What's a jeepney? Pope likes what his ride symbolizes
MANILA, Philippines – Pope Francis made a triumphant entrance for a mass with millions in the Philippines on Sunday, January 18, aboard a "popemobile" styled after the nation's iconic, flamboyant and much-loved "jeepney" minibus.
And he loved that open, non-bulletproof vehicle from which he smiled and waved to those who had lined the route to the venue for the mass by the famous Manila Bay.
In a press briefing Sunday night, after the Pope's mass, the Philippines'
Cardinal Antonio Luis Tagle said he explained to the Pope what the jeepney symbolizes.
"It's the one used by common people," he told the Pope, and "he liked it."
The rectangular vehicle with distinctive giant grille repeatedly stopped on the Pope's way to the Quirino Grandstand Sunday afternoon so he could reach into the cheering masses and pick up babies to kiss and bless them.
The pope rode the jeepney popemobile to Rizal Park, across the street from the grandstand and where millions had gathered to hear him celebrate mass, in one of the world's biggest papal gatherings.
The jeepneys are regarded by many Filipinos as a symbol of national ingenuity. Locals created them from surplus United States military jeeps after American forces left at the end of World War II.
The bodies of the jeeps were extended, seats were added and a fixed roof put in place. The vehicles were then painted with colorful designs.
They proved to be strong vehicles, with decades-long lifespans, and can be seen ferrying people through city streets and animals on mountain roads.
However, the diesel-powered vehicles are also one the nation's chief air pollution culprits.
Francis's jeepney was an all-white popemobile. It had no doors, after the pope told local organizers he did not want a bulletproof vehicle so he could reach out and touch his followers.
The Philippine Catholic Church prepared 3 popemobiles for Francis' visit: one jeepney-style vehicle, one Isuzu vehicle, and one Kia car will be used for the papal visit.
He used one popemobile in Manila, another in Tacloban, and a third was on standby in case there were glitches with the first two vehicles.
A member of the papal entourage from the Vatican drove the vehicles. – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com