you're reading...
Manila events, Manila guide

Mission Impossible: World Youth Day Manila 1995

With the World Youth Day 2008  coming up this July in Sydney, Australia, I thought it would be nice to recall the WYD in Manila in January 1995. It was a very memorable event for all the persons who were there at that time: Pope John Paul II’s presence in the country for about two weeks, the amazing number of people who turned up, person’s lives being changed just by the seeing the Pope. For me it was doubly memorable because I had the chance to greet the Pope up close and in a most remarkable way. Here’s how it went: At that time, I was already working as a System Analyst for a food corporation. I could only watch with envy as I read the papers or watched the TV footages about the Pope’s visit and the activities surrounding it;  I was so busy with work that I didn’t have time to join any of the events. Soon enough, the last weekend of the Pope was coming up, and I made a promise to myself not to miss that weekend’s activities. I told myself I just had to get as close as possible to the Pope. With that goal in mind, I set out early Saturday morning to the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) where the Pope would be celebrating mass in the open space outside. I went with a friend who was holding a Press Pass and who volunteered to help get me one from the Press Office inside the PICC. The problem was that, at 5 am, we we were there too early, and it was no surprise that the office was still closed. In any case, as we wandered around the hallway, I noticed on the guard’s desk that there were several sample ID’s taped on it. This was to help the guards identify the different IDs given to people: Participant Pass, Press Pass, Services Pass, etc. There it was staring at me, an opportunity presenting itself. My first instinct was to get the most important-looking ID, but I decided otherwise, and went for the opposite, the most humble sounding ID, which was the Services ID. So I tore off the ID from the desk, made an ID lace from my sneaker’s lace, and voila, I now had a World Youth Day Services ID, not really knowing what it was for. The Pope’s mass was about to start by then, and so what better way to test the ID than by trying to get into the reserved areas of the mass. So off we went, the usher checking my ID, looking perplexed at it, but nevertheless waving me in. My friend with the Press Pass was promptly blocked off. I was giddy with excitement, realizing my ID’s power and the opportunities it promised. I did, of course, finish the mass, all the while contemplating my plan of action for the day. I decided to proceed to the Luneta grandstand immediately, since a vigil was scheduled that Saturday evening, with the Pope presiding. As I walked through the crowd already camping around the grandstand, my ID worked like a magic wand, with the ushers still having that perplexed look at my ID, but still letting me in. I managed to get right into the grandstand’s stage. I now had a front seat view of the Pope, courtesy of my Services ID. The Pope came that evening, I had a good glimpse of him and I was happy for it. But more was still to come. The next day, Sunday, was the Pope’s last day, and he was to say mass on that same stage; this was to be the climax of his visit. In between the vigil and next day’s mass, I found myself actually doing the duties of a Services guy. I was distributing food, trying to organize the people, etc. I might as well do what my ID was intended for. I didn’t sleep but it didn’t matter. Early that Sunday, a group of nuns came to prepare the items for the mass. Of course, being the Services guy who was there since the previous night, I was the natural person to help them out. I carried some of the items, directed where to put their stuff, lit the candles, etc. And then what followed was straight from the movies. With the group of nuns was a disabled woman on crutches, and she had an ID which said “To receive the sign of peace from the Pope“. It suddenly dawned on me that this was my passport to get to the Pope. I would simply help her get up the stage, and that was my chance to hug the Pope. There are very few moments in life when you are so sure of something happening before it actually does. This was one of those moments, and I saw it happening very clearly in my mind’s eye. And it turned out exactly as I had seen it. Of course, it was a blur as the actual scene unfolded. I just remember going up the stage with the woman,  meeting the steely gaze of the Pope’s secretary, then finally embracing the Pope. I managed to blurt out to the Pope some words of gratitude, to which he responds, “Very good, very good”. And that was it. Afterwards, I quickly ran after the woman who was already going down the stage, quite fast for her condition, I thought to myself. I was a celebrity for several days after that. All the secretaries in the office were hugging me, trying to catch a whiff of the Pope’s embrace. My parents , who where shocked and dazed and started crying as they saw me on TV, suddenly looked highly upon me. All my friends were asking how the hell I got to kiss the Pope and appear on national TV from out of nowhere. My friend with the Press Pass was stunned seeing how far I had come since that Saturday morning, and his jaw literally dropped seeing me on TV. A few months after that, I wrote to photo@ossrom.va, the Photography Service of Osservatore Romano, asking for photos of World Youth Day Manila 1995. I simply asked them if they had photos of the portion of the mass where the Sign of Peace was given. They sent me contact prints, I selected my picture, paid for it by credit card , and received my photo a few weeks afterwards, right there below. Not bad for a weekend’s effort of trying to be as close as possible to the Pope 🙂  The Services Pass which made it all possible. WYD 95 Theme and Footages on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJrY7OOT0HM



3 thoughts on “Mission Impossible: World Youth Day Manila 1995

  1. ey jomz!

    i was chuckling while reading ur funny account of how u managed to sidle up to the Pope and hug & kiss him… very clever, haha!

    theres the Press Pass friend of yours to take u inside the Press Ofc… then the choice of the Utilities ID over all the other important-sounding ID’s… then how u were allowed into reserved areas but not ur Press Pass friend when i could only imagine how perplexed those gatekeepers’ faces were to see ur tisoy looks being a Utilities Guy 😀 … and then helping up the lady with crutches bearing the ID that said “To receive the sign of peace from the Pope,” ur ticket to national TV — deft move, haha! and u even got pics to show for it!

    i love it when things come together 😀


    Posted by butch | May 29, 2008, 12:05 pm
  2. Butbutbut… you were sneaky in getting that ID! oh well… alls well ends well. 🙂

    Posted by iamspidermonkey | May 29, 2008, 5:33 pm
  3. Joma (and butch):
    I can answer for your queries re press pass. I was a reporter then for the Manila Chronicle and my gf(then ) was tasked to cover the entire Pope’s visit. Although I was not a Catholic, I still volunteered to cover the side stories of the event not bec of the Pope, or even for my gf, but for historical reasons.

    A Good chance also for my story to land in the front page of our broadsheet.

    I had a press pass, but tama ka it didnt do wonders for us press people. it has limited access only and will only bring you to as far as press boxes or offices.

    Anwyays, bec of this limitations, my gf and i had to sleep on the asphalt (where Rudy Biscocho sets his start and finish line most of the time) just in front of the grandstand to be ahead of everybody for next day’s mass.

    the Utilities ID was just too brilliant pare! Galeng!


    Posted by Jerome | May 30, 2008, 1:29 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s




May 2008
« Apr   Jun »
%d bloggers like this: