Experiencing the Pope Francis Mania
Pope Francis is in my country now as I am writing this post. Philippines is the country in Asia with the largest Catholic follower. He will be here from January 15 to 19 mainly to give comfort and love to especially to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
Days prior to his arrival, our Cardinal encouraged us to give our Pope a warm welcome. I wanted to join the crowd but got hesitant because I am worried that there might be a stampede. But upon watching from the television the footage of his arrival, I knew that my heart as a Catholic wanted to see him in the flesh.
I was accompanied by my best friend, Elaine and her two cousins,We waited at the stretch of Roxas Boulevard. This is usually a busy street but for the 5-day visit of our beloved Pope, it was closed to traffic.
There were several people waiting with us. It is heartwarming to see that this event is a family affair for some. We smiled seeing families having packed lunches and eating together under the trees. There were also groups; friends, schoolmates, officemates. All coming together to catch just a quick glimpse of the Pope.
Unfortunately, on our first attempt, I was not able to see the Pope because I thought he was riding the Pope Mobile, thus I was looking at it, only to be told by my dearest friend that he was inside the small Volkswagen because it was raining. But his window is down and he’s waving at the crowd. Oh yeah, I think I forgot to mention that it rained? Yes it did! And you know what? We did not mind! Me and the rest of the crowd (hundreds of people from that vantage point). Seeing the Pope was all that matters. And because I was not successful, I knew I want to try seeing him again, even if I have to wait.
On our second attempt, we are going to wait for him as he is enroute to MOA Arena for his Encounter with the Families. When we arrived near CCP at around 3pm, there was already a thick crowd. Even thicker from where we came from in the morning. I was blessed with good companions who were so concerned for me and they found me a spot right at the front. We waited for more than two hours together with these crowd:
Yes, we waited for almost 2.5 hours. Standing under the hot afternoon sun behind a crowded barrier. Cellphone communication was down, for security purposes, and so Facebook and Instagram were out as an option to while away the time. But it was replaced by something more beautiful, which is human interaction. I talked to people beside me, each has their own stories to tell; where they come from, how often they already saw the Pope since he arrived and how long each experience was (mind you the longest is 5 seconds). But each in awe and teary eyed as they share their stories. The whole boulevard was heavily guarded by policemen but they are all very nice. In fact, the crowd was very disciplined. Each waited patiently for that special moment, and when it did, it was awesome out of body experience.
Upon seeing him, I was overwhelmed that I almost cried. The convoy was fast and by the time he approached us, he was looking at the other side but from afar I saw that big smile and how he waived left and right seemingly hoping to give each and everyone of us his blessing. It was amazing. It all happened so fast, 5 seconds or 7 maybe? But none of us mind. In fact As a Catholic, this is a very memorable moment for all of us. And I begin to understand. We are overwhelmed in seeing him not because we worship him, but because we are inspired by his words and more so by his deeds. We cry when we see him because we feel that because of his humble heart, we will be equally blessed if he lays his loving hands on our heads to give us a blessing. His infectious smile, for which he is very popular off, radiates a man at peace. He has a smile that reaches his eyes and touches our hearts. It is not merely the man that we adore, but it his heart and spirit we wish to emanate.
Filipino Catholics are on a spiritual high until the day Pope Francis leaves the Philippines. But I pray that each of us, millions of Filipinos who participated in this once in a lifetime event of seeing a well loved Pope, take something out of this experience. May we instill in our hearts the lessons that he thought us; Mercy and compassion. May each of us take from this experience the desire each and everyday to be better Catholics than we are the previous day.. And most of all may we always have that genuine smile that comes from having a genuine heart for others.
To our beloved Pope Francis, thank you so much for visiting our country. You have touched our lives and helped us strengthen our faith. Thank you for your words of wisdom and most of all, thank you for showing us the true meaning of how it is to become a servant leader. We will pray for you as you continue being the man of God. We love you Lolo Kiko!