|Image from the official website of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Novaliches.|
So excited were we for Pope Francisco's arrival that we decided to join his first Holy Mass in the country even if it was exclusively meant for bishops, priests, and religious men and women (seminarians and nuns) at the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros last January 16. And it was OK if we had to wait outside the church — it's a Papal Mass, for crying out loud! We're not even sure if we'd ever get the chance to attend another one.
We left home early in the morning and was delighted with the easy flow of traffic. Our bus reached Taft Avenue corner Gil Puyat in less than an hour, but we had to alight near the Gil Puyat LRT station because much of Taft was already closed to vehicular traffic, and only a handful of public vehicles were doing their roadly rounds. We were lucky, though, to catch hold of an enterprising jeepney which was instantly filled to the brim with several pilgrims eager to go to either Intramuros or the routes which the Pope will pass through.
The driver snaked through lesser known streets, virtually those that were out of his usual route, to get to as near as Intramuros, avoiding Taft Avenue as much as possible because of heavy security. We alighted near UN Avenue and had to walk all the way to Intramuros. Our kids didn't mind because it's what they love to do anyway — traveling on foot (hello again, Glenn!).
Upon reaching Ayala Boulevard, just past Santa Isabel College, we saw a huge crowd already piling up the sidewalks; Pope Francisco was in Malacañán at that moment (enduring some immature speech). We were fortunate to have found a tricycle which brought us to the Walled City, and unfortunate because the driver was charging us ₱150.00! Indeed, it was a perfect time to take advantage of people, but we were in a hurry to argue. Yeyette nonetheless was able to haggle for a ₱30 discount.
From Ayala Boulevard, we reached Calle Aduana in Intramuros in about five minutes, and this is what greeted us: a huge mass for the Papal Mass!
|Calle Aduana is blocked with eager souls waiting for the arrival of Saint Peter the Apostle's successor. The orange-colored Palacio del Gobernador is already in view.|
My irrepressible wife really wanted all of us to see the Pope as near as possible. But the crowd was huge! Almost everybody was stationary because it was so difficult to move about. But Yeyette was like Moses: she was able to push her way through the sea of people, and me and the kids simply followed her (with me at the rear). The multitude gave way, rather grudgingly. But they still gave way nonetheless because they took pity at our kids, especially at Junífera Clarita who was being carried by her mom. Amid the jeers of from the people being pushed back from their original spot and their concern over our kids, we were able to reach the edge of Plaza de Roma, the plaza fronting the Cathedral. But that was the nearest we could get. The place was already cordoned off to the crowd. And those in front of the cordon won't budge even if Yeyette pleaded for the sake of our children. Of course it was their right not to; they've been there waiting since the night before.
|This is the closest we could get to the Cathedral.|
To stay in the middle of that crowd was not a good idea. Irritatingly, many were telling us to leave. But they were right because once the Pope arrives, everybody will surely scream in delight. Not good for a five-month-old baby. Besides, our kids couldn't see anything but waistlines.
Yeyette noticed an elevated spot from a building nearby. It turned out to be Casa de Rocha building. So again, we "waded" through the thick crowd, the thickest I have ever experienced in my whole life. It took us almost half an hour to reach the place which was only a few feet away!
There were people on that building's ATM station already. But Yeyette, ever resourceful, found us a way in.
|There's just no way we could get near the Cathedral. We were forced to shelter ourselves from the humongous crowd inside an ATM station at the Casa de Rocha building.|
Thankfully, it wasn't a rowdy crowd. I observed that most were from the middle class. Some families even brought mats which they spread on many parts of Calle Aduana so that they could sit down. Thankfully, the sun was hidden by grayish clouds. But that did not prevent some people from fainting because of human congestion.
We were receiving updates on the Pope's whereabouts through Yeyette's my|phone which has a built-in TV. Once she got news that the Pope's convoy had left Malacañán Palace, she started announcing it to everyone in the area, causing an aura of excitement. Everybody prepared their digital cameras, iPhones, and other gadgets to capture the moment. Many careened their necks and raised their gadgets with their arms as high as possible, and high enough to block my view. Since I was the one tasked to take a video of the Pope, there appears no way for me to record it clearly even from our elevated area. So I asked Krystal to do it for me, but with her sitting on my shoulders. She was reluctant with the idea at first, but she thought it was a good idea too in order for her to get a much better view compared to the rest of the people from that far spot we were in.
When the screaming began, I immediately hoisted her up on my shoulders with her holding the camera. Mómay and Jefe were beside me, but there was no way I could carry them anymore. Krystal was very heavy; she was no longer a girl but a young lady, and every second that she sat upon my shoulders was pure pain not only because she was heavy but because I've been feeling the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome for the past few years.
A few minutes past 11 AM, the crowd erupted with cheers: Pope Francisco has arrived! Yes! And he's on this video clip where we are! ¡La Familia Viajera está en este mismo vídeo con Papa Francisco!
