PH youth follow footsteps of the 'modern' Pope Francis
MANILA, Philippines – On the second of his 5-day Philippine visit, Pope Francis called on the country’s leaders to “reject every form of corruption which diverts resources from the poor” and strive to build a more inclusive society for “every man and woman and child.”
It is yet to be seen whether Filipino leaders will heed the Pope’s call, but there is comfort in knowing that Francis gets through to young people – the country’s future movers and shakers.
Student volunteers Jean Galvez, Claire Tuvilla, and Viviene Olaguer all admit that Pope Francis inspires them to do something – big or small – every day that can help improve communities around them.
"For me he is very inspiring. He’s one of the highest leaders in the world, he’s very well-known, yet he goes down to the level of the poor to be with the them."
All 3 Thomasians are actively involved in the University of Santo Tomas' (UST) Community Development (CommDev) organization, which aims to provide scholarships to high school students.
“Parang nagiging inspiration namin siya to strive more and to give more service para mas mapadami namin 'yung scholars,” said Viviene, 18, a third year Behavioral Science major. “Tinitingala mo siya kasi as a Pope, ganoon yung mga nagagawa niya, so what more pa kami na students? Kaya rin namin 'yun.”
(He's like an inspiration to us to strive more and serve more so we can have more scholars. We all look up to him because as a Pope, he can do all these things – what more can we, the students? We can do what he’s doing too.)
CommDev partners with university-wide and local or college/faculty-based organizations to sponsor students and provide them with monthly allowance. But they also work to give something more.
“Aside from that, we also have activities so it’s not limited to just financial support, but it’s also for the holistic growth of the student,” explained Claire, a 20-year old graduating Accountancy student.
Following the Pope's footsteps
Jean, a 4th year Political Science major, also shared that they visit students they sponsor in their respective communities every 3 months, whether it’s in Bulacan, Caloocan, Antipolo, or Smokey Mountain in Manila, in an effort to better understand the students’ circumstances.
“Katulad nung ginagawa ni Pope na he visited the Philippines, parang immersion din, para makita niya yung tunay na nangyayari sa communities (It’s just like what Pope did when he visited the Philippines; it’s an immersion too, so we see what truly happens in those communities),” said the 19-year-old.
Known the world over for how he walks the talk, especially when it comes to realizing his vision of reaching out to the world’s peripheries, Pope Francis’ transparent and genuine brand of leadership easily translates to young people.
“Para sa akin sobrang inspiring po. Kasi as one of the highest leaders sa mundo, sobrang kilala siya, ni-le-level down niya yung sarili niya para makasalamuha 'yung mga mahihirap na tao (For me, he's really very inspiring. He's one of the highest leaders in the world, very well-known, and then he goes down to the level of poor people to be with them),” said Claire.
She added, “Parang 'yun talaga yung service and humility na tinatawag, na ibinibigay mo talaga yung sarili mo sa kanila and hindi mo iniisip kung ano yung estado mo basta makapagbigay ka ng tulong sa kanila (That’s what you call real service and humility, that you really give yourself to them, and you don’t think about your place in society as long as you are able to help)."
Viviene, Jean, and Claire will be among the roughly 7,000 student volunteers at the Pope’s UST visit on Sunday, January 18. They say they will likely be assigned to assist in crowd control.
They are hoping for a chance to be blessed by the so-called People’s Pope. But just seeing him from afar, they feel, is a tremendous opportunity already.
“Thank you for visiting the Philippines and giving new hope to the Filipinos, especially to the victims of Yolanda and other calamities,” Jean shared, when asked what she would tell Pope Francis if given the chance to get close to him. “I will also tell him to please continue to pray for the Philippines and for our families.”
Hoping for change
More than feelings of ecstasy, excitement, and honor, Viviene, Jean, and Claire also hope Francis’ visit will impart a sense of change among Filipinos, especially those in government.
