Bring your own raincoats, come early for Luneta Mass
MANILA, Philippines – After forcing Pope Francis to cut short his trip to the province of Leyte, Tropical storm Amang (Mekkhala) also threatens to drench attendees of his activities in Metro Manila on Sunday, January 18.
In a press briefing, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II said Amang is likely to bring light rains over Manila on Sunday, as it inches closer to the Philippine capital.
Based on the latest data from state weather bureau PAGASA, Amang will be in the vicinity of Masbate by 2 am Sunday, according to Roxas.
“Obviously, every hour after that, palapit nang palapit na sa Manila (Obviously every hour after that, it will inch closer to Manila),” he added.
Those planning to attend the Pope’s interfaith dialogue and encounter with the youth at the University of Santo Tomas, as well as his concluding mass in Luneta, should expect light rains in the area.
Umbrellas not allowed
Security officials also advised pilgrims to head to the event area earlier, given the time it will take for people to go through security checks.
Gates for the Luneta Mass, which will be open to the public, begins at 6 am Sunday, although people have begun to camp outside of the “threshold area” as early as Saturday morning.
Attendees of the Luneta Mass will first go through 6 entrances surrounding the Lapu-Lapu monument before they can access the security gates located along Maria Orosa Avenue.
National Capital Region Police Office chief Police Director Carmelo Valmoria said over 30 scanners will be stationed along Orosa to screen some 700,000 people who will be allowed into the main areas directly facing the Quirino Grandstand, which will serve as the altar for the Mass.
In addition to metal detectors and scanners, there will be police personnel tasked to do manual checks of bags.
Attendees are urged to bring transparent or plastic bags and to wear transparent raincoats to make the screening process faster.
Security officials said that, unlike in the Mass at the Tacloban airport, no provisions have been made for raincoats for attendees at Luneta. Umbrellas are also not allowed.
Beginning 6 am, the roads and access points surrounding Luneta will also be closed off to vehicular traffic. (See: Metro Manila cheat sheet: Routes, rules for Pope Francis visit)
Gates to Luneta will be closed by 1:30 pm for the Mass, which is scheduled to start at 3:30 pm.
Even those with tickets, VIPs of the Luneta Mass, are advised to be in the area by 1 pm or run the risk of being denied entry by security forces.
Stick to your quadrants
To control and manage the expected crowd of close to a million, the government will divide the area into “quadrants.” Each quadrant will have portalets, security teams and medical teams on standby in case of emergencies.
It allows ample space for the popemobile to go around before events and for emergency teams to respond should anything happen.
The quadrant system was put in place during the Pope’s meeting with families at the Mall of Asia Arena, as well as during the Mass at the Tacloban airport.
So far, it has worked for both crowds, although it will be put to the test on Sunday.
Philippine National Police Office-in-Charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina said they are so far satisfied with how security measures are working. He added that police are adjusting and fine-tuning their plans on a daily basis.
Espina also reminded people not to bring weapons or alcohol to the Luneta Mass.
Although only 700,000 people will fit inside the “secured area” for the Mass, close to 6 million are expected to gather around Luneta and watch the Pope’s final public event on Sunday. LEDs and sound systems surrounding the area will allow pilgrims to “participate” in the Mass as well.
Roxas said the Sunday events will definitely push through, rain or shine. “Okay siya eh, cowboy siya. Kahit umuulan, okay lang sa kanya (He doesn’t mind roughing it up. He doesn’t mind if it rains),” said Roxas, referring to the Pope.
Earlier Saturday, the Pope flew into the typhoon-hit province of Leyte to lead a Mass outside the Tacloban airport and to visit Typhoon Yolanda survivors in Palo.
The Pope was seen wearing a yellow raincoat during the mass and his motorcade in the province.