The euphoria was unexplainable.
For five days, the world stopped for the Filipinos as Pope Francis, dubbed as the “People’s Pope”, traveled in various parts of Manila and Leyte on January 15 to 19 to visit his flock, particularly the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) in Tacloban City.
It was yet another testament of the Filipino Catholics’ great faith and religiosity. Millions of people swarmed the streets of Manila for days just to get a glimpse of Pope Francis and have themselves blessed. From Villamor Air Base to Roxas Boulevard and the Mall of Asia, long, packed lines of Filipinos wanting to see the humble leader of the Catholic Church waited patiently for his convoy. They cheered loudly as the Pope passed and tirelessly waved his hands to the crowed—a modern, resonating similarity to that of Jesus Christ’s entrance to Jerusalem, which we celebrate today as the Palm Sunday.
In Tacloban City, meanwhile, not even the cold, damp, and somber weather stopped thousands of Haiyan survivors from attending the celebration. People in yellow raincoats attended the mass near the Tacloban International Airport to see and hear the Pope stand in solidarity of the typhoon victims.
“Some of you have lost part of your families. All I can do is keep silent. And I walk with you all with my silent heart,” Pope Francis said during the Eucharistic celebration.
Countless were brought to tears, even those who watch in front of their televisions, as his message awakened the sleeping grief in the people’s hearts more than a year since Yolanda.
And in Pope Francis’ third and concluding mass at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta Park, more than six million pilgrims gathered despite the uncooperative weather. Some even brought their own religious effects, like rosaries and statues of Sto. Niño to celebrate the Sinulog Festival, hoping to have it blessed by the Pope.
The drizzling rain and chilling weather did not deter Jeanette Urbana, a health worker in the government of Taguig City, from attending this year’s most anticipated event.
Together with her family and relatives, Urbana diligently waited along the papal routes just to see the Holy Father—they braved through the sea of people around the vicinity of the Mall of Asia Arena, the Quirino Grandstand and Villamor Airbase.
“Because we did not see him in MOA, we really told ourselves that we need to go to Luneta to take part in that very important occasion. At least through that we would able to show our unity with our fellow Filipinos who gave their time and effort,” Urbana said. “And just like the millions of other people who attended, we did not mind standing for eight hours in the rain just to listen to the mass.”
She and her relatives, who are mostly from Cavite, were only able to see the Pope in his motorcade to the Villamor Airbase, just a few moments before he flew back to Rome.
“Our position might really be far, but we still feel so happy when we saw him. We were also able to take pictures and videos of him,” she said. “We wept because of so much joy then we went to the St. Therese Church to thank the Lord for granting our prayer to see the Holy Father.”
Pope Francis, who is known for his surprising criticism against poverty, consumerism and war, practices what he preaches. And for Urbana, this strengthened their faith and inspired them to teach the same to their children.