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Rose Tagal: My friends and I were expecting to see Pope Francis during his closing Mass at Luneta, Rizal Park. We got up as early as 2 am with high hope that we would get a good place to see the Pope. I was not feeling well that morning as I was down with flu and sore throat, nevertheless with this hope, I joined my tour group for the walk to Rizal Park. From afar, I was amazed to see so many people already queuing to enter the park. It looked like what we had planned yesterday was just mere planning because the reality is beyond expectation.
During the whole time in Rizal Park, a few incidences took place which, on reflection, resembled moments of encountering God in the midst of busy-ness.
Just before I was separated from my friends, I saw a husband protecting his wife, asking for consideration from people around not to push because his wife was pregnant. I thought he was very caring and a responsible husband. I was standing in between crowds of which language I did not understand. An old lady in her 60s was also trying hard to stay together with her friend. I gave way to her and we managed to engage in a short conversation. They were very friendly and they thought I was a Taiwanese! They were from outside of Manila. At such an age, these two elderlies had hoped that they could experience together the JOY of seeing the Pope.
I was lost in a swarm of people where, in the midst of it, the lady in charge was giving instructions in Tagalog. A young girl was standing next to me and before I could ask for her help to interprete, with a smile on her face she translated the instruction for me, for which I was very grateful. A simple gesture and a little help from this teenage Filipina gave me a comforting feeling. Despite standing alone in the midst of crowds, I was not ‘lost’ at all for I have encountered Christ in wonderful people. Then I saw my friends and happily we were reunited again.
Squeezing in the middle of a packed crowd, soon we were separated again but I managed to stay with two of them so together we looked for a little space to settle ourselves. Unfortunately no one was allowed to cross the street anymore to enter the stadium, so we maneuvered our way to a space under the trees near the giant Philippines flag. There were already many people settling there. Some were sleeping, some were eating breakfast and some were talking to each other. The challenge was to walk without stepping on someone who was still sleeping on the ground.
While trying my best to find a space for myself, there was an old woman in front of me, still holding hands with another old woman behind me, who couldn’t move forward because the lady next to me wouldn’t give way. I took the liberty to ask the lady to make way so the old woman could pass through. Suddenly, I heard a small woman’s voice behind me saying, “How about me?” It was another old woman which was also their friend. Helping people is not about getting recognized but being generous and action speaks louder than words.
We finally settled under the trees, while waiting I observed many things around us. At 11.00 am it started to rain but thank God we were somewhat covered by the trees’ canopy. There was a family: parents and three young children under 12 years old who were settled behind us. Soon it was raining heavily and the children were already soaked in rain! I admired the father’s determination to cover the family by setting up a canopy made of plastic which was tied to a tree. However, passersby kept hitting the rope until finally the father had to manually hold it, he, on one end and the mother on the other end. However just before the Pope arrived, this family decided to leave. Observing their determination, I was amazed and never once did the children complain to their parents.
There were more to share but suffice to say that some of these Filipino gestures gave me something to reflect about after this pilgrimage trip:
1. A pregnant woman – Life is too precious to be taken for granted.
2. The two old women – Friendship must be treasured even up to our advanced age.
3. Teenage girl – SMILE and you give comfort to others.
4. How about me? – Jesus reminded me not to put Him aside no matter how busy I am. Despite all the opportunities and choices, I need to always put Him as the center of my life. It feels like He is asking me, “How about Me?” Of all the choices I have, I must choose Him.
5. The family – When we were little, our parents took full responsibility to ensure all of our needs were fully met and now when they are older, we must give them our care and love.
6. Pope Francis – He is the living example of a person full of humility and a heart full of love and compassion. During the Mass, I was so touched even though I only saw him on the screen and could only hear his voice.
I am grateful I made a decision to join this pilgrimage. Here I quote Pope Francis’ homily in typhoon-hit Tacloban for your own reflection:
“I am here to be with you. A little bit late, I have to say. But I’m here. I’ve come to tell you that Jesus is Lord. That Jesus never lets us down.”