Saturday, January 17, 2015

On faith, hope, and Pope Francis

Today started out like any other day. But what made today stand out was the fact that Pope Francis is set to visit our humble city.

The days, weeks, months after Yolanda were probably the lowest, bleakest points of our lives. We were unsettled, unsure. We lost lives, properties, loved ones. We were unable to see beyond the destruction, the despair. We worked on autopilot in the months that followed. Functioning, but not really living.

But time and time again, we Filipinos showed to the world that with faith, strength, and determination, along with the ability to smile even at the worst times, we are able to rise and move on. And months after Yolanda, that's what we did.

And as more and more typhoons come and go, as other calamities hit our planet, the destruction brought about by Yolanda becomes overshadowed by new ones. I'm not saying that it is being forgotten, but the significance of it lessens with each passing day. So it is up to us survivors to remember, not for us, but for those who perished in the hands of the storm.

That's why the Pope's visit is such a big honor. It is a reminder to us that we are not forgotten. During his homily, Pope Francis said that he may be a bit late in coming. But to us, it did not matter. What matters is he came.

Listening to his homily on tv, I was overcome with such emotion. I used to remember Yolanda with sadness and bitterness, but now I shall remember Yolanda with a smile because while it brought about destruction, it also led to something beautiful — a visit from His Holiness.

Today, my Mom and I woke up at three in the morning. Her friend's sister in law lives in Marasbaras, where the Pope's motorcade will pass on the way to Palo (I wanted to attend the mass at the airport, but my Dad didn't give me permission to go alone). We went to their house at around 5 AM, where we ate breakfast and watched the live coverage of the Pope's arrival and the mass on tv. When the mass ended and the Pope climbed into the Pope Mobile, we all went outside.

I was wearing nothing but a light t-shirt under a hoodie, jeans, and slippers. We were blasted by wind and rain, but we held our ground. Armed with our smartphones protected by Ziplocs from the downpour, we grinned in anticipation of seeing the Pope. And he did not disappoint. He passed by us with a big smile and waved, and though it happened all under 10 seconds, it was more than enough. 

We all went back inside to watch the coverage of his arrival at the Cathedral, and to warm up as we were freezing. And when Pope Francis announced that the pilot moved his time of departure for Manila to 1 PM due to the weather, I could tell that the Pope was reluctant to do so. He came here to eat with the survivors, bless the mass grave, bless the Center for the Poor, and it seems like his visit was being cut short.

Nonetheless, when we saw that he was climbing into his Pope Mobile once again, we all ran back outside to get another glimpse of him. And this time, there were very few people along the road, so we were positioned directly behind the barricade and was able to see him more closely. 

And oh boy, the second time was just as intense as the first one. I felt excited and peaceful at the same time.

And as I sit here at home, shivering under my blanket, one hand holding a mug of hot chocolate, the other furiously typing on my iPad.. I'd just have to say, even if I do get sick from standing in the rain and then later on letting my clothes air dry on myself, IT WAS DEFINITELY WELL WORTH IT.

Pope Francis' visit gave me hope, and it strengthened my faith even more. For if there are people like the Pope in this world, one that is selfless, humble, and generous.. Then there is definitely hope for humanity.

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