My essay weaves three lines of thought:

  1. A narrative of a long walk from LB to San Pablo
  2. An autobiographical account of my life as an ex-JW
  3. A theoretical discussion and exploration on walking

The Long Walk


Date: June 9, 2022 (about a year ago) Locations: Los Baños—Bay—Calauan—San Pablo City Stats:

  • Distance: 22 kms
  • Steps: 35,000 steps
  • Time: 5 hours

At the threshold between Calauan and San Pablo City (10-km hike; 630 ft. elevation), I asked: “Why am I walking?”

This led to weeks and months of journaling and reflection. I was walking because I was trying to find who I was after leaving the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Who are JWs?

  • As of 2022, 8.6 million worldwide
  • 239 countries
  • As of 2022, 238,000 active members in the Philippines (For every 482 Filipinos there is 1 JW)
  • Most controversial beliefs
    • No blood transfusion possible thousands of deaths
    • “Two-witness” rule for reporting abuse and misconduct sexual abuse coverups

Taxonomies of Leaving the JWs

For me personally, nothing is more controversial than the JWs rules on people leaving the organization:

  1. Nanlamig - not made sin; just stopped attending meetings or preaching anymore shepherding (lost sheep back)
  2. Tiwalag - sinned; shunned even by family (no talking; contact is limited only on necessary and practical matters); mention my sister
  3. Apostata - a current or former JW who has started criticizing the religion publicly

Mention the film: Apostasy by Daniel Kokotajlo

I Am an Ex-JW


  • Raised as a JW
  • Began reading the Pangasinan Bible in front of the congregation at 8 years old
  • Became a regular pioneer (a member who was required to preach 70 hours per month) when I was 16 (first-year college)
  • Learned sign language, joined a sign language congregation, and became a ministerial servant at age 18 (third-year college, 2010).

Why I left

  • 2011: Suffered from clinical depression
  • Lost faith in God
  • Lost faith in the organization
  • 2012: Just woke up one day realizing I no longer believe

My parents and younger sister are still talking to me so I guess I am just categorized as “nanlamig.”

But writing this essay makes me a good candidate for being an apostate.

After Jehovah

  • 2012–2014: Atheism and Humanism
  • 2015–2017: Eastern Spirituality and Religion
  • 2017–present: Philosophy and Free Religion (but also agnostic? Uncertain? No longer care that much?)

What Happened to Me in the Long Walk?

The essay was a means to make sense of what happened to me on that threshold between Los Baños and San Pablo City when I asked why was I walking.

To analyze the connection between the long walk and my life as an ex-JW, I delved into the literature on:

  • Liminality
  • Walking
  • Autoethnography

Life in the Limen

I discussed what liminality is.

Characteristics of being in a liminal state that I noticed in me:

  • being unaware I was in one
  • sense of being alone
  • shape-shifting identity
  • heightened openness to multiple ideas and meanings
  • filled with uncertainty
  • difficulty committing to almost anything
  • going back and forth between the structure of the Old Self and the anti-structure of the New Self Becoming

Walking to Traverse Liminality

I built an argument on how walking was able to make me conscious about being in the limen and how it provided a way for me to traverse or live in it.

Walking has been used as a method in ethnographic research. Walking is used in ethnography because:

  • The shared encounter and activity provides the first commonality between the researcher and participant.
  • Informal (participants become more open and reveal more)

If walking works with ethnography, maybe it can also work with autoethnography.

What is autoethnography?

  • “Autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)” (Ellis et al., 2011).
  • The execution of autoethnography is more straightforward when one’s culture and social group is clear.

Central Problem: “What if, like I am, you are in a psycho-socio-religious liminal state where your identity and social group are undefined and in flux?”

  • Even someone in the limen has multiple identities: Old Self and New Self Becoming.
  • Perhaps, these two is enough and they can encounter each other and even talk.

