Youth on Pope Francis: A symbol of hope
MANILA, Philippines - It was just a spur of the moment decision.
Ramon Polilio, 19, and his six other friends didn’t plan to go to Manila for the papal visit.
Just like many college students, they planned to spend the long weekend with friends. After all, holidays like this don’t come regularly to college students like them.
But after seeing Pope Francis for the past three days on television, Ramon and his friends got swayed to change plans. Moved by the pontiff's words and actions, they decided to put aside their personal plans for something more meaningful.
“He is one of the most influential and powerful individuals in the world and he came here. To be just steps away from him is, to say the least, history," Polilio added.
Model for the youth
The group joined thousands of other people of all ages from across the country on Sunday, January 17, at the University of Santo Tomas (UST), for Pope Francis’ scheduled encounter with the youth.
According to the university’s public affairs director, Associate Professor Giovanna Fontanilla, the meeting is an “invitation for a renewal and deepening of our faith.”
Ramon and his friends travelled two hours from Pampanga and arrived in Manila around 11:00 PM on January 17.
The cold pavement served as their bed for the night where they slept next to the walls of UST. Seven of them huddled together beneath the mat they bought for P25 on their way to Manila.
When the woke up at 4:00 AM, there was a sea of people all around them.
“Ayos na mapuyat, mapagod, gumastos, kaysa naman sa pumunta sa Vatican. The mere fact na isang hangin lang hinihinga namin, okay na kami,” Ramon said. (It's okay if we didn't sleep, we're tired, we spent money. It's better than going to the Vatican. The fact that we and the Pope are breathing the same air makes it all worth it.)
“(He's a very good) model for us, about love, hope and peace,” Ramon added.
Beyond Pope Francis’ teachings directed at the youth, Ramon was drawn by the pope’s genuine love for children and people with special needs.
As a student taking up Special Needs Education, Ramon was especially moved when the head of the Catholic Church attempted to sign with the deaf and received the cross-stitched work from a person struggling with cerebral palsy.
These moments, for Ramon, speak of genuine love and humility. He finds it hard to just ignore the Pope.
Through Pope Francis, Ramon said he realized that he is not there to just teach. "I am there to learn. I want to help other children because, in return, they are helping me to become a better person," Ramon added. - Rappler.com