Tomorrow, around this time, His Holiness Pope Francis I will already be in Manila in time for his Mercy and Compassion country visit. The Philippines, considered the largest Catholic nation in Asia, has been preparing for this visit since 4th quarter of 2014 — with parish churches often announcing the expected activities during mass and tarpaulins already sprouting from major thoroughfares. With one day to go, you can probably imagine how excited Filipinos are. Early this week, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has already released major details of the trip, ranging from the Holy Father’s itinerary, the security measures in place, the roads closed and to be affected, alternate routes, admonishments to shameless politicians and businesses cashing in the Pope’s arrival plus a list of Do’s and Don’ts for the millions and millions of Filipinos who will be attending the Holy Mass at the Luneta Church on January 18.
I was in sophomore year in high school when St. John Paul II went to the Philippines to celebrate the 10th World Youth Day, also month of January in 1995. I remembered badgering my mom non-stop so that she’ll pay for my joining fee as one of the chosen delegates of the school.
That was probably one of the best days of my high school life: we had delegates come over from other provinces in the Philippines and classes in our school was suspended to accommodate their stay in our school. I studied in an exclusive, all-girls Catholic high school and the fact that there were high school boys (from another Catholic school from other provinces) sent the cloistered girls of St. Anne’s into a flurry of excitement and anticipation. We met with other youth delegates, performed traditional dances, went on a gimmick with the out-of-towners in nearby malls and for a time, even maintained our friendship with some of them. For a time, I was able to be pen pals with about three delegates before we finally lost touch just right at the time I was about to start University.
One of my fondest moments was spending the night, camping at the sprawling grounds of the Luneta Park waiting for the morning mass of the Holy Father, who is now one of the saints of the Catholic Church.
One of these scrawny kids is me, I will not tell which one (hahaha!):
So, you can probably imagine my excitement now that another pope is visiting the Philippines. While I am not an active member of the Church and I eschew anything that involves too much pomp and pageantry, I am a dedicated and devoted Catholic. In my darkest and lowest moment, it is my faith that pulled me out of my misery. I was a big fan of Saint (Pope) John Paul II and was the type of person who remembered where I was (and what I was doing) when he passed away. I feel the same excitement, respect and awe with Pope Francis I. I have read so much about the Pope and found him to be a refreshing change compared to the stuffy, traditional men of cloth usually present in my country.
Anyway, for those who would like to know where to find Pope Francis I, here’s an infographic of his stay in Manila:
As for me, I am representing my company as one of the health volunteers during his Papal Mass at the Manila Cathedral on January 16. With God’s blessings, it will be the second time that I will get to the Head of the Catholic Church in person.