By Michaela del Callar
MANILA, Jan. 15 (PNA) — Many Filipinos who warmly welcomed Pope Francis were in awe as the popular pontiff’s motorcade rolled along the 11-kilometer stretch from the airport to the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila, his official residence during his five-day state and apostolic visit in the country.
Waving to an ecstatic crowd aboard his white, open-air popemobile, the smiling Pope was greeted by well-wishers with loud cheers, many chanting his name, behind a concrete barrier guarded by uniformed policemen along the motorcade route from the Villamor Air Base all the way to the Apostolic Nunciature in Taft Avenue.
“I can’t describe the feeling. I had goose bumps when he passed by,” said 24-year-old schoolteacher Glen Fulgencio. “He was very real.”
Francis, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, is the third pope to visit the country, a bastion of Catholic faith in Asia. This is the first visit of a pope to the Philippines in 20 years – the last one by then pope and now St. John Paul II.
Although she saw the pope at a distance, Melinda Atienza said she cried when the pontiff’s motorcade passed through.
“It was a sublime feeling. His mere presence touched me,” Atienza said.
High-school student Justin Salazar, 16, said seeing the pope in person “was the best experience he’s ever had.”
“I felt God,” said Salazar. “I’m very happy I finally got the chance to see the pope.”
As the papal convoy approached, Bonifacio Valderama, an ice cream vendor, said he unhesitatingly left his cart and rushed to the crammed greeter’s lane with his 11-year-old son to get a glimpse of the charismatic pope, known for his humble and simple lifestyle.
“I wasn’t thinking anymore. I just need to see him,” he said. (PNA)