Exactly twenty (20) years ago today, 12 January 1995 St. John Paul II (then Pope) landed at the NAIA (RPLL, MNL) to attend the culmination of World Youth Day (WYD) Manila. I was a 3rd Year High School student then and a Medic Volunteer for WYD 1995.
Three (03) days from now, the current Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis will be landing on Philippine soil for his Papal Visit. This time, I am not a volunteer for any organization, but will be an observer and a member of the Roman Catholic church attending some of the activities to see the Pope in person.
Based on my experience from the last Papal Visit, coupled with exposure on big events particularly related to aviation (where you will be under the sun for almost the entire day), here’s my own Survival Guide in Attending Events Related to Pope Francis’ Visit to the Philippines:
- Forget Filipino Time
Even just for this week, will you please forget about Filipino Time? During the last Papal Visit (20 years ago), everything was in a clockwork sequence. The only thing delaying the arrival of the Pope in a venue was the pack of crowd waiting for his convoy to arrive. For this Papal Visit, if you want to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis, be sure to be at the venue of activities at least three (03) hours before it is scheduled to happen, at the minimum. KNOW THE SCHEDULE of the Pope’s appearance at the different venues.
- Travel Light
Condition yourself that you will be walking for miles (kilometers, actually since we’re in the Philippines) and for hours. I tell you, for the Sunday afternoon mass of Pope Francis, people will be walking as far as Baclaran to the Quirino Grandstand. The last time the Pope celebrated a mass at the same venue, it was attended by some 5 million people. For Sunday, they are estimating around 6 million to be in attendance. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes and the best walking shoes you have. I do not suggest wearing of slippers; rubber shoes are more durable and will be able to protect your feet that day.
- Do Not Forget the Following
Make sure that you have the following inside your bag (heard that backpacks will be disallowed at the venues where the Pope will be): a bottle or two of drinking water, some snacks (biscuits will do if you do not have any health condition), mini first aid kit, ID card(s), penlight flash light, raincoat (also heard that use of umbrellas will be banned), plastic bags (to dispose off your litter afterwards), and the most important of all — power banks to go along with your mobile phone.
I also suggest that you leave your wallets at home … better safe than sorry.
- Bring a Full Charged Digital Camera
If you do not have an iPhone (yes, I’m biased. I dumped my digital camera for an iPhone), make sure that you a a fully charged digital camera. Who knows, Pope Francis might just ask the popemobile driver to stop in front of you. As they say, Pope Francis is the most unpredictable we had so far.
- Be Alert, Always
Though there is no actual threat for the safety of the Pope (according to the government), it is still best to be always on the lookout for suspicious personalities, items, etc. There is nothing wrong of reporting these unusual stuff to authorities. Again, better safe than sorry.
I do hope that my list above will be of help to you. Enjoy the rest of this week. Good luck to all of us praying to have that encounter with Pope Francis.