(Photo illustration)

  • I then propose that walking, at least in my case, is the lube that makes encounter between the Old Self and New Self Becoming easier.
  • I argue that through walking, the following insights can be generated:
    • The distance between two identities (how different they really are)
    • The means to traverse that distance (can they be reconciled or integrated?)
    • The path towards arrival and reintegration or finding home in the limen

My theoretical analysis of what happened

  • I was in a liminal state after leaving the JWs but was almost unaware of it.
  • I had an unquenchable desire to walk.
  • The embodied, emplaced, and irreverent act of walking prompted me to ask “Why was I walking in the first place?”
  • A long period of reflection and journaling made me realize I was in limen and that walking was a symptom of that.
  • Through the irreverent, embodied, and emplaced act of walking I was able to make my New Self Becoming talk with my Old Self and consider the path forward.

The Larger Context

This essay is part of a larger but very personal project:

  • Creating a New Self Becoming

(Show illustration)

As a JW, we were discouraged to read secular books, especially if we are holding a leadership position. So, it was impossible to become a true writer while inside there.

Only after leaving the JWs and letting go of my “young pastor identity” did I gain a real shot of becoming a writer. I read and write a lot, voraciously, after I left.

As I continue walking in the limen, I notice that the writer + artist identity is slowly replacing the religious young pastor identity I once had.

  • Through writing, walking, and art I am still able to be contemplative, engage with the big questions, but in a secular nature.
  • Engaging in these new activities have been seminal in creating my New Self Becoming.

Writing and art (in addition to walking) are ways for me right now to traverse the limen.

Projects to Traverse the Limen

  • Experiment on walking as a platform for creative work (writing and photography)
  • Experiment on walking as a tool to encounter Self, Others, and Place
  • “Deep walking” on a specific place:
    • Current: Los Baños (use walking to explore the meaning of being home away from home)
    • Next: Baguio (re-walk preaching routes and see what emerges from it)
    • Next: Pangasinan (San Jacinto or entire province? Use walking to reconnect with cultural identity and perhaps contribute with the urgent project of saving the Pangasinan language)
  • “Wide walking”: Long walks crossing multiple municipalities (like I did from LB to San Pablo), taking photos, writing along the way, and creating something out of these (definitely hybrid: photo books with essays, vignettes, philosophical insights, and poems)

Issues I Need Your Help With

On the piece’s identity

  • Is this really an autoethnography? If not, what does it need to be one?
  • Does it even need to be an autoethnography? Is autoethnography the best way to present and capture my subject matter?
  • Was there really an “ethno” in my work?
  • Do I even need to call the piece “an autoethnography”? How does one give a work a title, especially when it is hybrid?

On form

  • How do I make the elements of the essay talk better (i.e., photos, theory, autobiography, walking narrative)?
  • How can I play with form so I can make my reader feel like the piece is “walk” or was written through walking or mimics walking?

On craft

  • Was I divulging too much? Was I divulging too little?
  • What do you think about my argument on using walking in autoethnography?
  • What is the piece lacking?
  • How was the scholarly and the poetic balanced throughout the work? Does it need to be more critical? Does it need to be more creative?
  • How was the intro?
  • How was the conclusion?
  • Based on the piece, may I ask for feedback on my skills as a writer: What am I doing right? Where can I improve?

On the larger context

  • Are my project ideas okay?
  • Who are the writers or works I need to read?
  • Who are Filipino writers who have integrated walking into their process and works? How are they doing it?

Overview (8 mins.)

In the piece, I was weaving:

  • A narrative of a long walk I did
  • Some autobiographical accounts about my past as a JW
  • Discussion on the academic literature on walking

The walk

When: June 9, 2022 (about a year ago) Where: Los Baños—Bay—Calauan—San Pablo City How: 22 kms; 35,000 steps; 5 hours; 10-km hike (630 ft. elevation)

  • Show the Google Map
  • Show Strava data

There was a brief moment almost exactly at the middle of the walk when I was tired and feeling the pain of it all and realized I didn’t actually have any strong reason for doing the walk. I just wanted to do it.

