Yolanda survivors: Purpose of Pope Francis' visit accomplished
TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – The Pope's trip to Tacloban was the main objective of the papal visit to the Philippines. A storm almost dampened the spirit of the massive crowd at the Tacloban airport where Pope Francis was expected to celebrate a Mass for disaster survivors. It was a rainy and windy Saturday morning at ground zero of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). But the Pope did not fail them.
The mood of the crowd changed after a plane hovered around the Tacloban airport. When the plane carrying the Pope landed, pilgrims cheered thunderously, chanting “Viva Il Papa, Papa Francesco!” (Long live, Pope Francis!).
For the survivors, being with Pope Francis was a blessing and a meaningful experience.
“Okay yung mensahe niya kasi nakikiisa siya sa paghihirap at sakripisyo na pinagdaanan ng mga tao sa Tacloban – naalala ko yung sinabi niya: 'My heart is silent, I can’t say anything' (I liked his message because it empathizes with the sufferings and sacrifices the people of Tacloban went through. I remember what he said)," Guadalupe Tupaz noted.
Kahit di ko masyadong naiintindihan yung sinabi ng Santo Papa, naramdaman ko sa aking puso na maganda yung sinabi niya (Even if I did not completely understand what the Pope said, I felt what he meant,” according to Consuelo Villas of Tanauan, Leyte.
"Solved na ako nung nakita ko ng malapitan yung bata na niyakap niya tapos hinalikan. Yun pala yung feeling, parang mapapa-relax yung pagod mo na makita yung ganung tao,” shared Lorenzo De Lera of Hernani, Eastern Samar. (I was satified when I saw him hugging and kissing a child. I now know how it feels to see a person like him - calming)
"Sobra-sobra po ang blessings na natanggap namin (The blessing we received are more than enough),” said Elmer Navarro of San Sebastian, Samar.
"The message was all about our experiences with Yolanda – that God is there whatever happens. He is always there to guide and comfort us,” said Hugo Aucena of Borongan, Eastern Samar.
“Minsan lang to mangyari, kaya masaya ako kahit ganito pinagdaanan namin (I'm happy despite what we went through because it was a rare experience),” said Leonila Alcera, who travelled almost 10 hours from Northern Samar.
Visiting devotees described the impact of the Pope's trip on the disaster survivors.
I think the experiences today match that of Yolanda. I think the weather was appropriate the way it is because the Pope came here for that, says Henry Schwalbenberg from New York, USA who visited the Philippines just to witness the event.
“It shows his concern for the Philippines, especially for the victims of Yolanda, the main purpose of his visit,” shared Carmencita Legaspi in a mix of Filipino and English. She travelled for two days from Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur.
“For me it's good enough he came. It would have been a very big disappointment if he did not. We understand that it’s difficult to come here but he still came,” says 85-year old Amparo Duvouzet from Davao City.
For other pilgrims, the homily of the Pope was all they needed to hear. It strengthened their faith. It gave them hope.
“The homily was touching and I was crying all the time. Through his message, there was cleansing, there was purification and conversion of the heart,” Abigail Salazar of Iloilo City revealed.
“Yung faith namin sa Panginoon mas lalong tumibay dahil sa experience dito. Saka yung pakikitungo namin sa mga taong nasa mababa - dapat talaga nagtutulungan kasi wala namang mayaman at mahirap sa ganitong sitwasyon,” shared Teresita Blanco of Trento, Agusan del Sur. (The experience strengthened our faith and our sense of solidarity with ordinary people - we really need to help each other because disaster does not discriminate between rich and poor people.)
“I think people are going home very happy. Despite the weather, many came to see the Pope. God touched the hearts of so many through the Pope who serves as Vicar of Christ,” shared seminarian Jonathan Saavedra of Tagum City, Davao del Norte.
“I understand the message of the Pope as something that gives hope, peace and comfort to the people even if it’s 14 months now past Yolanda. The weather is a reminder that whatever happens, we always have the support of the Pope,” says American Idalia Amaya who works for Catholic Relief Services based in Tacloban City.
The Pope’s visit was cut short because of the bad weather. He left Tacloban airport at 1pm following the advice of their pilot. Some were surprised but they understood it was for the safety of the Pope.
“Siguro naman kahit naputol, masaya na rin yung mga tao na nagpunta siya dito. Yung panahon naman kasi hindi rin natin inaasahan na ganito,” said Senior Inspector Ramil Ariños of Bureau of Fire Protection. (Even if it was shortened, I hope the people were pleased. We didn't anticipate the storm.)
“It’s okay he was able to fly out earlier because of the weather situation. I guess it was the most sensible thing to do. I know that his heart is with us,” said a pilgrim from Aklan who came with a group called Friends of Francis.
Pope Francis wraps up his 5-day state and pastoral visit today, as he returns to Rome after his first-ever trip to the Philippines. (READ: Goodbye, Pope Francis). – with reports from Rappler Mover Arrianne Meg Mengullo/Rappler.com