveled at Italian architecture or even just the passing crowd. This ability to see even the most familiar of things in a new light is something that a traveller should hone to get the most out of each trip.
2. Walk as much as you can.
Bishop loves to take walks (and, preferably, by himself). In a foreign land, the act of walking is both relaxing and eye-opening. By taking the time to walk, one breathes in the local culture and allows one to see local life in a different perspective. This, I think, is the true essence of travel.
3. Learn how to say ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in another language.
Bishop speaks several languages fluently. Seeing and hearing him slip into Italian or Spanish effortlessly is so fascinating that it always makes me think: I want to be just like him when I grow up.
But you don’t have to be as skilled in the languages as Bishop. Learning a few basic words such as ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘excuse me’ will help you communicate with the locals. An observation: when locals hear foreigners speak their language (albeit with great difficulty), their faces ALWAYS light up. They appreciate the effort one puts into learning their language and instantly become friendlier and more helpful.
4. Patience is a virtue a.k.a. don’t sweat the small stuff.
Travelling is not always smooth. There is bound to be hiccups along the way. And believe me, we’ve had a lot during our European pilgrimage. But I never saw Bishop get flustered or agitated. In fact, he was always cool, to say the least. And that dissipated the tension among us, his travel companions.
5. It’s never too late or too cold for gelato.
It was 15 degrees when we were in Rome. But Bishop insisted that we eat gelato. He said the weather may be too cold but consider this: when will you ever have another chance to eat gelato IN ROME again? In other words, do not allow small things to get in the way of your enjoyment and experience.
Sometimes, when we travel, we focus too much on the appropriateness of certain things that we completely miss the point. Or, we forget to loosen up so we fail to enjoy the moment. For instance, why pass up the chance to eat wonderful French pastries just because you’re ‘on a diet?’ Are you kidding me? If you’re too concerned with your weight, why not eat the pastries AND do #2?
6. Grab the chance to connect with others.
In Assisi, Bishop was invited by a group of nuns for after-dinner coffee. We had just arrived from Manila that day (after a grueling 14-hour flight) and by early evening, we could hardly keep our eyes open. In spite of his jet lag, he accepted the invitation, telling us that the nuns were old friends who had helped his diocese back in Cavite. So we accompanied him to the sisters’ convent and were glad to have done so. It was such a gift to witness a joyful reunion with Bishop a la “Robert de Niro talking Italian.” (see # 3)
7. Travel with humility.
When Bishop travels, he tries to keep a low profile as much as he can. Not that he’s antisocial. He just doesn’t feel the need to draw attention to himself. I have never heard him introduce himself as a Bishop (or an Archbishop). He would usually say “I’m Chito.”
I imagine he can get a lot of privileges by introducing himself as a high-ranking church official. But he doesn’t do this. Instead, he exercises total humility, and by doing so, receives only kindness and respect in return. (Of course, due to his stature and popularity, it has become difficult for him to travel in anonymity these days. But that’s another story.)
When we travel, we must leave our arrogance back home. We are merely guests in the country we’re visiting. And where arrogance elicits hostility, humility only draws out compassion and helpfulness.
If you want to see our Holy Land trip with Archbishop Chito Tagle, watch our two documentaries entitled “Ang Makabagong Disipulo” (hosted by Bernadette Sembrano-Aguinaldo) on April 7, 2012, 5-6PM ang “VIA LUCIS: Sa Hakbang ni Hesus” (narrated by Cheche Lazaro) on April 6, 2012 at 12:00nn. Both will air on ABS CBN.
Here are the teasers: