Tag: Filipino

Pushing and shoving, mud and sore feet: Pope Francis’ Luneta Mass

Pushing and shoving, mud and sore feet: Pope Francis’ Luneta Mass


Pilgrimages are journeys, either short and long. One can expect them to be arduous, or they can be unexpectedly miserable. On the day of Pope Francis’ Luneta mass, it was the worst on the streets.

At about 4 A.M., I checked my Facebook — a status update from a volunteer who was issued an ID-and-all had already turned back, due to a mess of cars and crowds along Maria Orosa street. Oh wow.. that happens to be the main entrance. What now? But my head was hurting to consider it seriously, and in a few moments I was bound for Manila City.

On the A.M. frequency, Ted Failon’s voice had an alerted tone, still in rapid dialogue with a frantic field reporter who was observing the events along Maria Orosa street. Ayan na! Ayan na! Hindi na mapigilan ang tao! Tumba na ang barikada! 

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Maria Orosa street, cleared for the Popemobile. (Then why was it made the official entrance, to begin with?)

An hour since the radio reportage, we finally made it to Orosa street corner U.N. Avenue, where there was an apparent confusion (like the scene in Ice Age where the animals were pointlessly walking away from the breaking ice). There was a thick, disordered line of people, made unclear by stranded cars. Cars inched against the pedestrians, who were split-seconds away from being squished against the parked bus. It was only 6 A.M., on a Sunday.

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The start of the line. To the right, the people trying to find the start of the line. It eventually thickened into a two-lane line.

Tracing downstreet U.N. Avenue, until about Del Pilar, we found the “start” of the line. At that point, it was getting cramped on either side of the street: the “line” going to Maria Orosa official venue entrance with scanners, and the “line” trying to find the back of the former. In the chaos of things, there were multiple quick-myths being echoed. ‘Di na kayo papapasukin. Sarado na sa Roxas. Yung mga may-ID lang ang pwede. But we were in line and, just like everyone else, we mentally vacillated with blankness whether this would be a fruitful effort or not. Surely, the graying lola who was trying to cut me in line wasn’t mentally vacillating. She was leaping and elbowing me!

That early morn, the sky was overcast. “Biyaya yan ni Pope sa ‘tin, na hindi gawing mainit ‘tong araw na to,” a lady said, while our bodies clung like in an MRT rush hour. If my mental and physical toughness was tested in high school special CAT, then my own patience was tested in that stupid line. Truly, I could not fathom each of everyone’s motivations as to why getting themsleves stuck in this thick chaos is worth their time! We would be the philosophical laughing stock of born-again Christians and INC, I thought to myself.

After two and a half hours, we would learn that we just wasted sleep, time and energy. Maria Orosa had been blocked instead, and the scanners were moved to the Taft Avenue entrance. We turned a corner around U.N. Avenue going to Taft Ave., whilst still trying to follow a “line”. We eventually deposited ourselves into a free-flowing, lineless sea of people in back of Rizal Park. The scanners were indeed there, but they weren’t working, and people just passed right through it. We didn’t have to line up. We could’ve just gone straight there. It was a bummer, like Lapu-Lapu’s huge bum, and it had started to rain.

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The thick line condensed into an elbowsome single file, as cascaded from the “scanner entrance”, which turned out to be useless. Who was the idiot that told everyone to make one line?

Sitting on our mats, the rain turned the ground into mud, and we were forced to stand up. On the video screen, Pope Francis had boarded his Popemobile, headed for Luneta. People started to get into a cheering frenzy and continued to cram the space, continuously increasing human density within the area. It was becoming extremely unsafe. I pitied ourselves, the Filipino-Catholic people. All to see the Pope. We decided to get out of that cramped place and go back near the Lapu-Lapu statue, where there was more air to breathe (except near the portalets). Squeezing one’s way through barricades of bodies is hard enough, it was harder with the cold through one’s raincoat and wet socks,  by slipping every so often from the mud, with sore hands and shoulders from carrying bags, and without enough sleep. It was a miserable situation; undeniably a far cry from the organized, large-scale worship of other sects.

Suddenly, there was a roar. Pope Francis! He’s here! We positioned ourselves at the screen behind Lapu-Lapu’s bum. The mass was about to begin.

The huge orchestra played through our local set of speakers, and the camera panned towards the altar. It was the same processional song used in the first mass at the Manila CathedralAll that time, the rain started to get stronger. Onscreen, Pope Francis lightly swung the censer, just like how our local priests did it— but this time it was him doing it on the altar

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.” As if my body knew, I began to calm down and focus. It was a Sunday, a day of obligation, and I was hearing mass with Pope Francis. Suddenly transfixed at that thought, I felt more and more alive. Even though Pope Francis’ homily was weakly audible, I listened and clung onto each word. In spite of all my internal negativity, I felt moved by an unseen force.

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Live, behind Lapu-Lapu’s statue.

