I was a passive viewer of the recent visit of Pope Francis in the Philippines last week. My only involvement was watching the live coverage as it unfolded and sharing my thoughts with the household. I am not Catholic so watching this momentous event on TV was enough for me. You see… the Philippines is the largest Christian country in Asia with a predominantly Catholic following hence a visit from the head of the Catholic church is not just news. It is THE news.
No doubt that the Filipino’s warm reception to Pope Francis is one for the books. It was a rare opportunity for Filipinos to have a Pope visit the country. The last time that a Pope visited the Philippines was in 1995 when we hosted the World Youth Day celebration. Hence, it was not a surprise that Filipinos braved the sun, rain, wind, and the crowd to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis.
As I took the front seat of watching the events unfold on television, I was amazed at the charisma of Pope Francis. His genuine smile, humility, and firm stand on issues piqued my interest. He had the aura of a leader who was ready to influence his followers towards the ideals that he firmly believes in. He was not afraid to speak his mind and spoke from his heart.
I was amazed with how he requested to have a simple welcome be accorded to him upon his arrival in the country. I was also amazed with his request to have an open Pope mobile that proved to be a security nightmare for both the Church and the government.
As I was glued in front of the television, I felt the joy and the warm welcome of Filipinos who waited for hours, enduring the heat of the sun, to catch a glimpse of the highest leader of the Catholic church. Pope Francis was probably more amazed when he saw the multitude of people who lined the streets to greet him.
But his planned visit to Tacloban sealed the deal that he was a leader who was reaching out to the church’s followers. I must admit that he braved the rain and the wind of an incoming typhoon just to make his presence felt to the survivors of Yolanda. His visit comes with an apology for his delayed visit and an assurance that he was here. It moved me. Here was a leader who recognizes his weakness but gives his assurance of his presence. It is a shining example to our current leaders who put blame on others for their own weakness.
Humility is the best asset of Pope Francis. He was not a leader who felt that he needed to have the answers. He knew when the right words to be said and when the lack thereof was necessary. He was not afraid to show people where his human limitations were not enough to answer the question but was quick to show that he understands. It was these humble acts that made me respect him, not for the position that he holds, but for who he is as a person and as a leader.
It was this same respect for him that made me decide that I had to see him. I was impressed with his sincerity and humility that I just had to take the opportunity to see him. So I braved the rains and the wind, together with about 6 million Filipinos, on his last public appearance in Luneta. I did not attempt to head off to Luneta but opted for Roxas Boulevard as my objective was to see one of the most influential man in the world. I saw at ground level how Filipinos waited for hours in the cold just to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis. I was lucky that I only waited for about two hours in the cold and I still managed to have caught a glimpse of the genuine smile from the humble Pope Francis.
My brief encounter with Pope Francis taught me three things – humility speak volumes and touches the heart of many, stand for what is right and be not afraid to make others know your stand, and make things better for the people around you by extending your hand when needed. These things we should all practice, both Catholic and non-Catholics alike.
As we all know, it is the start of another year and most people have probably carried out new plans, changes, and resolutions that they all hope to achieve for this year. In my case, I have already drafted my bucket list for 2015 in my new planner with a new pen that goes with it. Yes, I am serious about the new pen.
It has been my annual practice to write 50 things that I wish to achieve for the coming year. These stuff range from the things that I want to buy, places that I intend to visit, books that I wanted to read, things that I want to learn, or simple things that I want to try out. The list gives me perspective – a direction where I can focus on. In the end, it gives me satisfaction for a year that went well. It was a constant reminder to appreciate the small things in life – it is these small things that matters.
Let me share with you some of the things on my bucket list for this year.
One the things on my list this year is to visit the 7 lakes of San Pablo City. I love to travel and I love to share my travel stories to others. For me, travel is every opportunity that I get to hop on any mode of transportation to take me to a place where I get to discover.
San Pablo City in Laguna has a special place in my heart. Our roots stood along the hallowed grounds of the city and this is probably the reason why it has a special corner with me. I like the peace and comfort that San Pablo gives me. Interestingly, it is also the home of 7 lakes that I have been wanting to explore. I know that it will require a bit of stamina and endurance but I think it will be quite a feat to conquer 7 lakes in a day. Anyone who is up for the challenge can buzz me so we can start planning it out.
I have got to get back to my reading and this year is about being able to read as much as I can. I missed out my targets last year so it is about time that I head on back to my corner and start reading again. I enjoy reading books, not eBooks, but the real ones. I also want my little girl to start the habit so I am working on reading the Harry Potter books with her before bedtime so she can start appreciating reading as early as now. My first challenge is to sort and keep books worth reading to those books that needs to go.
I also intend to adopt an outreach program as an answer to the call to social awareness and responsibility. I intend to have it as a long term project that will help educate about the need to consistently reach out to those who are less fortunate. It is about sharing the blessing and helping teach others to lend a hand in whatever way that they can. It is more of a response to be more discerning on how to respond to community concerns.
2015 is also Gary Valenciano’s year for me as I am planning to collect his albums. My love for music have given me the opportunity to collect CD albums of my favorite artists. I have done Parokya ni Edgar and Eraserheads. This year is Mr. Pure Energy’s turn. I have started by listing down all the albums released and he has 35 albums to date. I already have 5 albums acquired so that means 30 CDs to go for the whole year. So to my dear friends, here is a hint of a possible gift that you can give me this year. It will be a lot easier for you.
Lastly, I will keep my blogs updated. I have been out on my blogs last year and I will turn that around this 2015. My blogs have been my outlet for my thoughts and opinions. It would be good to look back into the year and get to read back my thoughts – throwback in a sense. It would also show me how my thought process developed throughout the year.
As I start the year and as I share these thoughts to you, my hope is that, by the end of this year, I will be able to give you a brief on my journey through my bucket list. I encourage you to do the same. Start something new and learn something new this year. Make people smile and make them feel good. Make a difference to the people around you.
I am sending you the wish for a great 2015!