Top-Left: My lightest flight baggage (essentials only) as I went straight to the venue as soon as I arrived on the afternoon of January 16. Top-Right: In partial pilgrim fashion. Bottom-Left: In full pilgrim fashion with King and Gel. Bottom-Right: A night view of the altar on the eve of Pope Francis’ arrival in Tacloban.
Quadrant 31: 10 PM, January 16 to 10 AM, January 17. With my brother King and our friend Gel, we stayed in this quadrant to welcome Pope Francis in my hometown.
12 hours. Not counting the hours of waiting for our turn to finally be at our assigned quadrant, we braved the strong rains and winds that anticipate also the coming of Category 2 – Tropical Storm Amang.
How apt is it that the tropical storm is named Amang which is also Ama or Father in Filipino? We call Pope Francis as our Holy Father, “Ama ng Simbahang Katolika”. But what choice do we have, Amang accompanied our Holy Father. Even the typhoon brings a transcendental reason.
At some point in the early hours of the morning, I wanted to just leave, go home and celebrate the mass to be presided by Pope Francis on television because I felt so cold and damp that I could not even feel my toes anymore. They were numb. My brother was also beginning to be unwell too. But when Pope Francis was embarking the plane as shown from the big screens en route to my hometown, everybody was cheering loudly. Everyone was energized because in an hour, Pope Francis will be in our midst.
And then the plane arrived… It is party in the midst of the storm. Everyone is ecstatic.
I am still lost for words. It is a spiritual experience where reason becomes obsolete and faith shines in all its splendor. To celebrate the mass officiated by the Pope and with the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda who lost their loved ones, property and even hope is unexplainable. Their strength to brave through the catastrophe is not human. It is divine.
The impromptu homily of Pope Francis is heartfelt. How can one comfort someone who has lost so much? What can one say? The Pope humbly admits that “he does not know what to say but Jesus knows what to say.” The compassion showed by Pope Francis comforted the survivors. For the survivors, they do not need words; they only need a presence that truly understands. The storm is divinely timing too. It gave Pope Francis a glimpse of the people’s reality as the strong winds and rains continued to cry with the people throughout the Eucharistic celebration. Truly, “realities are superior than ideas.”
Others may perceive our Catholic faith as mere fanaticism but my personal experience at the stormy mass in Tacloban affirms that it is indeed a journey of deep faith. Who am I to judge the euphoria of the crowd? Their faces exude joy with a profound reflection of inconsolable pain but are slowly opening their hearts to hope that is brought by a man who truly empathized and understood their plight. The survivors experienced Jesus through Pope Francis. I too am sure that even those who did not experience Yolanda’s wrath but have celebrated the mass with us met Jesus, truly alive.
Despite having the chance to get a glimpse of Pope Francis twice, I was not able to take a souvenir photo of him due to the strong rains and winds. I did not want to be distracted nor be worried of how to protect my gadget. The experience of seeing him in person is too precious for my memory to miss and record as opportunities like these only happen with a blink of an eye.
© rooks 2015