This launched me into months of introspection and asking. Specifically provoked

The autobiography

My past as a Jehovah’s Witnesses

  • Present some facts about JWs
    • Current population
    • Current locations in the world
    • Population in the Philippines
    • Key beliefs
  • My story:
    • Raised since a child in the church
    • Began reading the Bible in front of the congregation at 8 years old (Grade 3?). We were in a Pangasinan-speaking congregation so the Bible was in Pangasinan
    • Began giving 5 minute talks about short bible verses at 12 years old (First-year High school?)
    • Became a regular pioneer (required to preach house-to-house or informally for 70 hours per month) when I was 16 (First-year college)
    • Learned sign language, joined a sign language congregation, then became a ministerial servant at age 18 (Third-year college, 2010). I was probably the youngest MS in the entire Baguio at that time. I did 30-minute public talks, got invited to talk in other congregations
    • March 2011 suffered from depression and started questioning God. My faith was already crumbling down. I intentionally committed a sin as a response to my suffering. The sin was uncovered by elders. I was tried. I was given a probationary period, discipline, was not allowed to give talks for about a month, but I kept my RP and ministerial servant position. After the month-long probationary period, we were visited by a CO, a leader of the congregation who manages a number of congregations. He overturned the decision and removed me as a pastor. The CO shouldn’t know my case because it should have been kept a secret. But someone leaked it and that was when my trust and faith on the organization was lost.
    • I left in 2012. It is now 2023 and I have not returned nor shown signs of returning.
    • I have different religious identity phases:
      • Humanist, atheistic state
      • Eastern philosophy state
      • Agnostic, philosophical, free religion state
    • One of the most important observations after leaving the JWs was that my skepticism to almost all beliefs became really high. I went around spiritual circles but never really committed and was notoriously inquisitive to religious authorities. It was difficult for me to commit.
    • This and other behaviors I exhibited since leaving the JWs was explained to me after encountering the concept of liminality.



I presented where the concept of liminality come from and how it evolved.

Ethnography: Genep, Les Rites de Passage (1909) Architecture: Aldo van Eyck (1950s) Anthropology: Victor Turner (1960s)

I provided some descriptions of being in a liminal state:

  • death, being in utero, and the wilderness
  • “a realm that has few or none of the attributes of the past or coming state” (Turner “Betwixt and Between” 47)
  • one’s existential “thrownness” (Dahistrom 12) becomes even more pronounced.
  • identity shape shifts, and nothing is final (Turner “Liminality and Communitas” 94–95).
  • more open to multiple ideas and meanings as they attempt to recreate themselves (Stenner 209).
  • filled with uncertainty (Stenner 239) and, in my experience, difficulty committing to almost anything.
  • go back and forth between the structure of my Old Self and the anti-structure of my New Self Becoming (Stenner 266).

I used autobiographical anecdotes that match these descriptions.

The point I was trying to make was that I didn’t know I was in a liminal state and walking, especially after the long walk, helped me realize my liminal state.


I described walking as a symptom of liminality, performed liminality.

I gave an example of a writer who explicitly associates his writing with his liminal status as an adopted child.

In the essay I explained what walking does and proposed an explanation of how it helped me:

  1. Realized my liminal state
  2. Provided a way for me to traverse that liminality

As I am preparing this presentation, I realize that I am crossing a new threshold. By speaking up against the faith, I am becoming an apostate. If published, my parents may never speak to me again. And I am not ever sure I am ready to cross that line.


I want to continue to explore walking as a platform for creative work.

In particular, I want to intentionally use walking to befriend place, others, and self.

Right now, in my website, I am trying to experiment with writing essays that combine narrative, poetry, philosophy, and photography.

  • Lilim

    • One insight essays
    • Walk narratives
    • Collage essays
  • The Long Walk

    • Open diary

This is what I am sure of:

  1. I want to find a way to combine different disciplines and media into my work.
  2. I want to combine different perspectives: cosmic, social, and self.

A book series project idea: To continue to explore my identity as an XJW? (I’m not even sure what to call myself) by using walking in specific geographic locations.

  • Los Baños - possibility of home; being far from JWs; home in limen or reintegration? (maybe write this in Filipino?)
  • Baguio - confronting the memories of being in the religion, visiting places, re-walking paths taken (maybe write this in English)
  • San Jacinto, Pangasinan - confronting childhood (maybe write this in Pangasinan?)