The cold, driving rain and buffeting wind did not stop tens of thousands of Taclobanons from welcoming Pope Francis and attending the Mass he celebrated at the Tacloban airport.
“Long live the Pope,” the crowd chanted as Francis walked off the plane to be immediately buffeted by strong winds and rain.
Most of the people in the crowd wore thin yellow raincoats handed out by organizers, and the Pope also put one on before walking on a nearby stage to deliver mass in heavy rain.
Some of those who braved the downpour camped overnight to get a good spot, while some waited for hours for that fleeting glimpse of the pontiff.
“Seeing the Pope would be like being face-to-face with Jesus Christ,” Teresita Raza, 65, said before the Pope arrived.
“His presence will be of great comfort to those affected by calamities. He will help ease their burden,” she added.
Michelle Olmillo-Mercado, 20, of Taguictik, San Jose, one of those drenched by the rain was ecstatic upon seeing the pontiff.
“Nakakita gihap kan Pope Francis! [I was able to see Pope Francis!] Bisan hulos okay na! [It’s okay even I’m wet!] Feeling Blessed!” Mercado said.
Liza Fabi-Baoy, spokesperson of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Region 8, said it was worth the wet wait.
Baoy said she waited for two hours in the downpour.
“Two hours waiting in stormy weather, sulit naman because at least nakita ko hi [si]Pope Francis bisan [even if]two seconds la [only],” she said.
“I can’t explain how I feel. I am filled with gratitude. Never in my life did I think that I’d see a Pope, “ 68-year-old housewife Virginia Torres said, wiping tears and raindrops from her face after the pontiff left the mass venue.
Torres, whose house two hours’ drive from Tacloban was wiped out by tsunami-like storm surges, said the Pope’s address had given her “renewed hope” even while filling her again with pain.
“I was overwhelmed with emotion, especially when he mentioned that he can relate to our suffering… everything that we went through came back.”
Dane Miralles, 25, who hails from San Jose, Tacloban, sought the Pope’s blessings.
“Viva el papa! Papa Francisco … bless us more and bring us closer to God,” he said.