Our Pope Francis Experience
Published on January 19, 2015
I was initially planning to squeeze in some time to blog during the long holiday break, but I ended up taking part in the papal visit. I was one of the millions of Filipinos who were so eager to meet Pope Francis. I was in fifth grade when Pope John Paul II visited the Philippines. I was a young and sickly kid, and my parents didn’t allow me to go to Quirino Grandstand to join the crowd. I just stood in front of the TV screen and sang Tell the World of His Love as if I were a part of the World Youth Day celebration. That’s why when the news broke out last year that Pope Francis would be visiting the Philippines, I promised myself that this sickly 30-year-old woman would not let her health limit her desire to see the pope!
My eyes were glued on TV when he arrived on January 15. My eyes welled up at my first sight of his infectious smile especially when he just laughed at the fact that his skullcap was swept away by the strong winds that welcomed him. And then I saw the large crowd from Villamor Airbase up to the pope’s residence. I asked myself if I have the stamina to join such large crowd.
That night, I went online to check all the possible routes for his daily activities. I was ecstatic when I found out that the he would be passing Quirino Ave. corner Pedro Gil because it is just a 5-minute walk from where we live. Boyet and I woke up really early and arrived at the spot more than an hour before his schedule. We took the risk even if we knew beforehand that Pope Francis would be using a closed vehicle. Unfortunately, the place was already packed with people who were as eager as we were to see Pope Francis. Quirino Ave. was closed to traffic, so some cars and even motorcycles were stuck. I felt really sad when I realized that it would be impossible for me to see Pope Francis. But my husband had a very brilliant idea. He asked a guy, a total stranger, if I could step on top of his motorcycle! Hahahaha! There was also a grandmother who asked if his grandson could do the same. So each time the crowd would shout, my husband would carry me on top of the motorcycle. 5 times yata na false alarms! Sumakit nga daw ang balakang nya sa bigat ko! It was just as hard for me because my ability to balance is close to zero! Unfortunately, I only got to see his hand and skullcap! But I don’t know why I was still so happy even I only saw parts of him. What bothered me was that Boyet failed to see him because he was holding me the entire time.
Taken on top of someone else's motorcycle! Hahaha!
Hay! Buti pa si Daniel Matsunaga nakita ko! :p
January 17 was sort of a break for us considering that Pope Francis was scheduled to visit Tacloban that day. After watching the mass on TV, Boyet and I decided to go out to do our much needed grocery shopping. But because of Typhoon Amang, Pope Francis was forced to cut short his visit to the Yolanda survivors. Instead of leaving Tacloban at 5PM, he was advised to leave four hours earlier. Part of Quirino Ave. was already closed so we ended up going in circles just to reach the mall. We were planning to leave the car at the mall and go back to Quirino to wait for him, but Joie told me that he would be passing Osmena Highway instead. So we ended up with pushing through with our original plan. While inside the supermarket, Jaime Rivera’s version of Tell the World of His Love was on loop! As in the entire time we were there, and probably longer. But I guess the shoppers didn’t mind because I would see and hear people singing and humming with it! People were actually smiling at me when they see me mouthing it, too. Ang saya ng Pope Francis fever!
The people of Tacloban who waved, smiled and listened intently to Pope Francis in the middle of the rain are the same people who lost everything last year in Typhoon Haiyan. What a great display of faith and resilience! Thank you, Lolo Kiko for inspiring all of us and for making the people of Tacloban feel that they are not alone. The pope's homily sums it all: "Jesus never lets you down." <3
The following day, Pope Francis was scheduled to go to UST and have the concluding mass at Quirino Grandstand. When we found out that he would be passing Quirino Ave. on his way to UST, we lined up with the crowd once again. Our previous spot was already full so we walked a few meters away. Unfortunately, he was once again inside a closed vehicle, and the convoy was so fast. Boyet only saw his skullcap, hands and shoulders.
We were on our way home when Boyet spotted people asking to take photos with some of the policemen. And then, this happened!
