Monday, April 6, 2015

Person of Interest

3:47 AM

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Despite spending half of my life in a school whose name was cribbed from the same saint as our current Pope’s namesake, I’m not really a ‘practicing’ Catholic.

It’s on my birth certificate and all, but I’m not exactly the kind of person who goes all out with the worshipping – in fact the only time I could be counted on to go to mass (almost) every Sunday was the time when our Christian Living teacher required us to do that for a grade. But still, here I am, writing about the Papal visit.

‘Pope Francis fever’ was widespread across the nation – especially in Metro Manila, where classes were suspended from January 15 to 19. Students all across the metro rejoiced at this five-day reprieve, a vacation of sorts.

I was actually supposed to be there as well. You heard that right – me, standoffish, snarky me, non-practicing-Catholic me, the girl who’d once been told (several times!) that my soul was as dark as the black shirts I favor. I’d wanted, of my own free will, to do something inherently religious in nature.
Yeah, naysayers, you could probably stop rolling your eyes now.

However: I’m a fainter. I always have been, ever since I passed out during CAT enrollment in high school. So yeah, me near the Apostolic Nunciature? The Mall of Asia Arena? Quirino Grandstand? Not bloody likely. We were actually also supposed to try our luck at UST, but that didn’t pull through, either.

This turned out to be even better for me, though. Because one morning, as I trudged down the stairs and went to boil water, I saw my dad watching TV. And that’s the story of how I, my parents, and my three-year-old little brother managed to ‘attend’ Pope Francis’ first mass in the Philippines. Yes, the Manila Cathedral one.

A lot of people say that technology has ruined the world. I beg to differ. Because of technology, my entire family got a front-row seat to each and every one of Pope Francis’ events, even though we were dressed in house clothes the entire time.

Speaking of people and technology, though – “Look at Father,” my dad said, pointing to a random clergy member, “He has a better phone than I do! And – whoa – is that an iPad!?”

Here we have the Pope who’s the very epitome of selflessness and simple living. And here we have the members of the Philippine clergy, all of them whipping out only the most top-of-the-line gadgets. Let’s be real here, I totally understand what they felt – if I were there I’d be taking an inhuman amount of pictures, too!

“No, you can’t,” my mum said, “Actually, you couldn’t. Your battery runs out really quickly – you’d have to ask the Pope to wait ‘til you’ve switched batteries. Your camera is slow, so you’d have to ask him to hold his pose a bit longer. Then you might run out of memory, you’d have to delete files off your phone to make space, and the Pope would see your copious amounts of shirtless swimmer anime boys and he’d give you an extra-large serving of holy water.”

...okay then.

But let’s just say that the fact that they have expensive gadgets isn’t exactly the best of pictures to superimpose with a pope who puts simplicity above all else. It’s just a bit too...awkward.

There was also the fact that Cardinal Tagle did this nice speech – comparing Filipinos to the Manila Cathedral, how we’ll always rise again no matter what befalls us. He’d even dropped a Fr. de la Costa quote, and the Pope had actually, literally, been at the edge of his seat!

“Pope Francis and Cardinal Tagle look awfully close,” my dad said. “Maybe you could try writing about them, Trish.”

“...”

I will not rise to the bait, no, I will not.

Now, my mum had been a fan of the previous Pope, the now-Saint John Paul II, and she would’ve gone to see him, if not for the fact that some kid got in the way (I’m turning twenty this March. Feel free to do the math.) Now she had wanted to go see this Pope, but I have a little brother who would’ve brought full-grown Swiss guards to their knees with his bossiness.

One time, during one of the Pope’s first motorcades, she had told me she was legit moved to tears.

“The Popemobile doesn’t have glass on it,” she told me, “Just a glass screen in front. That’s it. What if someone decides to just go and shoot him? There wouldn’t even be a fight...but he just looks so happy with everybody there. He’s waving and smiling so much. He doesn’t even want to sit down.”

Later we would find out that the reason why he doesn’t really seem to be a fan of bulletproof glass is ‘cuz he thinks he’s an old guy who doesn’t really have anything to lose, anyway. Which is actually fantastically hardcore, if a bit too pragmatic, and I can only imagine the massive amount of headaches his bodyguards might be having over this. Because how do you protect someone who doesn’t wanna be protected?

And that, I guess, is the whole cornerstone of why people just tend to like him so much: to protect someone, you have to distance them from the crowd, and Pope Francis doesn’t want that distance. He wants to be down there, exchanging smiles and stories with everyone else.

On the day he did his mass at Quirino Grandstand, we were originally going to go to my grandma’s house, because Tondo had the Sto. Niño fiesta that day. Thankfully, during that said mass, the Pope talked at length about Sto. Niño, which made us feel as if we were really there, celebrating the fiesta with the highest officer of the Church in attendance.

It had been the second mass we had ‘attended’ in the five-day period, and it had been more masses than our family had attended together in the last four years.

“Every Filipino wants to go with you – not to Rome!” Cardinal Tagle (who, no, I will not write bromantic fanfic about, I will not) had said, as he made the farewell speech. “We want to go with you to the peripheries.”

My point here is this: I can’t make any promises about following through exactly with what the good cardinal said – heck, I can’t even make any promises about family outings – but I can promise to do one of the things the Pope wished we would do more: I’ll love my neighbor. I’ll do my best to see the good in myself and in others, no matter how freaking hard it could be.

The distance between Vatican and the Philippines does not mean I have an easy way out of this.

(Just something for the next time people really get on my nerves.)


Article by Trish
Art by Alexie
photos of Pope Francis taken from here and here
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Trish is an accounting major who keeps getting mistaken for a little girl. (She blames the height.) In her increasingly rare stretches of spare time, she writes fanfiction.

Alexie is a multimedia student that lives in a fort of pillows surrounded by markers and human livers. Sometimes, she likes to draw portraits with poor traits, and other times, faces with feces. Unknown to most people, Alexie has developed the power of invisibility -- but it only works when no one's looking.

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