MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — A Catholic advocate for climate change took a preview walk across Metro Manila April 22 in a small-scale precursor to a major event called “The People’s Pilgrimage.”

Beginning in October, Naderev “Yeb” Sano will help lead the People’s Pilgrimage from the Vatican. The pilgrimage will be made up of concurrent walks from spiritually significant locations in European cities; all will end in Paris where the U.N. Climate Conference, or COP21, will take place.

Sano and 11 other Filipinos of various faiths — including Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist — walked the eight miles through Manila as the heat index topped 100 degrees. In an interview with Catholic News Service, he said this smaller group covered just half of what they expect to be doing on a daily basis in the fall.

“I am very enthused by the people I am with,” said Sano. “People, friends who are selflessly offering their time, their availability, practically more than two months of their lives. … Having these 20 Filipinos who have made the commitment, it is really heartening for me. It’s something we can really gain strength from, walking together.”

The Philippine group is part of a larger interfaith group called “Our Voices,” formed last year with the express purpose of pushing for international climate-change legislation to be signed during the climate conference. Sano said if it is not signed, Our Voices will focus on building a “parallel world” where grassroots groups such as youth organizations and even local governments will push for changes.

“I’m very optimistic about the role of faith communities, churches divesting from fossil fuels, investing in green solutions and advocating for social justice in every country; I think that’s very powerful,” said Sano.

Sano belonged to the Philippine government’s Climate Change Commission. He announced his resignation to focus on work with Our Voices on the day of the Manila walk, which was also Earth Day.

“Being a Catholic, I take a lot of pride in having a pope who is very outspoken on the environment … and I’m really imagining if we get lucky and have the (good) fortune of being sent off by Pope Francis from the Vatican, that is all we need to get to Paris.”