MANILA, Philippines – It was a little past 8 am on Monday, January 19, and the crowd was already beginning to get edgy.
At the corner of Roxas Boulevard and Quirino Avenue, hundreds were already lined up, eager to catch a last glimpse of Pope Francis on his final day in the Philippines.
Two-year-old Calix Balbin was no exception. He stirred and whined a little, standing on a foldable chair his parents had brought him.
“I thought you wanted to meet the Pope?” asked Lea, his mother.
The little boy went quiet and fixed his eyes on the corner where the popemobile would drive by an hour later. “He told me he wanted to meet the Pope,” Lea later told Rappler.
Calix would later be brought to a safer spot, closer to where the Pope would pass.
“We wanted to introduce Calix early to Papa Jesus through the Pope,” added Lea.(READ: Pope requests removal of his posters in Leyte)
While his parents stayed behind the metal railings, 3 police women took turns covering Calix and 3 other young boys from the heat of the sun, offering water and candies throughout the hours-long wait.
When the Pope finally passed by, Calix held up a statue of the Sto Nino which was just a little smaller than he was. The twp-year-old was beaming with pride after the popemobile passed.
For Roman Catholics, the pope is the successor of St Peter, to whom Jesus Christ gave the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Today, Pope Francis is the leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide.
Second time’s the charm
Edgy as the crowd was, the area was also buzzing with excitement.
After a whirlwind 4-day visit in a country that has affectionally called him “Lolo Kiko” (loosely translated to Grandfather Francis), the Argentinian pontiff was heading back to the Vatican. (FULL TEXT: Tagle’s message to Pope Francis in final Mass)
It’s been 4 days of frenzied welcomes, surprise visits, and emotional Masses held under the rain in both typhoon-hit Leyte and in Rizal Park in Manila.
For Filipinos in Metro Manila, this was their one last chance to bid goodbye to the Pope.
“We wanted to attend the Pope’s mass in Luneta but we weren’t able to go in the quadrants. We stayed in Kalaw because there were too many people,” said Lea.
The Balbin family – Calix, his mother Lea, and father Louie – had been waiting along Roxas Boulevard since 3 am.
“We came here so our family would be blessed,” said Louie.
The blessings, he said, would hopefully extend to the new, yet-to-be-born member of their family. Lea is almost finished with her second trimester of pregnancy.
Like many Filipinos families, coming out to catch a glimpse of the Pope is something of a family tradition. The last time a pope visited the Philippines in 1995, Louie was among the 5 million who went to Luneta for a mass to be celebrated by Saint John Paul II.
“It’s a different feeling; you feel blessed. It’s like my sins have been lessened, somehow,” said Louie.
Pope Francis left the Philippines on board a Philippine Airlines chartered flight at around 10:12 am Monday, January 19. – Rappler.com
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