TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol: Around 200 pilgrims from the Diocese of Tagbilaran lost a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Pope Francis in flesh Saturday after the weather bureau hoisted signal No. 1 in Leyte resulting to cancelled trips for seacrafts.
On Friday, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Cebu cancelled trips for seacrafts going to Leyte after the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical & Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) placed Leyte under storm signal no. 1. By Saturday, the area was already under storm signal no. 2.
The pilgrims, led by Fr. Warli Salise Jr. of the Social Action Center here, had no option but to return home by 6:30 p.m., disappointed.
They left Tagbilaran early in the morning on January 16 only to be stranded in Cebu.
Their leaders repeatedly appealed to Coast Guard officials and even relayed the feedback from Leyte that the weather in their destination is fine but the Coast Guard refused to heed.
As a result, the pilgrims’ reservations for transportation and food in Leyte, estimated at about Php300,000, had been forfeited.
Relatively, even retired international ship captain Jun Mendez, Bohol weather resource person, expressed dismay as it also surprised him why Pagasahoisted the storm signal in Leyte when in fact, tropical storm Amang was around 500 kilometers off Eastern Samar then.
The sea had been calm the whole day and the pilgrims could have crossed to Leyte Friday morning.
The pilgrims were scheduled to arrive in Ormoc Friday morning and hold a vigil at the Tacloban Airport in the evening and would wait for Pope Francis at the tarmac of Tacloban Airport for the Holy Mass that starts at 10 a.m. Saturday.