In a quick realization, I realized that the mass could not have been any more meaningful without that day’s difficulties. I was a pilgrim. Everyone there — the lola, the little kids, the people who commuted all the way from outside Metro Manila. We stood there in the rain, with sore feet and grumbling stomachs. We heard mass, and we fulfilled the purpose of braving through that whole day. Whether it was unsafe, miserable, and ridiculous was beside the point. It was about making any form of a difficult journey, and quenching it spiritually in the end.

Pope Francis could have went somewhere else. He could have visited Obama or the Queen of England. He could have just went back to Italy, but no. He booked a flight to this little, uninteresting country with so many problems. He chose us. Then, for this final, most difficult day, we also chose him; we journeyed to him. Mabuhay ang Santo Padre! Mabuhay si Kristo!

A Calm Entry Into the Filipino Future

     I came to school today not realizing that it was a holiday. It was like a zombie apocalypse. The parking lot was deserted, and the guard on-duty was short of interrogating me on why I came to school on such an (un)holy day. I came in that day to work on my thesis, which involved having to access the data through my adviser’s local network at the office. I was so eager to write a paper that would change the face of the world! Well, not really. But I was excited about it, and I just couldn’t wait to finally finish processing all these raw data on coral reefs. Something felt a little odd, though, being so hard at work yet no one was around (save for my adviser who came in that day, too). It was a holiday, I know, and as I thought and thought about the thought of not having anything else “better” to do on a holiday, a sinking feeling suddenly enveloped me. An empty, meta-existential feeling that echoed through the whispery halls of my deserted building. What the heck am I doing here? What is the point of all this? 
 
     The sight of an open field (the ‘Sunken Garden’ as we would call it) so vibrant with footballs and discs relieved me, as well pockets of people gathered in small mats. I didn’t bother turning up the AC and instead pulled down both windows of my old van. I drove slowly, elbow out and just feeling the gust through the front seat. I savored the sweet feeling of my campus, and I told myself I felt how much I would dread being away from all this.
 
     We are right in being eager and sleepless because a fortune lies in our future. It’s richer and more real than what the Yamashita treasure could ever offer. We’re at the forefront of great social reform: environmental responsibility, a constant desire for growth, and a greater sense of the poverty around us. At the dawn of the rise in Filipino quality of life, we’re not becoming lazy, wasteful parents and scatter-brain, get-wild-and-drunk kids, but instead we’re still ever eager for more development, more business, more money, and more knowledge.When we were young, everything our teachers ever told us about was that the Philippines is such a poor country ridden by abuse of natural resources and extreme corruption, but that we’re the “hope of the future” and that ” time comes” when we take up leadership, it should be for the better of this country. Somehow, those uncited ideas have boiled so strongly in our blood. It’s been an inception that knocks everyday in the back of our heads. But when we do get to those greener pastures of the Philippines’ promised economy, do we want to become just like every other developed nation today? 
 
      I realized why no one was at work that day when I passed by our church. The streets were lined cars stretching to a hundred meters into the neighborhood, and the pews were packed. Lenten ceremonies were going on inside. I suddenly wished I could’ve gone with my family who went home to the province, but I couldn’t because I was scheduled to play the piano for Good Friday and the Easter Vigil that week. As I slowly passed by, I admired the sight of worship. If I could just capture all these images of Filipino life into one idea, I’d say it’s very beautiful. Fifty years from now, I’d like to see even more modern technology, a flawless, seamless government, and lives as healthy as they could be. But I’d still like to do everything else from going home to the province, enjoying the company of my family, to being very happy to be Filipino.Image

Staying in this country

I wish Filipinos never had to leave their country just to make ends meet. They leave, find very good pay, sustain their family back home, but come home feeling estranged and out-of-function.

I was talking to an old man, someone who lived in the states during the gang-dominated and gun infested years of LA. He recounted how Filipino families would move in there with their young children only to see them become rebellious and overly americanized for their own good. Of course we can’t say if this is true for most migrant families, I mean, he was in LA after all. However this friend of mine seemed to recall it with a profound level of disgust. (He has many other stories of being pulled over by the LAPD and “drive-by” shootings.)

Depending on what you were before you moved to a different country, different people should end up differently. “Un-matured” kids like grade schoolers or some high school students who haven’t had some sense of self-idealization should end up…much changed. Of course, adults will always know their lives better here in the Philippines. It’s not so strange anymore to see our universities studded with professors hailing with PhD’s from the top schools in Europe, Japan and the United States. But get this, how bad is a research-active professor in UP Diliman getting only 35,000. PHP as a monthly salary? Obviously it’s beyond that. Honestly, can you imagine leaving the Philippines for good? It’s painful, I know, especially when money is tight. But don’t stay there. Don’t be happy there.

I suppose some of us are just too naive to understand hardship. They do account for a notable portion of the country’s economic growth, after all. It’s just so bad to see supposedly sweet and inseparable Filipino families disintegrating in the face of a hugely different cultures. But alas, what can we do. It should be incumbent then upon the remaining people here in the country to make best of every opportunity to improve Filipino life as we try and make better for our children and their children.