Earlier today, we lined up once again to have a glimpse of Pope Francis on his way to UST. The convoy was so fast so Boyet failed to take his photo, and he only got to see the hand of Pope Francis. On our way home, he told me, "Wala akong picture ng Papa, dito na lang ako magpapapicture sa mga ibang Papa." Hahaha! Yung isa ampogi no? Sabi ni Boyet binigyan daw nya ng load after magpapicture. Hahaha. But seriously, kudos to these young policemen! Well-mannered and very patient kahit ang kukulit ng mga Pinoy! :-)
We watched the first half of the UST event on TV, then we went ahead to join the concluding mass. My parents, specifically my father, discouraged me to go. Mahihimatay lang daw kasi ako doon! Before leaving the house, Mama was talking non-stop! Bring this, bring that, don’t do this, don’t do that. But then I told her that we would not be going to Quirino Grandstand. Our goal was just to look for a giant screen that shows the mass because we knew that it was nearly impossible to reach Quirino Grandstand at that time. Quirino Ave. was once again closed to traffic so we had to walk! The crowd waiting along Quirino was fewer than the usual so Boyet thought of waiting for Pope Francis there. I asked him what was more important, to see Pope Francis or to get to Roxas Blvd. for the concluding mass. He said that he really wanted to attend the mass so we let go of the idea of waiting for him in Quirino. There was already a barricade so we literally had to beg to the policemen to let us pass because that was the only way to get to Roxas Blvd. We stopped by Robinsons Manila to have lunch, and the mall was filled with people who were obviously going the same place. It was so nice to see people wearing their Pope Francis shirts. People probably went there to have lunch (because all the restaurants were full), to use the restrooms (the queues were insane) and to buy raincoats. I guess some people ran out of raincoats so they just grabbed what was available. I saw group of people wearing pink Barbie raincoats. And half of them are men! Haha! After our lunch, we started walking again to get to Roxas Blvd.
We tried to get pass through the crowd to get as close to as we could get to Quirino Grandstand, but it was impossible. So we went back to the spot in front of the giant screen where we could see and hear the mass. We were initially on the service road so we could just see parts of the screen. Boyet found a space on top of an island. That gave us a better vantage point for the screen and for the pope’s motorcade. When Pope Francis passed by on his way to Quirino Grandstand, Boyet and I just saw his forehead! The lady beside me said that we could have seen it if the people from the main road were just sitting down. Well, we could have seen his face even if the people were standing up for as long as they were not raising their hands with their mobile phones! Haha! But I can’t blame them. Everybody wanted to see him. Pero ok na rin. Nakita na naming ang skullcap, hand, shoulder at forehead! Improving naman, parang puzzle lang haha!
I didn’t know that my husband already had a plan. He said that the moment the motorcade passed by, the people in front of the barricade would disperse. He was actually right! The moment those people left, we immediately went to the side of the main road. That gave us a better view of the screen! I told him that I heard someone from the crowd say that Pope Francis would have a different route after the mass. I even asked him what if Pope Francis uses a closed vehicle once again. Sabi ni Boyet, “Walang ibang dadaanan ‘yun dahil dagat na ‘yun. At naka pope mobile siya. Manalig ka lang!” Hahaha! He said that God probably saw all the hardships that we went through just to greet Pope Francis so he was very confident that God would pave a way for this to happen. And besides, if we fail to see the pope, at least we had a better view of the mass from the screen! We had nothing to lose.
Here’s a side story before the mass. It was specifically requested for people not to use umbrellas. It was mentioned countless of times in the news. Pero siyempre hindi mawawala ang mga pasaway na Pinoy. Aba ang daming nakapayong!
Crowd: Payong po! Bawal po ang payong.
Crowd: Pakipatay po ang mga payong para po makita ng mga nasa likod.
Random guy: Maraming salamat po sa hindi paggamit ng mga payong. Pagpalain po kayo ng Panginoon sa pagsasara ng inyong mga payong!
(Lahat nagsara ng payong!!!)
Crowd: Clap, clap, clap, clap!
We celebrated the mass with the millions of Filipinos (some say it’s 6 million, some say it’s 7) in Quirino Grandstand and millions of more watching from their homes. I specifically loved the homily of Pope Francis. The speeches of Cardinal Tagle and Archbishop Soc Villegas to Pope Francis were truly heartwarming. Both speeches translate to every Filipino Catholic’s gratefulness for Pope Francis. Their words were the same words that we all wanted to say to our dear Lolo Kiko! And when the crowd was asked to sing Tell the World of His Love, Boyet and I sang it with all our might! Wapakels kung kami lang ang kumakanta sa Roxas Blvd! We grew up with that song, so we practically know it by heart! With matching sway sway pa kami while singing. Haha! That song is already a classic! Kahit ilang pope ang dumating sa Pilipinas, paulit-ulit nating kakantahin ang Tell the World of His Love!
After the mass, Pope Francis started his motorcade. He went around Quirino Grandstand once again. And we finally got to see him! We were so happy that the motorcade was not so fast so we really had a good glimpse of him. I felt like I was electrocuted when I saw his forehead, so imagine how I felt when I finally saw him! Do you know what happens in movies when the boy sees his soul mate for the first time? That moment when everything around him seems to move in slow motion? Ganun na ganun!!! I felt like the world froze and so did I! Hahaha! His presence is truly mesmerizing. Grabe lang!!! Natulala talaga ako!!!
