Blink and You’ll Miss It: The Papal Visit 2015 Edition

January 19 was the last day of Pope Francis’s visit to the Philippines. Upon arriving at the Villamor Air Base with my family and walking to the main road, I was hardly surprised to see that as early as at five in the morning, there were rows and rows of people standing and waiting to catch a glimpse of the pope before his departure.

Some had even been waiting since two in the morning despite the fact that the ground was sticky and muddy – almost like walking on a bed of uncooked brownie batter. I trudged through the mud and soil while being fully aware that my parents considered the act of seeing the pope quickly drive by on his Popemobile as an act of pilgrimage in itself.

While waiting for the pope, I stood in a sticky, sweaty crowd with my family for around four hours. Although my parents are much older than I am and although they suffer from their respective health problems, it amazed me to see that they did not utter a single complaint and instead used the time spent waiting to say a few rosaries. Unlike me, not once did they longingly look back at the nearby Pancake House or attempt to find ways to nap while standing up.

Out of curiosity, I politely asked my mother why she was so willing to wait for hours on end just to get a glimpse of the pope. She firmly expressed her belief that such an experience would be more meaningful than simply sitting and watching television in the comfort of our own home. She was adamant about the entire experience being a meaningful way to send off the pope, an experience that I figured would never be commensurate with that of sitting placidly in front of a television set while eating chips and drinking Coke.

True enough, I discovered that there’s a lot you don’t see on television as compared to when you’re sandwiched in between rows and rows of people. Many vans and police cars drove by before the pope finally whizzed by, with the crowds cheering for every single one as a means of “practicing for the real thing.” As 9:30 AM drew closer, people were screaming and cheering for any vehicle that passed by, even for a security guard just crossing the street or for a worker dozing off on a hammock that was haphazardly attached to the back of a delivery truck.

The “real thing” took place at around 9:30 AM on the exact second that I turned my head away from the road. With my vision blinded by a sea of cameras and iPhones, I looked up and saw the white outline of the pope’s cap and the back of his cassock for a second or maybe even less. Although my initial reaction was to question the significance of the many hours I spent waiting to see something that lasted for just one second, I learned so much from how my parents were exhilarated simply because they had been in the pope’s presence.

Seeing my mother and father willing to be pressed up against a throng of bodies under the sweltering Manila sun showed me how devoted they were (and continue to be) to their Catholic faith. Despite everything, I was glad to have been able to share this experience with my parents, as it had clearly left them with a feeling of euphoria and had also reassured them of their strong  faith. Rather than continuing to engage in the natural tendency that anyone would have by complaining about having to wait, in that moment it made perfect sense to me that there is indeed a myriad of reasons why many Filipinos like my parents are so willing to make great sacrifices in the name of their faith.


Photograph (c) Yahoo! News

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