TACLOBAN CITY: The strong faith in God of the estimated 160,00 pilgrims wearing yellow raincoats that camped here as early as four in the afternoon Friday helped them survive the strong winds and rains brought by tropical storm “Amang: to welcome and attend Pope Francis’ Holy Mass Saturday morning.
Upon seeing the arrival at Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport of the PAL chartered flight carrying Pope Francis and his delegation at 8:45 a.m., one hour ahead from the original schedule of 9:45 a.m., pilgrims began shouting and rejoicing.
Coincidentally, the strong rains also partially stopped after the Pope’s arrival.
Pope Francis, who also wore yellow raincoat, is the leader of the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic worldwide and the Philippines is the heartland of the Roman Catholic in Asia.
The intermittent rains overnight that turned heavy early Friday morning as Leyte was placed by the country’s weather bureau under public storm signal number 2 did not stop the celebratory mood of the pilgrims near the Tacloban Airport.
However, Amang took its toll on the children and the elderly as some were taken by stretchers to field hospitals after suffering from chills.
“We got very cold because of the rains and strong winds; we are afraid of hypothermia,” said Melanie Ferrer, 40, who brought her children to the makeshift local media center to seek temporary refuge.
“Our faith helped make it through the cold night” Ferrer added as organizers appealed to pilgrims not to force themselves to wait for the Pope’s arrival and could leave if they can no longer take the very cold weather after rains soaked their bodies.
Meanwhile, Nicanor Perez, 48, said they bravely faced the bad weather just to see the Pope.
“The rains and winds are no match to our faith. We did not allow these to dampen our determination and happiness to attend the Pope’s Holy Mass,” he said.
During the night, a mass was held shortly before midnight to bless the site of the Holy Mass.
Pilgrims who held vigil also prayed the rosary for Pope Francis’ safe arrival which happened to be more than one hour ahead of his original schedule. PNA