Manila pilgrims endure long wait for glimpse of pope

Jodesz Gavilan

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Manila pilgrims endure long wait for glimpse of pope
(UPDATED) 'If we are here early, the Pope might bless us. This is where we draw our strength despite our old age,' say Manila pilgrims waiting for Pope Francis

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Filipinos began to pack Manila roads Thursday morning, January 15, hours before Pope Francis’s scheduled to arrive at 5:45 pm.

Pilgrims began crowding Quirino Avenue near the Papal Nunciature, the residence of the Vatican’s ambassador to Manila, where the Pope will be staying – expecting to be blessed and “starstruck.”

Okay lang na maghintay kami kahit kanina pa kaming umaga dito. Minsan lang naman may dadating na Santo Papa dito sa Pilipinas (It’s okay for us to wait for a long time since this morning. It’s rare that a pope visits the Philippines), ” said Lucita Tandoc, 68, from the Santisima Trinidad Parish. 

This is the area the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) designated for the pilgrims of different parishes nationwide. Like Tandoc, most of them said they are willing to stand by the roads only to get a glimpse of the popular pope.

Kapag nandito kami nang maaga, baka ma-bless pa kami ni Pope. Doon kami huhugot ng lakas kahit matanda na kami (If we are here early, the Pope might bless us. This is where we draw our strength despite our old age),” Tandoc added.

Ready to be ‘starstruck’

Remedios Damaso expects to be simply “starstruck” by the pontiff.

PILGRIMS. Remedios Damaso waits for Pope Francis with other members of her parish. Photo by Jodesz Gavilan/

Kapag nakita ko siya, talagang mai-starstruck ako ng sobra at baka matulala pa ako. Kapag wala na akong masabi, isipin ko na lang na sana i-bless niya kami (If ever I see him, I might get so starstruck and mesmerized. If I won’t be able to talk, I’ll just keep in my mind that I hope he’ll bless us),” Damaso told Rappler. 


Like an infatuated teenager, the 68-year-old counted the days and marked January in bold red ink on her personal calendar after the Pope’s visit to the Philippines was officially announced. 


She said her heart raced when she first heard about the visit. “Iyong nabalitaan ko na pupunta siya ay bumilis tibok ng dibdib ko. Para akong lumutang sa ere (When I heard that he was coming here, my heart beat faster! It was if I’m floating on air),” Damaso said.


She was worried that her frail body might hinder her plans, but vowed not to falter just to see the Pope, even if she has to wait for more than 5 hours. 


Kahit matagal, kahit umulan pa man o kahit sobrang init, tatayo ako dito at aabangan siya (Even if it takes too long, or come rain or extreme heat, I will remain standing, waiting for him),” she said.

Like other pilgrims, she said she expects to draw strength from her faith.


In Roxas Boulevard, groups of families find spots under trees near the Cultural Center of the Philippines and nearby parks. –

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.