Islander’s unique pilgrimage featured in new documentary

Director Annie O’Neil, left, and Phil Volker walk Phil’s Camino in the late afternoon light on Vashon. (Juli Goetz Morser/Staff Photo)

Director Annie O’Neil, left, and Phil Volker walk Phil’s Camino in the late afternoon light on Vashon. (Juli Goetz Morser/Staff Photo)

When the award-winning documentary “Phil’s Camino” premieres on Friday at Vashon Theatre, the star of the film, Phil Volker, will have walked his backyard Camino with over 300 visitors from around the globe.

What began as Volker’s response to a stage IV cancer diagnosis and dream to walk the 500-mile Camino de Santiago across Spain led to his own an astonishing journey, a gift to many cancer patients who now walk his Camino and the making of the documentary.

“Phil’s Camino,” directed by filmmaker, Camino de Santiago pilgrim and author Annie O’Neil, is a rich, visual account of Volker’s decision to build his own Camino through the fields and woods on his Westside property.

Unable to travel to Spain due to his diagnosis and treatment, Volker first measured the length of his trail and then began to walk, tracing his progress on a map of the Spanish Camino.

When he finally reached the end point of Santiago de Compostela — without leaving his backyard — against many odds, he received a clean scan from his doctors who granted him a “chemo holiday” or permission to skip one chemotherapy treatment. That left him with 28 days to travel to Spain and hike the ancient route.

As he traced the steps of so many before him, Volker realized that his true pilgrimage was ultimately the one that he traveled within himself.

“Phil’s journey is one of hope, acceptance and freedom and is sure to inspire anyone who has ever dreamed of doing something that sounded impossible,” O’Neil said. “Meeting Phil I thought, ‘Someone ought to make a film about this guy.’ Little did I know that it would be me, fresh from my work on ‘Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago,’ both as a co-producer and as a pilgrim. Phil’s journey encapsulates one of the biggest lessons of pilgrimage: It is more about the inner than the outer journey. A Camino can be anywhere you want it to be. Wherever you are, just keep walking.”

O’Neil and Volker will be at the film’s screening, which runs 28 minutes, for a Q&A. The event is a fundraiser to support an expanded version of the documentary.

Tickets at the box office start at $10, and merchandise will be available for purchase. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.

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