When the radio announcer said that Pope Francis already left the nunciature to go to Luneta, I quickly set my camera to high speed continuous. That means, when the Pope passes in front of us, I could press my camera once and it would take multiple pictures in high speed. I knew that I only had a split second to get a shot and a glimpse. I wanted to both photograph and look at him. I didn't want to be one of those people who took a picture of the Pope but did not actually see him.
You see, the popemobile was a bit fast, running at 10-12 kph. It's slow, yes, for regular driving. But for popemobile driving, it was kinda fast. Not that I'm a popemobile driving expert. Haha. I guess, all us just really wanted more than a glimpse of the Pope. We wanted a hug (I knew I did, still do!), a blessing, a conversation. But we were also well aware that he had places to go and millions of people to see.
I was glued to my tv the entire time he was in the Philippines, except of course, during the Mass on Sunday in Luneta because I went there with D and J. On the day that he arrived, I watched in anticipation as the plane landed in Villamor and cried the moment I saw him step out of the plane. I watched his motorcade, listened to his messages, went with him in his appointments albeit only on tv.
I stalked him twice. He passed in SLEX, the road just at the back of my building, on his way to the airport for his flight to Tacloban. So I waited for him there with thousands of other people. And then I saw him again as he passed in front of us on his way to Mass at Quirino Grandstand.
We left Makati at about 4am and walked a good 5-6 kms from CCP (where we parked) to Luneta. Millions of people were already in the area when we arrived. So many actually camped in Luneta the night before. We queued with everyone else but decided to move away from the crowd. There were no spaces in between bodies, I could not breathe. I was being careful because I just got well from asthma. We walked back to Roxas Boulevard, saw a big screen, found a spot to sit, and decided to wait for the Pope there.
D, J, and I took a spot on a center island just a few feet away from where the Pope was going to pass. Since we had hours to wait, we used the time to catch up. We also got to talk to people who, like us, were there waiting patiently. One family, we learned, arrived from Roxas City that same morning. They flew in because their son (I think he was about 8 years old) wanted to see the Pope. Few minutes before the Pope arrived, we let the boy stand on a ledge in front of us so he could get a good view of Pope Francis. D volunteered to hold him so he won't fall. He had the biggest smile after he saw the Pope. His parents were happy, too.
I shall share my reflection about the Pope's messages and what happened that day in
Luneta Roxas Boulevard. But that would be for another blog entry. For now, here's sharing some images I took.
It was indeed quite heartwarming to see parents take their children to see the Pope.
That day was also the feast of the Sto. Nino. Devotees brought their baby Jesus to be blessed.
There was a tropical storm and it rained at around 9am. It was incredibly cold that day.
But everyone was wonderful. They shared. They followed rules. They were extra kind.
We waited for 12 hours under the rain. "Are you sure you can do this?" J asked me the day before.
"We will not be able to pee, we will be drenched in rain, we can't leave our spot," he added.
I replied: "After India, nothing could discourage me. And if the Pope, who is already 78 years old,
could stand for hours and commit to a very tight schedule, I've no reason not to do this."
The police could not leave their post, so they ate their lunch there.
As expected, a lot of people brought their gadgets. This was taken a few minutes before the Pope arrived.
See the photo on the iPad? People as far as the eyes can see.
This was taken on our way home. People did not complain despite the rain.
Kindness and smiles and hugs were given so generously that day.
D, J, and I went home grateful, hopeful, and inspired.