Families, people travelling in groups, volunteers and young people began pouring in trickles along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City as they await the arrival of Pope Francis to the Philippines late Thursday afternoon.
Families with young children, carrying plastic chairs and packed meals, individuals, members of youth groups and volunteers have lined up along the road as early as 7 in the morning to get a spot close to where the pontiff’s motorcade will pass by.
Francis, known for breaking protocol to get near the people and talk to well-wishers, is the third pope to visit the Philippines.
He will be in the country for a state visit as Vatican head of state and for an apostolic trip with a theme “mercy and compassion.” Apart from Manila, he is visiting Tacloban, Leyte, a Southern Philippine city that was ravaged in 2013 by super typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan that left thousands dead and homeless.
The pope is due to arrive in several hours but excitement and energy can be felt among the crowd eagerly awaiting for the 78-year-old pontiff. Many of them, particularly the youth, are wearing t-shirts with an image of the smiling pope.
Wheelchair-bound Edgar Cuarteron, 36, who had been stricken with polio since childhood, came from Bacoor, Cavite outside Manila with his family hoping to catch a glimpse of the charismatic pope.
“I would like to ask for the pope’s blessing for me, my family and the Filipinos when he passes by,” Cuarteron said.
Security guard Marcel Fernando, on the other hand, said he went straight to Roxas Boulevard after his shift at 7 a.m. to wait for the pope.
“I really wanted to see him. He gives me inspiration. He is a humble, simple man,” Fernando said, adding that with the pope’s blessing, he hopes his dream to work abroad would come true.
Yollie Pananingasan, who brought her entire family with her, said she does not mind the heat and the long wait, saying seeing the pope in person is a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“Not all would get a chance to have a selfie photo with the pope and not everybody could go to Vatican to have an audience with the pope. So for us, seeing him tonight is already considered a blessing,” she said.
Street vendor Imelda Capoquian, 44, said she is also looking forward to seeing the pope and at the same time earn a little from selling snacks to the waiting crowd.
“I am excited,” she said in Filipino. “I only see him in posters and now I would be able to get a chance to see him here in my country. I hope he will bless me and my family.” PNA