Papal Visit Experience Part 1: A Delegate’s Challenges

Papal Visit in UST January 18 2015 -027-2Each delegate has a story to tell. Each person who tried to get a glimpse of Pope Francis had varying degrees of challenges. What’s your story?

It’s a once in a lifetime experience! Millions of Filipinos went out to grab that chance to witness history unfold. The papal visit. And here’s my personal experience as I take part of this historic event, on January 18, 2015.

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An hour and a half of sleep was fine. Adrenaline will keep me on my toes. Today’s going to be an adventure. I will experience the challenges of a delegate.

I left my house past 2am to park along Quezon Avenue in Quezon City and walk to University of Santo Tomas or UST in Espana Boulevard, Manila City. I thought it was going to be a tiring walk. But the cool winds and the crowd walking alongside me made it fun. Strangers united with excitement. This wasn’t a challenge.

Walking with hundreds of strangers to UST for the papal visit

Walking with hundreds of strangers to UST for the papal visit

As we approached Espana Boulevard corner Lacson Street, we faced our first challenge. There was a police barricade preventing us to walk further towards the gates of UST.

Papal Visit in UST January 18 2015 -007In front of the gates, there were people, including kids, who camped out and went there hours before I arrived and before the police made the barricade.

People camped out, including families with their kids. I saw many of them sleeping outside the walls of UST

People camped out, including families with their kids. I saw many of them sleeping outside the walls of UST

I tried to find other ways to go past the police barricade. But walking around was futile. I could hardly squeeze through the thick crowd. We were sardines.

Squeezing my way through. We're like sardines in a can.

Squeezing my way through. We’re like sardines in a can.

At 4am, the police allowed us to pass. First challenge, over.

Papal Visit in UST January 18 2015 -031-2I received a call. My fellow delegates were on the other lane. That was the second challenge. It was difficult walking at a rate of an inch per minute towards the barrier on the island separating the two lanes.

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When I reached the barrier, there wasn’t enough space for me to climb. Thank God for the kindness of strangers.

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They carried my stuff for me and made room. I jumped safely, landed on the eastbound lane, and found my fellow delegates. Second challenge, surpassed.

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Now, where do I pee? Hello, third challenge.

We were cracking jokes to keep us awake and to distract our bladders.

The portable toilets or portalets were inside UST grounds. To leave our location to go to toilets in nearby restaurants was risky because it might take hours to find our way back in line through thick crowd.

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The three layers of inspection seemed to take forever.

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As the sun rose, so did hope. We were in! Finally, the portalets relieved us from the third challenge.

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After a few hours, I saw the pope mobile moving closer. It was Pope Francis! I saw the pope up close. That was a few seconds that went in extreme slow motion. Priceless.

Orange (slightly red) tarp-like material covered the school grounds.

Orange (slightly red) tarp-like material covered the school grounds.

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Priceless few seconds seeing the pope up close

Then, the fourth challenge dropped from the sky — the rain.

My fellow delegates and I were drenched when it started raining non-stop.

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We couldn’t look for a covered area for shelter. We’re not allowed leave our quadrant.

We used the garbage bag for protection from the rain

We used the garbage bag for protection from the rain

I shivered when the wind blew. I was all wet, and cold for hours. When the pope left, I went home, finally took a shower and slipped into dry clothes. Challenge number four, gave birth to a fifth challenge — I got sick.

So were all the challenges worth it? You bet!

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The challenges I faced were incomparable to what typhoon victims experienced. Pope Francis went here to visit typhoon survivors. I simply couldn’t begin to imagine what they must’ve gone through.

So now I ask myself, what have I done for those who are suffering?

That is the deeper challenge I face.

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