My (almost) close encounter of the late Pope John Paul II


May 1, 2011 – My beloved Karol Wojtyla or better known as Pope John Paul II is a step closer to sainthood.  Today, the ceremony that confer the  status of “blessed”  to the late Pope John Paull II has been attended by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and watched by millions of devotees around the world.

1981 – The year when the late Pope John Paul II visited the Philippines and went to Cebu.  I was 9 years old then.  I know that John Paul is the pope but I was wondering what the heck is going on in here? Why was he all over the news in newspaper, radio and television?  Back then, T.V. shows were a week late from the time it was shown in Manila to Cebu compared to today wherein shows are feed live via satellite.

I forgot the month, day and time when the late Pope passed by Dela Montana street (now Juan Luna street), Mabolo Cebu City.  The T.V. and radio stations in Cebu were noisy covering the Papal visit. I was at home then, watching the coverage and updates of the route of the Pope from  Mactan Cebu International Airport to Lahug.  When news said that Pope’s convoy were already in Mabolo church and has turned right to Dela Montana street (now Juan Luna street), I don’t understand why I was jumping and shouting and was so happy “the Pope is here, the Pope is here, let’s go and see him” I invited my cousins. Without any word, I ran as fast as I could to the street that is say, 5 minutes walk from our house to Juan Luna street but I guess due to my sprinting prowess I reached the place in just 2-3 minutes. I can’t recall who was or were with me that time. While running, my mind was calculating time if I can catch up with the Pope or not.  Catching my breath, I was just in time. I saw the Pope standing on the car opposite Carmelite Monastery, waiving as crowds chanted “Pope John Paul, we love you”.  As I am petite and slim (that time), I made my way to the front, pushing other people behind. Just in time, the Pope’s car was in front of me. I can’t forget the look in his eyes when he looked at me, smiling,  right hand raised up and gave his blessing to me. I know the blessing was for everyone but I felt it was meant for me. I was waiving and chanting “Pope John Paul, we love you together with the rest of the crowd. I just stayed there, standing until I cannot see  a shadow of the Pope while tears of joy fell. The feeling of happiness and peace within was unfathomable and indescribable. Now, I can still feel that lovely, peaceful feeling as I am writing this story. Can’t help but cry as I have that once in a lifetime chance to see a saint in the making. 

On his 2nd visit to the Philippines for the World Youth Day, I started collecting pictures, newspaper clippings and cut-outs of the Pope neatly pasted it on a scrapbook.

When the late Mother Therese of Calcutta visited her Home for the Destitute congregation in Cabantan, Mabolo, just few steps away from our house, I really wanted to see the living saint but too many people were trying to sneak in and get near her. I did not push myself to get near then. I regretted not trying as what I did with Pope John Paul II’s visit. I could have seen two great people who will become saints in this century.

Years after the death of the late Pope John Paul II, I had this opportunity to work in Saudi Arabia and he is one of those I asked for help and guidance with the blessing of God. 

                                                        I call him, Papa John Paul.

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