The loud cheers frightened me because I was concerned for Clarita. Once the Pope had arrived on the steps of the Cathedral, I lowered myself to the ground for Krystal to get off me. I checked out Clarita, but she was there with her mother: calm and playing with her fingers.
Only Yeyette, Clarita, and Krystal saw the Pope. Juanito did, too, because hé was balancing himself on top of the elevated ATM station's guardrail. Mómay, Jefe, and myself weren't able to see him. But at least, Krystal was able to film a fleeting glimpse of the Pope and included all of us in the family on that very same video clip.
Inside the Manila Cathedral, Pope Francisco began his homily with a quote from John 21:15-17 in which our Lord and Savior Jesus asks Peter: “Do you love me?" But the crowd outside mistook this as a literal question, so they all answered with an enthusiastic "YES!" Amused, Pope Francisco gamely responded with a "Thank you very much!" And we all laughed along with him!
|Pope Francisco delivering his homily.|
|Somebody fainted! Philippine Red Cross to the rescue! Yeyette has become a big fan of this highly efficient team because they were instrumental to her life-threatening delivery last year.|
After the more than one-hour Papal Mass, I readied myself to photograph his departure since we already have a video clip of his arrival. Minutes passed already, but still no Pope. All of us from that distance were wondering what was taking him so long. People were probably taking selfies with him. The wide screen that was nearest to us wasn't very helpful because a meandering tree trunk, some flag, and a sign post were blocking it. So we just had to wait for the people to start screaming again as our signal that he'll pass by near our spot once more.
After another half an hour of waiting, a young man behind us, apparently with a good eyesight, suddenly said that he could see the Pope from the wide video screen. Other people agreed with him. Pope Francisco appeared outside the Cathedral and was about to leave! The people got excited again. But instead of taking his jeepney inspired Popemobile, he took a van instead.
|As the Pope's convoy was leaving the Walled City, we noticed that he was no longer riding the popemobile (left). Many people say that he took the van (right).|
The moment His Holiness' convoy had left the Walled City, the gray skies finally gave in: it rained, but softly. And it was very brief.
|This is where we got stuck: in an ATM station in Casa Rocha (see photo below)...|
|...and it turned out that we were underneath a Spanish greeting for the Pope!|
|At Plaza de Roma, the plaza mayor of Manila.|
Even after Pope Francisco had left, the faithful throng still trooped towards the Cathedral to at least share a moment with the edifice where the pontiff just moments ago officiated Holy Mass. The church was overflowing with people. So we went to lunch first before going back.
|At the steps going to the Cathedral's entrance.|
When we got back, the Cathedral was already closed. Good thing we found a side entrance in Calle Cabildo. Yeyette pleaded with the guard to let us in even for just a few minutes. Yeyette's power of conviction worked, and so we had the Cathedral all to ourselves!
|Catedral Basílica Metropolitana de Manila. This holy temple is considered as the Mother of all Filipino Churches.|
|Caritas in dilectione was the motto of Rufino Cardinal Santos (1908-1973), and this is actually his burial ground. Cardinal Santos was our first Filipino cardinal.|
|This is where Papa Francisco delivered his homily just a few hours earlier!|
After touring my family inside the historic Cathedral, it was time to go home. We walked at the rear side of the church, in Calle Beaterio.
Upon reaching Calle Real del Palacio, we saw a throng in front of a low building parallel to the Cathedral. A couple of media people from GMA News TV were there, piquing Yeyette's interest. So we went there. The building turned out to be an orphanage: Tulay Ng Kabataan Foundation, Inc. (TNK). We saw a GMA reporter clad in Filipiniana attire and her crew interviewing somebody from that building. I guess I was too tired already that I didn't even bother to ask what the excitement was all about. I just took photos, and that's it.
|With foreign journalist Carlo Lavanga. Yeyette was astounded with her multiple ID cards hanging around his neck!|
It was the following they when we found out that Pope Francisco visited the orphans there at TNK! It was actually a surprise visit. So that's why media people were there, and that also explains why it took him long to leave the Cathedral. He completely broke protocol by making a surprise visit to the orphans to cheer them up and to bless them! Touching, indeed!
|Yeyette carrying today's youngest traveler along Calle Real del Palacio, that ancient royal road of Gobernadores Generales and Arzobispos! Behind them is our favorite church: Iglesia de San Agustín, the oldest stone church in Filipinas!|
We had a blast that day! A very fulfilling and blessed event! Click here for the complete photo album!
A few days later, we heard from the news that the Pope might come back to the country next year! Sana ñgâ. Because me and two of my boys weren't able to see him (Yeyette is so blessed because Pope Francisco was the second Pope he saw; the first was Pope John Paul II who is now a saint). But if he does not return... I guess we all have to go to Vatican City ourselves! And we will!
Till next time, folks. ¡Hasta la vista!
*NOTE: You may notice that we don't refer to our dear Pope as "Pope Francis". This is because we are a Hispanic people, just like the Argentinians from where the Pope comes from. There is really no need to translate the Pope's Hispanic name into English even if this blogpost is written in that language.