Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Rockstar

Twenty years had passed since the Most Holy Father came to these shores, and turned the non-believers into his most ardent followers. I was barely a teen then when the country was chosen to host the World Youth Day celebrations. Being the rockstar pope, St. John Paul II was received with ecstatic fervor by a grateful nation. To this day, I still have fond memories of him as the pope mobile paraded in front of me.

I was among the throngs of faithful who waited for his motorcade to pass. He was off to the Malacanan to see the president. It is said that Fidel Ramos broke protocols by personally welcoming the Successor of Peter as he embarks the plane at the Villamor Air Base. The role has always been reserved for the second highest official of the republic. 

The esteemed guest, however, was a special case.


We stood for hours near the street junction going to the palace for the Papal entourage to appear. St. John Paul hasn't even left the Apostolic Nunciature and yet, well-wishers have already gathered to greet him. Some had even placed rows of monoblock chairs on the sidewalks for the pious elders to sit on. Transistor radios and portable TV sets were brought as well to keep everyone aware of the motorcade's location. Soon, word flies that his Holiness has already left his residence. The news brought cheers all the way to the crest of Nagtahan Bridge, where one can see the thousands more lining Quirino Avenue to catch even the faintest glimpses of the pope. 

It didn't take long for us to feel the Pontiff's nearing presence. Motorcycle escorts with hazard lights turned on began to converge under the Rotunda, and then, the first of the black SUVs that make up the holy entourage appeared on the horizon. You can see the people in the distance waving their hands, as the spectators behind you surge forward, pushing you within inches of the road. The monoblock chairs, which used to support weary hips earlier, have now become stools for the same elders to stand on. Parents, who brought their children had to piggyback the youngsters as the crowd squeezed whatever space was available. And then the moment came. The locally-made jeep made its way into the crowd, where the red-skinned Pope in his white vest, waived to the faceless, nameless flock, which for a moment, leave them suspended in a rapturous daze.


That day, I was able to see St. John Paul II twice, for his motorcade needed to pass the same rotunda for the family gathering at the University of Santo Tomas. The second encounter might have been less crowded, (at least, from where I stood) and eventful, but to catch a glimpse of him once more sealed the memory of a man now venerated by millions around the world.


A few hours from now, another rockstar from the Holy See will make pilgrimage to these lands. Church leaders say his purpose is to touch base with the people of Tacloban, who, just a year ago reeled from the most powerful typhoon in recent memory. Preparations got fever pitch a few days ago, with some major roads being blocked to simulate the passing of Francesco's motorcade. Crowds are expected be in millions - and that - is on his day of arrival. There is no doubt the pressure is intense, with Pnoy himself leading the inspections to make sure no detail was overlooked. Meanwhile, local media continues to hype the Pope's coming, with full coverage even of his pastoral visit to Sri Lanka.

I may have been a little less religious these days. I don't even hear the mass anymore. But like most people being caught in the frenzy of the Pope's visit. The historic occasion is an opportunity to bring out a memory, and to see the nation as it really is: festive, jovial, a people who would move heaven and earth to make a guest feel comfortable. This realization made me appreciate all the government is overdoing just to be sure of the Pontiff's security. More than embarrassment in the global community, the mega event production bonanza, with the Showbiz Republic at the helm tells so much about our society.

In ways very few will understand, our flair for the dramatics is a trait I embrace as mine.

So I went to the Quiapo Church on the eve of the Pope's arrival, to pray, for his safe stay in the country. A storm is brewing in the east, while memories of past stampedes continue to hurt as collective wounds. I have not even thought of a possible assassination attempt from extremists who might take advantage of our security situation. May these thoughts remain in the figment of my imagination.

For whatever purpose, the act was done to be one with the faithful.  

Enjoying the view of the Quirino Grandstand at 3 AM

For I too, am still part of the flock. And in my little, solitary ways, this is how I make ready for the Rockstar's coming.


kalansaycollector said...

hay naku natetense pa rin ako sa security ni pope. hindi ako matatahimik hangga't hindi siya nakakauwi ng ligtas. im so paranoid. lol

anyway, ako rin hindi na palasimba. pero sobrang overwhelming kahit sa tv ko lang siya nakita nung pagdating nya. asa office ako nung thurs. at nung zinoom siya na nakangiti sa window ng plane, grabe napasigaw kami lahat sa office. ang saya. hehe

8 lang ako nung dumating dito si john paul ii kaya ang memory ko lang nun ay ang pagkanta ng tell the world of his love. haha tas nasa nueva pa kami nun kaya malayo sa maynila.

howell mas magical ngayon dahil mas may meaning at mas aware na ako sa ganap. :)

Mugen said...

Bone C:

Nandoon ako noong salubong. Grabe ang hiyawan ng mga tao nung dumaan ang motorcade niya. Bilib rin ako sa disiplina kasi walang nag break ng line. :)