Amid cheers and shouts of “We love you!” by devotees, Pope Francis was all smiles as he entered Malacañang on Friday, kissing and blessing babies and children along the way.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd was outside to welcome the Holy Father, and he walked with the Pope to the Palace.
When they reached the reception hall, the pontiff signed the Malacañang guest book as the President looked on.
Here’s what the pontiff wrote: “On the President and the people of this beloved land of the Philippines, I ask Almighty God’s abundant blessings of wisdom, discernment, prosperity and peace.”
After their private meeting, Aquino presented the Pope with a commissioned sculpture of Mary, Undoer of Knots, whose representation in a painting inspired the Pope’s devotion while he was studying in Germany.
The sculpture is a rendition of a 300-year old devotion—the Novena to Mary, Undoer of Knots —which asks the Blessed Virgin to intercede with Christ to untie the knots of sin in our lives.
It was carved on wood taken from a former landmark in Malacañang—a century-old acacia tree that used to stand in front of Malacañang’s Kalayaan Hall until it was felled by Typhoon Glenda in July 2014.
The sculpture was carved by Laguna native Fred Baldemor, known for his religious sculptures of wood, bronze and marble.
In a statement, Malacañang said it chose the sculpture because it reflected “the story of the Filipino people.”
“We see the beauty of faith and the strength of devotion, amidst the suffering and challenges of life,” the Palace said.
Aquino also presented the Pope with two commemorative coins bearing the pontiff’s image–P50- and P500-limited issue coins.
In return, Pope Francis gave Aquino an atlas of the Vatican.