Early birds flock to papal route for good view, health, luck
MANILA, Philippines – The Filipino faithful flocked to Villamor Airbase, the Manila Cathedral, and other areas included in Pope Francis' itinerary in the Philippines, ahead of his arrival on Thursday, January 15.
Authorities estimated that the Pope's 5-day visit will draw millions of people from across the country – 500,000 on the day of his arrival alone, stretched along his route from Villamor Airbase in Pasay City, to his official residence in Manila, the Apostolic Nunciature of the Vatican Embassy.
Among those who were to join the flock at the Pope's first stop is vendor Beth Tupan. She sells pares (beef noodle soup) for P20 a bowl every day from 5:30 am until late afternoon, but on day of the Pope's arrival, she closed her shop early.
Her hands clasped tightly around the waist of her 20-year old son, her head resting on his pointy shoulder, they rode a motorcycle with a side cart bearing her her mobile soup kitchen – en route to Villamor.
Tupan was to wait in front of the Villamor Airbase at 3 pm, where the Pope is expected to exit through Gate 5 at around 6 pm. She will join many Filipinos eagerly waiting for the Pope, albeit for different reasons, all hoping to get a quick view of "Lolo Kiko."
"Kahit papaano, matanaw mo lang si Pope, baka may blessing na dumating (I might get a blessing even if I just catch a glimpse of the Pope)," says Tupan.
The 45-year-old single mother of 4 hopes that the police can be more considerate in treating vendors not just during the Pope's visit, but in general. "Pinapaalis kami, 'yung iba hina-harass. Pati customer na kumakain lang pinapaalis (They shoo us away; others are harassed. Even our customers are asked to leave in the middle of a meal)," Tupan shared.
Filipinos also flocked to Manila Cathedral one day ahead of the papal mass despite warnings by security officials against camping out.
Earlier, security officials announced that attendees will not be allowed to camp out hours or days prior to the event itself in all the public venues in Metro Manila – the Mall of Asia, the Manila Cathedral, the University of Santo Tomas, and Luneta Park.
The restriction also applies to the routes the Pope will take.
But this warning did not stop Reny Morquicillo and other early birds from camping out at Manila Cathedral one day ahead of the Pope's scheduled visit.
With her blanket, jacket, mat, and food items like boiled eggs, rice, sandwiches, and adobo, Morquicillo, along with other groups of early birds, prepared to spend the night around the church where the Pope is expected to deliver mass the following day.
"Mabendisyon lang at marinig 'yung kanyang sinasabi, malaking grasya na 'yun (We'll be blessed just to hear his homily)," Morquicillo said.
This is the second time that Morquicillo had gone the extra mile to see a pope.
Twenty years ago, she saw Pope John Paull II when he celebrated a mass in Manila, an encounter she described as "heavenly."
"Sabi ng anak ko, noong nakita niya si Pope John Paul II, 'Mama, nakita ko siya, may invisible halo' (When my son saw Pople John Paul II, he said, 'Mama, I saw him; he has an invisible halo')" Morquicillo recalled.
She also learned her lesson from the encounter after losing her son's tuition fee during the 1995 papal visit.
"Maliit na ang dala ngayon (I didn't bring as much now)," Morquicillo joked.
Good luck, good health
Tugan apparently brought with her less than her P500-daily earnings since she closed early, but said she was willing to lose another P500 by closing her food stall until Friday. She said it's a small price to pay for the "once in a lifetime" experience to see the Pope.
Like many others, she believes that mere sight of the Pope can bring her some good luck. "Malay mo sa susunod hindi na de-motor tindahan ko. Permanenteng puwesto na (Who knows, maybe next time I will have a permanent site, not just a mobile stall)," she said.
She was considered a "miracle baby" – born when her mother was already in menopause. Though she was a sickly child and spent much time in the hospital, she and her family believed that prayers kept her alive.
Tugan has kept the faith, until now, though more out of necessity. She struggles with diabetes and an oversized heart, and solely relies on the power of prayer since she has no means to finance her maintenance medicine.
"Ang gamot ko lang ay dasal (Prayer is my only medicine)," Tugan said, though this hope is also paired with fear – of not seeing her children grow up.
Tugan and Morquicillo will pray, along with many others, to see, be blessed, and be "heard" by the Pope. – Rappler.com