We had no prior plans to see Pope Francis in the flesh when he arrived this weekend. As usual, we were busy with work (my sister works odd hours at an airline company, while my work in sales wasn't really governed by the 9-5pm weekdays rule) and we were content with just watching the coverage on television.
But, I think it was the Pope Francis effect that prodded, nay, encouraged us to go out on Sunday and see His Holiness. My Mom in the beginning didn't want to head out because she wanted us to be safe and was happy with just watching everything on TV. She also reasoned, "Wag na tayo makigulo, it might not be safe! Also, no one will feed the dogs!" We have 12 dogs (Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Yorkies, Aspins, etc.) so every time we had travel plans, they were always our priority.
But as my sister and I were adamant about going, I said, "Mom, he might be the last Pope you'll see in your lifetime. Let's go to Quirino tomorrow!"
So head to Quirino we did. Early morning my sister tweeted me as a precaution:
Still, we trudged on and took the LRT to United Nations Avenue. The train was filled with people eager to see the Pope, they brought their babies, kids, grandparents, practically the whole family. Plus some even brought Sto. Nino statues to have them blessed by the Pope. It was a kilig experience already on the train, everyone was so excited! The woman beside me said, "Kahit masulyapan ko lang, masaya na ako!" And that brought a smile to my face :)
So we followed the crowd to Quirino Grandstand and walked for hours. While inching our way to Rizal Park we also watched the Pope's live coverage via big screen TVs strategically placed for the crowd. It already started drizzling here, and I will admit I was not prepared with a raincoat nor an umbrella (the latter was supposedly forbidden during the Pope's stay).
But, as fate would have it, the quadrants were full and we were advised that they could not accommodate any more people. Instantly my sister said, "Let's head to Roxas Boulevard and wait there!" Since we studied his route the night before, we knew that he would be passing by that long stretch of road from the Nunciature to Quirino Grandstand. "Roxas is so long, it's impossible we wouldn't be able to squeeze in." Love her enthusiasm! We were not about to be displaced so easily!
So after a quick lunch in Rob Manila, we walked towards Roxas. By now the temperature has dropped and it was really raining, I really had to buy an umbrella just to keep myself dry.
We arrived at 1pm, walked around, and found a spot on the island in the middle of the road. The Pope was estimated to pass by at 2:30pm, so we clutched our jackets and umbrellas and waited. Boy the waiting -- in the cold, with the sea wind blowing -- was almost agonizing. It was so cold! My jacket was already soaking wet and the chill I felt was two-fold. I was not hiding it, I was trembling while I waited and there were some also standing on the island that didn't have any jackets nor umbrellas, just a thin sheet of plastic which served as their raincoat. They were quiet and trembling, possibly because talking would expend so much energy and they need to keep themselves warm. This is a fine example of the great lengths a Filipino will go through just to get a glimpse of His Holiness.
And then, at 2:25pm everyone folded their umbrellas even though it was already raining so hard, and waited for the Pontiff to pass. Umbrellas were folded because they would get into the way of everyone's phone cameras, and when we saw the convoy everyone raised their hands holding their gadgets, cheered, and then filmed/took photos.
My shot was about a minute long because I didn't want to risk missing anything important. This was a once in a lifetime experience!
So there. A glimpse of the Pope -- our Pope! There are no words, you will really cry and feel overwhelmed!
Thank you, Pope Francis, for gracing us with your presence! It was really a life-changing experience. After seeing the Pope, everyone scrambled to the nearest shelter (in our case it was Diamond Hotel) trembling but happy. After making sure my Mom and sister were okay, we walked as fast towards Pedro Gil LRT station so we can head home. I already had a major headache, my hands and arms were trembling because of the cold, I was sleepy and tired. I was going to be sick for sure.
The only regret we all had was we didn't have our Dad with us that day because he was all the way in Mindanao, but we prayed for him dearly. Now there are rumors that Pope might come back next January, and when that is confirmed we'll be ready!
I hope everyone was deeply touched by Lolo Kiko's visit to the Philippines. Let me end with two of his best teachings:
"Allow yourself to be surprised by the love of God."
"To learn how to love is the most important lesson in life."