Pope Francis’ Mass at Luneta worth the long walk; pedicabs mostly empty
MANILA, Philippines – Despite throngs of people walking their way to the Luneta and Roxas Boulevard for Pope Francis’ Mass on Sunday, pedicab drivers still found themselves waiting for passengers.
“Even though it’s raining, they prefer to walk that distance,” said John Castillo, 21, a pedicab driver stationed at the LRT Pedro Gil station.
Queues of pedicabs were found at LRT stations along Taft Avenue where commuters were expected to get off and walk to the Luneta Park, where Pope Francis was supposed to celebrate Mass at the Quirino Grandstand.
The LRT line from Roosevelt to Baclaran was jampacked with hundreds of passengers wanting to take public transport to get to the Luneta.
At LRT stations along the line, kilometer-long queues of passengers were seen braving the morning drizzle as they waited to get inside the station.
Majority of the passengers got off UN Avenue station, which was the station nearest to the Luneta, with the crowd walking to the venue.
But mid-morning of Sunday, Castillo has yet to pick up a passenger despite yelling his lungs out every time passengers disembarked from the train.
“We thought we’d get more passengers today because of the Mass, but it’s the opposite. I’ve been waiting here all morning and this is my first trip,” he said.
He just let his passengers decide on how much to pay him, not demanding any additional payment.
The areas of Malate and Ermita, where many restaurants, bars and establishments are located, was like a ghost town as there were few to zero customers in the shops. This was because streets surrounding the Luneta Park, Taft Avenue and Roxas Boulevard – where thousands of people had converged – were all closed to vehicular traffic.
Robinsons’ Place in Ermita was still open for business despite its proximity to the venue.
The road blocks were not a problem for pedicab drivers like Castillo, whose bicycle-powered cabs were allowed by traffic enforcers.
Due to the low passenger turnout, Castillo decided to sell mineral water at the Quirino Grandstand during Pope Francis’ Mass in the afternoon.
“I’ll need the extra income and I am sure there will be lots of buyers. The problem is squeezing myself in,” the pedicab driver chuckled.
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