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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tomas the Templar Needs Your Help

Before my first Camino, I did quite a bit of research, 
questioning people about which albergues to skip, 
and which not to miss.

Seems at the top of the list for a lot of people was Manjarin. 
Probably one of the most photographed albergues 
along the Camino,

I made it a point to stop there.

Which way are you going?

You arrive in Manjarin as you trudge up a winding hill.
If it's foggy or raining hard, you might miss it.

For this reason, Tomas and his volunteer hospitaleros 
ring a bell when the dogs announce 
a pilgrim is coming round the bend.

Follow the sound of the bell and you'll find
pot of hot water for tea and hot coffee awaiting
in a little oasis under a lovingly built shelter.

Here, you can sit and rest.
Get a stamp for your credential.
Have a cookie.
Buy one of the hand-made souvenirs.

Joe stamps his credential.

There are cats and dogs to greet you at Manjarin.

And if you are lucky, 
Tomas himself is standing at the entrance,
inviting you in.

Are you lost?
Tomas will help you.

Ask to have a photo taken,
and he's happy to do it,
unless he's running to buy more supplies.
In that case, you will have to wait!
Annie with Tomas in 2012

I guess one way to describe my initial thoughts about Manjarin
when I first saw it
was "culture shock."

Manjarin is quite rustic.
There is absolutely no running water.
The toilet was (at that time) an open pit toilet across the road.
It has since been improved, but is still an outhouse.

I was told to put my mochila and sleeping bag upstairs in the loft
I was shocked when I saw the sheets and blankets.
They were dusty and pretty well used.

But then, 
there is no water at Manjarin,
so the sheets can not be washed each night.
You are, 
after all,
a pilgrim.
And a pilgrim is grateful for any help they get.

The attic

"Ohhhhhhh!" I thought!
I really had to talk myself out of leaving.
I was a snobby pilgrim - that's for sure!

But I stayed…
and was glad I did.

I got the gift of an attitude adjustment at Manjarin.

The inside of Tomas' house is fascinating, 
friendly and inviting, 
with sausages hanging from the rafters 
and pretty altars stuck in corners.

We who were staying sat around for a couple of hours,
waiting for the line of pilgrims to thin.

Once it got dark, and Tomas felt no more pilgrims would arrive,
lamps were lit
and the table was set.

Before dinner, 
Tomas performed a short ritual saluting the 4 directions
with a sword and a prayer.
It was in Spanish and I didn't understand all that was said.
It was very solemn - not for show -
and you could see he really was serious
about what he was saying.

Then dinner.
We all sat down and were served a nice bowl of soup,
fresh bread,
and a filling pasta dish.

We chattered about how our feet hurt,
how difficult the walk had been,
where we were from,
how many kilometers we had walked.

Each person spoke a different language it seemed,
but we managed to communicate.

About 10 minutes into the meal,
a wild and barefoot young man walked in.
His feet were dirty and bleeding.

He was scraggly haired.
His clothes were simple, not technical.
He carried a very small pack.

We tried to speak to him but he refused to answer.
"Completo!" we said.
"No room, sorry!" we said.

He just smiled and motioned he was hungry.

Tomas got up from his meal,
and walked to him.
He put his arm around the boy,
and ushered him to the table, 
motioning for his volunteer to come and help.

A place was set for the boy.
He was given food and a glass of wine.

In Christ-like love,
Tomas became an example of the good shepherd.
His eyes shone with love and respect for this young man.

The boy's expression was one of thanks.
Tomas, in his years of experience,
had recognized that this young man was on 
a different sort of pilgrimage;
the boy had undertaken his Camino barefoot and in silence.

Some might say my comparison 
to the Good Shepherd 
is over the top.
But it was exactly 
what came to my mind
at the time.

Tomas showed him the gentle hospitality of a true Templar.

I felt ashamed for my judgmental attitude.

The rest of my meal was taken in silence.

Each year when I take a group on the Camino,
I try to stop by and leave a little donation at Manjarin,
because I really believe in the work Tomas, 
one of the last Templars, 
is doing.

I can't leave much,
and Tomas does not recognize me.
But that's ok.

I love him anyway.

Last week, Tomas Manjarin had to have emergency surgery .
He was admitted to a hospital in Leon for 6 hours.

They opened his chest , replaced two heart valves and put a pacemaker .

Thomas has left the hospital and is recovering very well .

Tomas is now in Molinaseca in a borrowed flat for 30 days, recovering.

Manjarin still being run by volunteers and friends , but the daily pace of pilgrims is still small during this time of year and is insufficient to meet all of Tomas' current needs.

Tomas' friends are asking for your help - from anyone who can and want to contribute any amount of cash. Even just one dollar. This will help cover Tomas' food and incidentals during his recovery. His medical has been paid. 

All of you that know Tomas know he does not need many things. He is a simple person and deserves this moment, this solidarity , this show of love.

Acacio & Orietta from the Albergue of the same name are asking for donations from anyone who is interested in helping.

Tomas is one of the last "Templars" on the Camino.

He helps pilgrims all the time.

It's time to return the favor.

If you'd like to help, you can donate via Paypal at this link:

The system is easy and secure and any small amount you can donate will be helpful.

In addition, you might want to send a note to Acacio & Orietta on their Facebook page telling them how much you have sent.

Together we can do much for this sweet man who has helped so many.

I, for one, look forward to hearing the bell ring at Manjarin

and seeing Tomas waiting to greet the pilgrims again soon.


God Bless You, Tomas!

Thank you for the lesson of love you taught us.

May you grow healthy and strong 
so you can continue your important work!

Annie Santiago

Sunset at Manjarin

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