Friday, April 08, 2011

John Paul II in Manila, 1981

My dad was telling me about his experience of attending the Mass for the Beatification of San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, in Manila last night. It was 1981 and Pope John Paul II was in Manila to meet with the youth of the country. On paper, Martial Law had already ended, but in practice, the Marcoses still lorded it over the country, their generals and cronies getting fat on their abuses of the people. It was the first beatification ceremony outside the Vatican; hence, the Mass was naturally packed with people.

"I was a senior at UST (University of Santo Tomas) then, which hosted the Pope during his visit. Since I knew some people who were part of the committee that dealt with the Pope's visit, I was able to get tickets for his final Mass quite early. I went with my four sisters who were all in Manila at the time.

There must have been a mix-up with the tickets, since when we came to our designated seats, we found that we were seated together with the religious! Directly in front of us were so many nuns and priests, and when we took our seats, we could hear some of them groaning. We were the only laypersons seated there, and one of my sisters even forget her veil. So there we were, being eyed by some grumpy nuns and all we could do was look down. I heard one of them say that "These must be one of those new groups who've taken up the Jesuit spirituality", etc. One of the nuns in front turned to face us. I think she was curious why we were seated there, so she asked, "What congregation do you belong to?" "Oh, Sister, we belong to the Congregacion del Hermanas de San Antonio (Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Anthony-- His name was Antonio); I am the priest assigned to them. I was wearing a barong, so they thought that I had chosen to wear plainclothes instead of clericals. Later, another nun, this time from behind us, asked what congregation my sisters were from. I answered that they belonged to the Hijas del Salvador (Daughters of the Savior; Salvador is my grandfather's name). Thankfully, after that, the questions stopped.

We also saw Imelda Marcos make her way near the altar, where she had requested a specially commissioned prie-dieu for her use. In true Imelda fashion, she had come attired all in black; she had a gigantic, diamond-studded peineta clipped to her head (a sort of comb that held the mantilla, popular in Spain), but which looked more like a tiara, covered with a gigantic black veil. I think the rumor went around that she asked her hairdresser to make her hair resemble more closely the hair of the Blessed Virgin. Anyway, she arrived escorted by a bemedalled general holding a golden umbrella to shield her from the sun; it was rumored she wanted to receive communion from the Pope, and was even practicing her kneeling and sobbing. But I think the Pope was too exhausted, so he just gave communion to the altar party."

It is interesting to note that His Holiness came to the Philippines, not at the invitation of the Government (and in fact, the Papal Nuncio at the time was said to have canceled a lot of planned activities with the Marcoses), but of the youth of the nation. I must say, Mrs. Marcos is one ostentatious hag, too.

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