Written and photographed
By Jude Thaddeus Bautista
Yesterday (January 15,2015), I made the mistake of trying to shoot Pope Francis (with a camera) just 2 hours before his scheduled arrival. The throngs on Quirino corner Taft Avenue near the Papal Nuncio (his official residence) were telecast on TV5. I then decided to proceed to Vito Cruz corner Roxas Boulevard instead. I was thinking maybe the crowds would be fewer; the spaces more wide open to give me a better chance to photograph him.
When I got there I was astounded by the swells of crowds. Families, people trying to position themselves in every space trying to get a glimpse of the Pope, filled Roxas Boulevard. I tried to look for a break in the line along the island. It took me an hour to finally decide the angle and the thickness of the crowd was just too much for me to get a decent shot. The best shot I got was of the video screen outside CCP announcing the arrival.
I felt like Matthew climbing up a tree trying to get a glimpse of the Lord in this case his Vicar. Emphasis on the disciple being a tax collector, for I’ve been remiss of my own duties as a Catholic and thought maybe I’m not worthy of the chance. For Catholics, for anyone of any faith or lack thereof, seeing the Pope is a once in a lifetime experience, even for a sinner like me. I regretted not being able to plan my shoot or make preparations for his visit here.
Then we got a phone call from my brother Tim Bautista at around 5am (January 16). He was urging us, me and my parents to go to Philippine Columbian Association, where the Pope’s vehicle would pass through en route to Malacañang. I was skeptical at first because of my experience with the crowds but still hoped we would be able to see him.
We had a very early breakfast in Philippine Columbian where our family played badminton in late 80s and 90s. Just across from Plaza Dilao was the stretch of Quirino Avenue leading to Malacañang. By the time I arrived there were people already waiting on the sidewalk although not as thick as yesterday. Cops, PNP officers, Barangay Officials were set up directing the human barricade.
GMA network’s cameraman was already there by 6pm staking out the best angles for the oncoming vehicle of the Pope. A little later on TV5 news crew followed. I was able to shoot Sherie Anne Torres the news reporter for GMA. We saw diplomatic vehicle after diplomatic vehicle pass by on their way to the Presidential reception. Bus after bus of police, and on motorcycles sped by in both directions. I was just praying to myself: Lord please let me get a good head and shoulder shot of him.
From a very cloudy dawn it opened up to blue skies. The TV5 crew was kind enough to share that he was in a vehicle but that he was waving to the crowds through an open window. Minutes before 9am his scheduled departure from the Apostolic Nunciature, we saw a military sniper assigned to one of the rooftops. A chopper or two flew above us.
Then we saw the motorcycle escorts, his vehicle was in the middle of it all surrounded by police jeeps and a truck with a camera crane behind it. I saw a hand out of the window with a white sleeve waving, one of the police jeeps blocked our view.
Then for less than 10 seconds I saw him. You could see how happy he was with the throngs of faithful that have lined the streets everywhere he went. A perfect ray of sunlight went in through the window and illuminated his kind face. I didn’t realize that I would be so affected by it. The TV5 cameraman had enough sense to jog with the entourage and get more footage. I was so overwhelmed that I wasn’t able to follow him.
When we got home we watched on TV how the crowds were even INSIDE the presidential palace. All along the way after greeting government officials and the ceremony he was kissing and blessing children. One little girl even hugged him. The act was a powerful symbol of the church’s emphasis on preserving the sacredness of the family. Even though it is quite natural for him to bless and kiss babies.
PNoy’s Forgettable Speech
Like millions of Filipinos, I want our President to do well especially in representing us as a head of state our leader in his meeting with Pope Francis. I don’t think anyone sets out to deliberately discredit him during this important visit. But the content of PNoy’s speech was very disappointing on several levels. He does a remarkable job of discrediting himself. First he mentioned the corruption and lack of transparency of the previous administration and then chided local prelates, priests for being silent about it and then being more vocal of their criticism of him. He even cited one instance where a priest criticized him for his hair.
At 2015 he still manages to harp on the previous administration’s follies, the tail end, the final stretch of HIS own term. What may I ask happened to the former President? She’s ALREADY in jail in spite of a serious medical condition. PNoy’s vindictiveness knows no bounds, that he felt he still needed to mention this for his speech beside the Pope. His pettiness is such that he felt compelled to mention the criticism on his hair by a priest at this pivotal international visit not just for our country but also for the millions of faithful in Asia and around the world.
Speeches have weight because they reveal how we express ourselves and what’s important to us, for us. I was personally embarrassed for him and our country that he was representing. It’s very unbecoming for a head of state, making him sound superficial even narrow minded. Will the Pope and dignitaries wonder if PNoy is able to go beyond his own petty squabbles and act on urgent issues that need to be addressed? Fr. Nono Alfonso told TJ Manotoc of ANC that he was personally surprised and didn’t think it was the right venue for the President to mention those things in a speech.
Pope Speaks for Poor Against Corruption
In stark contrast Pope Francis spoke of the values that the Christian faith holds dear. The message is both currently relevant and is respectful of historical significance of his visit. The speech describes his visit as ‘pastoral’ and gives importance to the role of the family. “The highlight of my visit will be my meetings with families and with young people here in Manila. Families have an indispensable mission in society. It is in the family that children are trained in some values, ideals and a genuine concern for others. But the whole world sees the family can also be severed and destroyed. It needs our support.”
He made mention of the role of the family in aid of difficult times such as those experienced during Yolanda, “This visit is meant to express my closeness to our brothers and sisters who endured suffering loss and devastation caused by typhoon Yolanda. With many people though out the world I admire the heroic strength, faith and resilience demonstrated by so many Filipinos in the face of natural disasters and so many others… At great sacrifice they tapped on their time and resources creating networks of mutual help and working for the common good. This example of solidarity in the work of rebuilding teach us an important lesson. In the family every society draws the deepest resources in order to face new challenges.
The Pontiff took the opportunity to remind our politicians and leaders of prioritizing the poor. This is very fundamental and at the very core of biblical tradition, “As many voices in your nation have pointed out it is now more than ever necessary that political leaders be outstanding for their honesty, integrity and commitment to the common goal. In this way they will help preserve the rich human and natural resources with which the Lord has blessed this country. Thus will they be able to marshal the moral resources needed to face the demands of the present and to pass on the coming generations a society of authentic justice, solidarity and peace. Essential to the attainment of these national goals is a moral imperative of ensuring social justice and respect for human dignity. Great biblical tradition enjoins on our peoples the duty to help the voice of the poor… I hope that these prophetic psalms will challenge everyone at all levels of society to reject every form of corruption, which divert resources from the poor.”
Maybe we should all pray that everyone heeds the words of Pope Francis. The Filipino people want and need PNoy to do well and have ‘a commitment to the common goal’. He still has time to mend whatever broken fences he has caused with his thoughtless words and vindictiveness. Both his father and mother recognized heroes and icons of democracy preached forgiveness and reconciliation along with justice. This is one day that I will cherish; neglectful of my own faith as I had been the Lord blessed me with being able to capture the Pope’s smile.
fb fan page: