Thursday, February 5, 2015

Pre-papal visit story: the infallible is coming!

Note: The photo-essay was written two days before the arrival of Pope Francis. It appeared in the 16-22 January 2015 issue of FilAm Star published in San Francisco, CA. The author/blogger is the Manila-based Special News/Photo Correspondent of the paper.

The inclement weather, particularly in Tacloban/Palo, Leyte, had not disturbed the papal events yet; hence, this run-through  presumed a fine, sunny weather scenario. We kind of updated this story (in italics)  based on our observations as a media  man accredited to cover the papal visit

The flags of the Vatican and the Philippines

Church bells all over the archipelago will be pealed simultaneously when Pope Francis arrives at Villamor Air Base at around 5:45 in the afternoon of January 15 to welcome him, wrote Archbishop Socrates B.Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CNCP), to church administrators, to his first Apostolic Visit to the Philippines. 

We were several blocks away from the Apostolic Nunciature waiting for the arrival of the pope, and we joined a group of Spanish-speaking nuns. We asked the people if they heard the church bells ring around the time Pope Francis landed at Villamor Air Base. We noted that even if they did, the pealing could not have been heard over the jolly bantering among the waiting crowd.

After the arrival ceremony, the Pontiff will board an open vehicle, a popemobile, for a motorcade to the Apostolic Nunciature on Taft Avenue where he will reside during his stay in Manila. This will be the first opportunity for the people along the route to see him.

Bishop Ruperto Santos, chair of the transportation committee, clarified that there are actually three popemobiles: two made locally and the other from South Korea, the one used when he visited that country for the Asian Youth Day last year.  One will be used in Manila, another in Tacloban, and the third will serve as back-up. He disclosed that the donors and the local manufacturers requested anonymity but are happy to have contributed something very significant for the papal visit.

He did ride on an open popemobile. We thought it zoomed too fast for us to get a good picture in the early evening hours.

Gift of prisoners to Pope Francis: his portrait done by a maximum security 
prisoner at the national penitentiary using wood scorching.
The other motorcades and events where Pope Francis will travel on the popemobile are: (a) on January 16, morning, from Malacañang to Intramuros and in the afternoon, from the Apostolic Nunciature to the Mall of Asia Arena; (b) on January 17, at the Tacloban Airport where he will celebrate the mass; from the airport to the Archbishop’s House in Palo, Leyte, then to the Pope Francis Center for the Poor, to the Palo Cathedral,and back to the airport for the return flight to Manila; (c) on January 18, morning, from the Nunciature for the University of Santo Tomas, and his tour of the campus on his way to the grandstand, and in the afternoon from the Nunciature to Rizal Park, where he will go around before celebrating the culminating mass; and (d) on January 19, morning, from the Nunciature for Villamor Air Base for his return flight to Rome.

The liturgical celebrations of the 2015 papal visit comprise invitational and public events.

The invitational events in Manila include the mass with bishops, priests and religious at the Manila Cathedral, and the encounter with families at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, both on January 16; and the encounter with the youth at UST on January 18. In Palo, Leyte, these are the blessing of the Pope Francis Center for the Poor, and the papal audience at Palo Cathedral, both on January 17.

The public liturgical celebrations are the mass at the Daniel Romualdez International Airport in Tacloban City on January 17, and the concluding mass at the Quirino Grandstand, Rizal Park on January 18.
Religious and lay participants in the Luneta mass rehearse while the altar is being finished. The  
decorative bamboo handicrafts from Bulacan appear like lace curtains hanging from the canopy.

The Manila Cathedral mass with clergy and religious has the theme of “Mercy and Compassion as leitmotif.  The Pontiff is the main celebrant, and he will deliver a homily. “There will be three prayers that dwell on the priestly promises of obedience, poverty, and celibacy,” according to the program.

We spent practically the morning of the 16 January at the Media Center tent at the left side of the Manila Hotel. We watched the live streaming of the events in Malacanang there but we stepped out to the Anda Circle to try to get a photoshot of Pope Francis on the open popemobile as the motorcade sped to the Manila Cathedral-Basilica.

There were around 4,000 of us in the media who were accredited to cover the papal visit but 'space availability' in the venues dictated that only few selected mediapersons could be allowed there. We could cover the events though from the field.  

It was from the news later that we learned that Pope Francis went out through the back door of the Cathedral and together with Cardinal Tagle walked to the former street children at the ANAK-Tulay ng Kabataan house on Gen. Luna St, beside the cathedral. This was an unscheduled program in the pope's itinerary.

The focus of the SM Mall of Asia Arena event is the family.  Antipolo Bishop Gabriel V. Reyes, chair of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, and a family will welcome the Pontiff.  A family member gives the welcome message while another offers him a sampaguita garland.

The program says the Dizon Family testimony on poverty will be in Tagalog; that of the Pumarada Family on migration, in English; and that of the Cruz Family on disability, in sign language with voice interpretation.
These students from Paco Catholic School prepare to rehearse their part in the Luneta Mass.

The petitions in the intercessions deal with issues faced by families: migration in Tagalog, poverty and injustice in Cebuano, division and conflict in Ilocano, disabilities in Capampangan, crisis of faith in Ilonggo, war and hostilities in Waray, and mission in Bicolano.

We thought that there was a slim chance to witness family encounter at the MOA when we saw the announcement that tickets are now ready for pick up. We did not know that we were not one of some 150 media people given the privilege to cover from inside the arena. The names were posted at the media center but we did not notice that when we submitted our ID to claim the ticket.
The Mass Proper at the Tacloban Airport is in English.  The Petitions for the General Intercession will be in English and the three liturgical languages in the Visayas: Cebuano, Binisaya and Hiligaynon.

The entrance, offertory and communion songs, and the sung parts of the mass will be in Binisaya. Most of the songs are compositions of Mr. Melvin Corpin, a local musical artist. These are already familiar to the people in the various parishes. They have been singing them for years.

At the Gonzaga House (Archbishop’s House) in Palo, Pope Francis will have a private lunch with around 30 Typhoon Yolanda and earthquake survivors.

He will next bless the Pope Francis Center for the Poor at the Gonzaga House compound. This is described as “a facility for the care of the less fortunate in society, orphans and the elderly including the sick among them.”

The Papal Audience at Palo Cathedral includes a Liturgy of the Word presided by the Pontiff.  “Before he leaves for Tacloban airport,” the program describes, “he makes a short stop at the Mass Grave in the vicinity of the Cathedral, where he lights a candle and silently prays for the eternal repose of the deceased victims of Yolanda.”

We only knew that the papal events in Leyte were, figuratively, blown to pieces by Typhoon Amang when we got to Magallanes to take a bus for Sucat at past noontime. Traffic on EDSA and the cloverleaf ramps was practically stand-still. MMDA personnel deployed there informed us that the pope was flying in earlier since he had to depart Tacloban before Amang could land there.

In Manila at his encounter with the youth at UST, the Pope will be welcomed by Bangued Bishop Leopoldo Jaucian, SVD, chair of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Youth, together with two children with a garland of flowers for him.

Three youths will give testimonies:  an out-of-school youth; a law student; and the electronics engineer who invented the Solar Night Light for Tacloban Typhoon Yolanda survivors.

After the Homily of the Pope, petitions for Intercessions dealing with the issues and challenges faced by the youth will be delivered in the seven major Philippine languages.  The Prayers of the Faithful will also be offered in Ilocano, Kapampangan, Tabaco, Bicolano, Cebuano, Waray and Hiligaynon.

In behalf of all the Filipino youth, a young student, his/her parents, and a priest-companion will ask for the blessing from Pope Francis with the “pledge to commit themselves in carrying out their mission and task of becoming agents of Mercy and Compassion to the world, the church and the nation.”

The Pope will lead the praying of the Angelus.  Together with the youth, he will also lead in the singing of “Tell the World of his Love,” theme song of World Youth Day 1995.