We immediately went home after. We were forced to walk once again because all roads leading to our house were still closed. I checked Google maps and found out that the route is more than 5 kilometers! So I walked at least 10 kilometers, stood for hours and went home soaked in the rain. Piniga ko ‘yung jacket ko pag-uwi ko ng bahay. Pati panty ko nabasa bwahahaha! While we were walking, my husband told me, “I’m so proud of you!” Well, yeah! I’m proud of myself, too! Hahaha! I didn’t faint like I normally do in crowded places. I felt like I was going to die of hypothermia, but I didn’t. I went home with aching legs, but my heart was filled with so much joy. As my husband would like to put it, “It was worth the walk, worth the wait, worth the wet!”
I was so happy even if I only saw his hand and skullcap the first time. On his way to Luneta earlier, I felt like I was electrocuted when I saw his forehead. Boyet and I stayed in the middle of the rain for hours in front of a giant screen along Roxas Blvd. in our attempt to join the millions of Filipinos who were in Quirino Grandstand. So can you imagine how happy we were when this happened?! I froze!!! These were just snapshots of a video clip. Boyet was shaking, and the noise at the background is from his wife who was screaming like crazy! Thank you, Pope Francis for helping us renew our faith, for showing us that differences in religious beliefs should not be a barrier, and for reminding us that we must never stop in telling the world of HIS love. We, Filipinos, love you! Please come back! Haha! And as my husband said after we walked for hours: Worth the walk, worth the wait, worth the wet! :-P
Pope Francis has been tagged by many as a rock star. His presence surely has a different effect with people. The Catholic Church has been involved with a lot of issues and controversies which resulted to a lot of Catholics turning their backs on the Church. But Pope Francis helped all of us renew our faith in the Catholic Church. He reminded us of what our roles are as children of God. He sets a very good example of how we should all strive to live with mercy and compassion. Now each time I am faced with a difficult situation, I would repeatedly chant to myself “mercy and compassion… remember the humility of Pope Francis… think well, feel well, act well.” One time, I was so tempted to say something in defense of someone close to me. But because I was talking to older people, I shut up. When my mother asked me what I said to those people, I told her that I was biting my tongue the entire time! Hahaha! And for the past few days, I have been reading a few negative comments and criticisms from other people regarding the papal visit. I read most of them, but I didn’t share any of it in my social networking sites. In fairness ha, hindi ako pumatol! Hahaha! And I hope that I can continue doing it for the rest of my life. Wish me luck! :p E kasi naman. Religion is such a touchy subject. It’s just sad that we have this leader who aims to break the barriers of differing religious beliefs, and then there are others who say nasty things about him and about the Catholics in general. I mean, Pope Francis specifically said that the focus of his visit should not be about him. But if welcoming this exemplary leader the way the Catholics did would bring God’s lost children back to Him, if this humble leader is using his popularity to bring back the lost hope in the hearts of those who lost everything in Tacloban, then what’s wrong with it? ‘Di ba? =)
Aside from the renewed faith with the Catholic Church, I also had a renewed faith with the Filipino people. Yes, there were instances of hardheaded Pinoys who do not know how to follow the rules, but the papal visit was generally peaceful and orderly. I know that discipline is not the strongest point of this nation, but I saw a glimmer of hope in the last five days. If we could just bring that discipline beyond the papal visit, then this country could go places!
Also, my Pope Francis experience wouldn’t have been possible without that one person who walks with me in faith. When I was still in the dating scene, I would always ask God to give me a spouse who would help me grow with Christ. And last night as I was walking along the crowded streets of Manila with my muddy shoes, my heart was bursting with gratitude as I think about how God fulfills His promises to His children. I don’t think I could have done it without my husband! I am so happy to have shared that journey with him. We walked together, literally and figuratively, towards strengthening our faith.
Now that Pope Francis has left the Philippines, the real challenge for us begins. It is not whether we have the stamina to stay under the rain for hours or have the ability to battle a large crowd. Allow me to quote Cardinal Tagle. “You arrived in the Philippines 3 days ago. Tomorrow, you will go. Every Filipino wants to go with you. Don’t be afraid. Every Filipino wants to go with you – not to Rome – but to the peripheries. We want to go with you to the shanties, to the prison cells, to hospitals, to the world of politics, finance, arts, the sciences, culture, education, and social communication. We will go to those worlds with you to bring the light of Christ.” It is now up to us if we would heed to the call of Pope Francis. It is now up to us to tell the world of His love. =)
So, what was your Pope Francis experience? =)