Latin America

Throngs of pilgrims hold vigil in Tacloban for Pope Francis’ arrival

Reynaldo Santos Jr
Throngs of pilgrims hold vigil in Tacloban for Pope Francis’ arrival
Thousands of pilgrims are at the Tacloban airport hours for a vigil to wait for the arrival of Pope Francis
TACLOBAN CITY — Hours before the arrival of Pope Francis in the symbolic epicenter of super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), people from all walks of life and professions hustle into positions to meet the pope.



Thousands of pilgrims have arrived from Eastern Visayas and other provinces.  Some came as early as Thursday, January 15, and Friday morning. 


Earlier positioned in schools and parishes, the pilgrims have started moving towards the Tacloban airport and along the papal route starting Friday afternoon.


“Nagpapasalamat ako na sa edad kung ito na nagkaroon ako ng chance na makita siya,” says Corazon Esquibel who, at 79 years old, may be the oldest pilgrim from Tunga, Leyte. Despite her old age, she insisted to come to Tacloban to see the pope. 


(I am thankful that I will have the chance to see him despite my old age.)



Antolin Adlawan, 66, walked 36 days from Bukidnon to Tacloban.


At the Tacloban airport, only pilgrims are allowed to stay near the airport to welcome the Pope when he arrives. 


As of this posting, thousands of excited pilgrims are already at the airport for the overnight vigil.

COLD NIGHT AHEAD. This family from Southern Leyte is camping out in Palo. Photo by Chris Billes/Rappler.


Access problems 


With ID distribution and coordination problems, many parishioners were unable to transfer to the vigil venue on time or are stuck outside the entrance of the airport. 


“Naiwanan ako ng mga kasamahan ko kasi mali yung nadala kong ID. Nahihirapan na po ako. Masakit na ang paa ko,” says Constantino T. Verginisa, 74, from San Jose, Tacloban.


(I was left behind because I brought the wrong ID. It’s getting hard for me. My feet are already aching.)


“Nakakainis. Walang coordination,” complained Vergie C. Tajedo, 43, from Borongan Eastern Samar. (It’s annoying. No coordination.)


Some delegations from as far as Maasin City, Southern Leyte experienced problems with their IDs due to misspelt  or mismatched names.


Wilma Tuca, a pilgrim who came all the way from Canada, hopes she can still hear the homily of Pope Francis.


Umuwi po ako dito kasi alam kong pupunta si Pope Francis sa Leyte. Kung di man kami papapasukin eh maghihintay na lang kami dito overnight for the motorcade,” she said.


(I came home because I know that Pope Francis is going to Leyte. If we will not be allowed to enter the venue then we will just wait here overnight for the motorcade.)


Pilgrims from Mindanao, despite their long travel, are not frustrated even if they are not sure they can attend the mass. 


Filipino children hold a portrait of Pope Francis in village which was severely damaged by the 2013 Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan in Tacloban City on January 16, 2015. Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Tacloban and Palo on January 17, 2015. Photo by Jay Labra/EPA

Baby Montero from Tandag City and Marilou Lamilao from Surigao del Sur shared that they will be happy just to get a glimpse of the Pope.


“Masaya na kami at feeling blessed kung masilayan lang namin siya. Pero kung papalarin, umaasa pa rin naman kaming makapasok sa Misa kasi maganda din marinig yung mensahe ng Santo Papa,” the pilgrims said.


(We already feel happy and blessed to see Pope Francis. But if we will be lucky, we are still hopeful that we can attend the Mass and hear his message.)


Some of the pilgrims who do not have IDs chose to camp along the papal route, along the inner roads where police won’t bother them.




On Saturday, the Pope will be greeted by dance groups performing along the 11.5 kilometer papal route to Palo. A 176-member Ormoc dance group called SWAG, which stands for ‘Saved With Amazing Grace’, will perform as the pope alights his plane tomorrow morning, and during the meeting at Palo Cathedral. They will be joined by Samleyaw dancers from EVSU, Leyte Kalipayan, LNU Dance Company, and many others.


“I hope Pope Francis will c0me near to our band. I hope I get a chance to kiss his hand and be blessed. We are longing to have a great performance. We are very excited because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we will give our best,” says Teddy Nino Diaz Aguilar and Kestrel Kite Boone Baino of the LNU Marching Band.


Meanwhile, a 2,000-member choir composed of elementary kids in Palo will serenade the pope as he arrives at the Palo Cathedral.


Back at the airport, a 308-member choir and orchestra will accompany the celebration of the holy mass. Renowned Waray composer Melvin Corpin went home from the US to conduct the grand ensemble. The members come from parishes from all over Region VIII.


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