I lived through three Popes in my lifetime. I was just 8 months old when then Pope now Saint John Paul II visited the Philippines for the second time (first time was in 1981, a good 13 years before I was born in this world) as part of the World Youth Day festivities in Manila. When I was about to turn 11, he passed away and was succeeded by now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. 8 years later, he stepped down and passed on the reigns to Pope Francis.
From the time he became the Pope he has gone away from tradition at the same time transcended borders that we people made for ourselves. He loved the children wherever he goes. He reached out to people in sickness. He helped resolved conflicts around the world. He has his words on current issues that every one of us face on a daily basis from poverty to corruption, from LGBT issues to scandals that have rocked the Catholic church over the past couple of years, from technology to climate change. He touched not only Catholics, but also non-Catholics, agnostics and atheists. Even though it’s only been less than two years into his tenure as the leader of the Catholic Church. He has indeed changed a lot of people’s lives, and continues to do so every single day.
When it was announced months ago that he was coming to the Philippines as a part of his trip in Asia, I could not help myself not to miss this opportunity. After all, you don’t often see these events come in your lifetime. I admit, I was not that much serious about planning what to do in that event. I didn’t have much for my own to make a better plan.
Then came his arrival on a cool Thursday night in Manila, as the SriLankan Airlines jet that took Pope Francis and his entourage from Colombo to our nation. Filipinos knew that something special is about to happen over the next five days. And true enough, everything took off from the time he stepped out on the plane and do his work on our home soil. I wanted to be there at his arrival, to do two things in one. One is to continue my hobby of plane spotting with my good friend as the jet that took the Pope was an airline that doesn’t have flights in and out of the country, and seeing the Pope live and in living color. Unfortunately, prior commitments prevented me to do so.
I knew I could not go into every event during his visit to our nation. I live far from his motorcade routes and the places he’s going around Manila. It would be a shame on my end if I did not go to at least one event to see him live in person. I really wanted to live the moment and share my stories for the next generation when the time comes.
So on a cool and rainy Sunday morning, together with my mother we went to one of the events of the Papal Visit, which was held in my Alma Mater of the University of Santo Tomas, which bears significance as it was given the titles “Pontifical” and “The Catholic University of the Philippines”. From a drop-off point, we walked around two kilometers to the university. At first, we’d just settle outside of the university and on to the motorcade route to see the Pope. However, due to my insistence we tried our luck getting inside the university to bear witness to the event.
They closed the gates 30 minutes earlier than expected since people were pushing to get in before the gate closes for good. Fortunately for me and my mother, around 15 minutes after the gates we’re supposedly be closed for good until the event ends. Out of my huge fighting spirit to get inside, contrary to a warning from one of my uncles living around the area of not taking a chance of getting inside. We managed to get inside the campus grounds.
For two hours, we waited for his arrival on campus, I was able to catch up with my once history prof who got in earlier, as well as one of my college batch mates who joined me and my mother at a chance to get in. Then he arrived, he passed by the Arch of the Centuries which has been as old as the university itself, and the very place where as freshmen we are ushered in and as graduating students go out and into what lies in life after college.
Like the millions of people who attended the events of the Papal Visit, I tried my very best to get closer to the Pope. It is no surprise that in our generation, tablets, smartphones and cameras were rampant everywhere during the course of the Papal Visit in Manila. I admit, I had my smartphone ready trying to get a close shot of him for it will be a good memento for not only myself but for my entire family. Unfortunately, that was not to be as I the closest as I was to him was a good 20-30 meters away. I was unable to take a good close shot of the Pope for my own. However, despite the setback, I was able to see him with my very own eyes live and in living color. That was all good and fulfilling for me, as well as for my mother.
Throughout the event, we listened through the select youth that were given a chance to speak to the Pope as well as his message for the youth which was delivered in his native Spanish as it was an impromptu message, far from the original message that was written in English.
Here a few quotes from the event that have left a mark for myself. I’m sure, I’m not alone with these inspirational quotes.
“What you think, you must feel and put into effect. Your information comes down to your heart and you put it into practice. Harmoniously. What you think, you feel and you do. Feel what you think and feel what you do. Do what you think and what you feel. The three languages…Can you repeat this? To think. To feel. To do. And all in harmony…”
“So when the next pope comes to Manila, please let there be more girls.”
“This is the first thing I want to say: let us learn how to weep as she has shown us today and let us not forget this lesson. The great question of why so many children suffer, she did this in tears. The response that we can make today is: let us really learn how to weep.”
“Today, with so many means of communications, we are overloaded with information. Is that bad? Not necessarily. It is good and it can help. But there is a real danger of living in a way of accumulating information… We run the risk of becoming museums of young people that have everything but without knowing what to do with them. We don’t need youth museums but we do need holy young people.”
After the event, me and my mother went home and witnessed the papal mass in Luneta with the rest of my family on television. I thanked her for accompanying me to the event in UST, if it wasn’t for her, I would have missed the opportunity to see the Pope in person. For majority of the events of the Papal Visit, I had to settle on watching the television for it. Even so, each event left an impact on myself. From his arrival until his departure back to the Vatican. From his visit to Malacanang to the mass at Manila Cathedral. From the meeting of families at the Mall of Asia Arena to the meeting with the youth in UST. From the emotional mass on a stormy and tragedy-hit Leyte to the rainy Papal Mass in Luneta in which more than 6 million people bear witness to. From wearing a transparent rain jacket in
Here are a few quotes that have left a mark from the other events of the papal visit.
“So many of you have lost everything. I don’t know what to say to you. But the Lord does know what to say to you. Some of you have lost part of your families. All I can do is keep silent…But please know, Jesus never lets you down. Please know that the love and tenderness of Mother Mary never lets you down.” – at the Papal Mass in Tacloban Airport, Leyte
“We forget to remain, at heart, children of God. That is sin: to forget at heart that we are children of God. For children, as the Lord tells us, have their own wisdom, which is not the wisdom of the world. That is why the message of the Santo Niño is so important. He speaks powerfully to all of us. He reminds us of our deepest identity, of what we are called to be as God’s family.” – at the Papal Mass in the Luneta Grounds
“To dream how will your daughter or son be. It is not possible to have a family without such dreams… When you lose this capacity to dream, then you lose the capacity to love and this energy to love is lost.” – at the Meeting with Families in Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City
The Papal Visit to the Philippines renewed the hope and faith of the Filipino nation to live a life that is full of love and prayer. Pope Francis as he has said many times before asked for prayers for him. Let us never forget the lessons of this visit.
Sure, there have been unpleasant experiences and reactions during the course of his visit. Yet, the radiant optimism that this event brought on will forever be on the lives of the people who bear witness to these five days in our nation.
These fateful five days will live on for the rest of my lifetime. I will tell stories of these days for generations to come. This experience will also be an inspiration for myself in my future endeavors in life. We won’t know if he’ll be able to come visit our nation again, but as he said.
“Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by God… …God reveals himself through surprises.”
I am forever thankful and grateful for this once in a lifetime experience.
Your radiant smile will forever live on with us all. You truly are the real MVP! Our “Most Valuable Pope“