We woke up very early on this last day of the papal visit. Call time at the media center was on or before 6AM for the security check and early dispatch to the media quadrant/bleachers fronting the grandstand at the Rizal Park. 

We went prepared for possible rain. We could feel since the day before that the weather is not going to be friendly.

From the Rizal Park, there was no longer any way for us to follow the proceedings at UST.  
We learned later that Pope Francis disregarded his prepared speech as a result of his encounter with the former street children Jun Chura and Glyzelle Palomar. He was touched by the girls question, which the Pontiff said he too can not answer.

We met the two children the next day at the ANAK-Tulay ng Kabataan foundation's residence for girls during a press conference called by Fr Matthieu. The pope was already on his way to Rome.

The Concluding Mass of Mercy and Compassion at Rizal Park will predominantly use Filipino, Sugbuanon and Ilocano, with selected verses in Bicol, Capampangan, Hiligaynon and Waray, as well as in English, Latin and Spanish.

Since this coincides with the Feast of the Santo Niño, devotees from the Archdiocese of Cebu will lead the people in the Sinulog rhythm and dance before the celebration of the mass.  Hence, all those participating are requested to bring their images of the Sto. Niño.

The Profession Faith will be recited in the Filipino, and the intercessions of the Prayer of the Faithful in the major Philippine languages.
One of the three participating families in the Rizal Park papal mass pose for 
a picture: Kit Carey and Jenie Go and their triplets Sugar, Sweet and Star.  

The Pope’s homily here will be his message to the Filipino people.

The musical setting of the mass fuses Western music and Filipino indigenous rhythms like the  Kalinga rhythm from the north and the Singkil rhythm from the south, and Filipino melodic and chord patterns like the Kundiman of Central Luzon.  The rationale: “to create a national consciousness of unity despite diverse cultural expressions and to foster a sense of unity with the universal Church.”

The Eucharistic celebration will conclude with the lighting of candles and the singing of “Tell the World of His Love” as Pope Francis sends the participants back to their homes, communities and workplaces to be instruments of God’s mercy and compassion.

 The Rizal Park mass was a rainy affair. Before Pope Francis arrived, there were rehearsals of the mass songs with the 1,000-member choir leading the singing. The dance troupe from Cebu also led in the rehearsal of the Sinulog dance. The people who were already in their assigned quadrants had plenty of time to rest from long walks, to catch up with sleep, and to eat their 'baon' that they carried using transparent bags. 

Raincoals unfurled when the slight drizzle became steady rain. Thus, everyone was already standing when the mass started. We thought the Sinulog could no longer proceed. The pope, in fact, got off from the popemobile at the back of the grandstand. 

From our quadrant, we saw Pope Francis pass by. Despite rain, many had their mobiles on camera mode raised to catch him even as they shouted in jubilation. We no longer aimed our camera but simply followed him through the rain. We learned that some of our colleagues had cameras that could no longer work after a douse of rain water. 

The souvenir sheet special coinage stamp, a gold circular stamp, features a smiling Pope Francis.

In his foreword to the Liturgical Booklet for the Apostolic Visit of Pope Francis in the Philippines, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle wrote:  “...  may this visit [of Pope Francis] lead us to spiritual renewal, conversion of heart, and transformation as a Nation.”

May it come true as the faithful are reminded of the “Mercy and Compassion” message by the souvenirs like selfies, pins, mugs, T-shirts, bags, fans, and PhilPost commemorative and souvenir gold circular stamps.

In our spare time, we managed to fall in line at the PhilPost to get one gold circular stamp. It so happened that when we dropped by, the souvenir sheets were just about to be released. We were able to get a pane of the 'block of four' commemorative stamps the day earlier, not at PhilPost but at their outlet at SM Manila.

We did not buy any T-shirt or other souvenirs. We think that the stamps, the litugical guide for the Rizal Park mass and the pictures we took are more than sufficient.

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