“Sana may mabago man lang sa sistema ng bansa. Sana ma-influence niya especially yung government natin na sana [mag-focus din sila sa poor],” said Jean. (I hope something in the country’s system will change. I hope he influences our government so to also focus on the poor.)
Francis certainly shares the same sentiments.
“As many voices in your nation have pointed out, it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good,” Francis said in a speech he delivered after his courtesy call on President Benigno Aquino III on Friday, January 16, at Malacañang Palace.
Francis has long been a champion for the voiceless and the poor, especially when he was Archbishop in Argentina. In the Philippines, the “Pope of Surprises” had a private encounter with street children right after he celebrated Mass at the Manila Cathedral on January 16, granting the wish of kids who reportedly sent 1,000 letters to the Pope himself, requesting to meet him in Manila.
“Sana mas pagtuunan yung mga pangangailangan ng mga mahihirap (I hope the government will prioritize the needs of the poor),” Claire added.
The Filipino youth will be the central theme for Pope Francis’ visit to the 403-year old university, where he will have an encounter with some 24,000 young people from all over the country in a liturgical celebration.
According to UST’s Director for Public Affairs Associate Professor Giovanna Fontanilla, the program for the youth encounter at the campus sports field will include the following:
- Enthronement of the cross
- The first and second readings
- Responsorial psalm
- Reading of the Gospel
- Testimonies from 3 young people
- The message of the Holy Father
- The intercessions in 7 local dialects
- The singing of “Our Father”
- Praying of the Angelus led by Pope Francis
Performing for the 'modern Pope'
MC Dela Cruz, 21, is a graduating English Language Studies major who will perform a welcome dance for the Pope, together with his teammates in the school’s official dance organization, the Salinggawi Dance Troupe.
For MC and his teammates, the opportunity to perform and showcase their talents for the pontiff is a privilege that comes only once in their lives.
“Sobrang overwhelmed kami. Pagkasabi pa lang sa amin na mag-perform kami, parang sobrang laking responsibility and sobrang laking opportunity especially since magpe-perform kami sa harap ni Pope. Blessing 'yun para sa amin,” said MC, who is also the president of the dance organization.
(We are very overwhelmed. When they told us we were performing, it felt like such a huge responsibility and a huge opportunity especially since we will be performing in front of the Pope. It’s a blessing for us.)
He added: “Once in a lifetime lang po kasi yun mangyayari sa amin. Kaya talagang pinaghahandaan namin (This is a once in a lifetime experience for us so we really prepared for it)."
Salinggawi will perform a modified version of their second runner-up piece from the 2014 UAAP Cheerdance Competition. They have been practicing every day, including Sundays, since the New Year.
“Gusto ko mag-thank you sa lahat ng pag-a-aruga niya sa lahat ng Catholics sa buong mundo. Utang na loob din natin sa kanya yung pagiging okay ng pananampalataya natin sa Diyos,” MC shared, when asked what he would like to tell the Pope.
(I would like to thank him for how he has been taking good care of all the Catholics around the world. We should also feel grateful that our faith in God continues to endure because of him.)
MC is also one of the young people that Francis continues to inspires throught his leadership of the Catholic Church. Francis’ openness, and tolerance of diversity has made him particularly appealing to young people like MC.
“Para po sa akin, parang sobrang modern Pope na po siya. Kasi hindi siya closed-minded, mas open po siya sa mga issues sa Catholic Church (For me, he’s a very modern Pope. He’s not closed-minded, he’s more open to the issues of the Catholic Church),” he said, narrating what he admires most about the Argentine pontiff.
Some Philippine leaders may be immune to him, but Francis is planting the seeds and laying down the blueprint for future generations as he sets a good example for today’s youth. He may not be able to meet each of them personally, but his teachings and his extraordinary character make them feel that they have.
It is for this reason that the Pope's young UST admirers wouldn't mind seeing him from afar.
“Okay lang kahit malayo (It’s okay if we only see him from afar),” Claire, Vivienne and Jean chorused. “It’s better to hear the Pope than to see him.” – Rappler.com