Watching the Pope, Filipino-style
MANILA, Philippines – Pope Francis' visit puts the global spotlight not only on the pontiff but also on Filipinos who have pulled out all the stops to see him. (READ: Show us the Pope, people tell Church, government)
Spending more than 3 hours among Filipinos on Pope Watch outside the Manila Cathedral shows the kind of crowd we are – family-centric, resourceful, optimistic and overwhelmingly energetic.
Here's what Filipinos are like waiting for and watching the Pope:
1. Family trip
Despite warnings not to do so, many were accompanied by their children and elderly family members. Kids were carried on shoulders, grandparents seated on stools.
On one hand, it's to have the entire family experience an historic event. On the other, it's just more practical.
Forty-six-year-old mother Nancy Buan said she brought her 3 young kids simply because, "Walang magbabantay (No one will watch them at home)."
The towel they use to wipe their sweat doubles as a fan and triples as shade against the sun. The cardboard or woven mats used to take a power nap on can also be used as a roof.
3. Fans are for all
Fans of all shapes, sizes and designs were fluttering from people's hands to beat the heat. Even men used the girliest of fans.
4. Favorite food
Filipino's choice of snack? Hardboiled eggs (chicken or quail egg), citrus fruits, chips, oily nuts, kakanin (glutinous rice desserts), and rice and viand inside a plastic bag.
5. Paraphernalia freaks
The Filipino passion for being "in theme" was in full force. Many in the crowd were wearing Pope Francis shirts. If not, they at least wore shirts with a religion-related design. Some also carried Pope Francis towels or wore Pope Francis necklaces.
6. Unfaltering optimism
Two hours before Pope Francis was scheduled to arrive, somebody was already saying, "Ayan na ata (I think he's here)" or "Eto na, eto na (here we go, here we go)." It may be unfaltering optimism or a wish to joke around – which, some would say, is just another form of optimism.
7. Respect for the elderly and very young
Jostling can be expected of any crowd. But the Filipino crowd I was part of warned each other against hitting or pushing the elderly or very young children. Gallant men and women stopped in their tracks to let someone's grandmother go through. Mothers carrying children were offered food.
8. Sea of smartphones and 'selfie' sticks
The crowd lived up to the Philippine's title as "social media capital" of the world. As soon as the Pope's motorcade was in sight, smart phones, cameras, and "selfie" sticks rose to the air. Though cellphone signal was not available, you can bet those photos will be on Facebook or Instagram by the end of the day.
The solidarity of the crowd was apparent in their common exhortations. When the unwelcome sun peeped out of a cloud, there was a collective and loud, "Awwwww."
When the Pope was seen leaving Malacañang Palace from the LCD screen, people started shouting "Pasok! Pasok! (Let us in!)" all together so that police would allow then inside the barricaded square.
10. Camera hogs
The Filipino crowd is probably one of the most un-camera-shy crowds in the world. If a large camera is seen panning towards them, they wave, cheer and shout greetings as if to a beloved friend. It's a way to pass the time, keep the spirits up, and steal yourself 5 seconds of fame.
What was your experience like watching the Pope among a large crowd? Share us your thoughts by commenting below.