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Pope fever: 6 babies named after Francis in Eastern Visayas

CEBU CITY, Philippines–In what could be the clearest evidence of pope fever sweeping Eastern Visayas, at least six babies born in the region’s biggest hospital have been named Francis.

One of the babies is a girl but her name is spelled as Frances, according to a hospital staff of the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) who asked not to be identified because she was not authorized to speak to the media.

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“Perhaps, the parents want to name their babies after the pope not only to honor him but to remember that a pope visited Tacloban,” said the hospital staff, she said.

The six babies were born from Monday to Wednesday. But on an average, close to 20 babies are born daily in the biggest government-run hospital in the region.

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Pope fever is very much alive in Tacloban City, which was devastated by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) on November 8, 2013, killing more than 2,200 people in that city alone, while 600 others remained missing.

Merchandise ranging from t-shirts to pins are being hawked on the streets and in department stores.

Ecole Gaviola, a government worker from Maripipi town in Biliran, said he bought souvenir items and also transparent bags, a requirement in joining the public Mass at the apron of the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban.

Hector Go, owner of a stall selling the memorabilia, said his goods have been selling like hot cakes.

“We are selling 600 shirts per day at P250 a piece,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

A hotel in the city even gave its security guards a change in clothes from the usual white and blue guard uniform to the yellow and blue attire of Swiss guards.

“This is our way to remind our guests that the pope is coming to us,” said Eduard Chua, owner of LA Rica Hotel.

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He said his 52-room hotel have been fully booked because of the papal visit.

Residents and some establishments have also placed streamers to welcome the pope along the 12-km route of the motorcade that would take Pope Francis from Tacloban airport to Palo town where he has been scheduled to eat lunch with 30 survivors of Yolanda and earthquake in Bohol.

Some of the streamers read: “Godspeed Pope Francis.” “Welcome to Tacloban City.” “We love you.”

Huge flags of the Philippines and the Vatican were also placed side by side with each other along roads in Palo and Tacloban City.

Some residents put up bleachers inside the compounds of their houses to have a better view of the Holy Father during the motorcade.

“It’s basically all systems go for the coming of the Holy Father to Leyte,” said Fr. Chris Arthur Militante, information and social communications officer of the Archdiocese of Palo.

“So far, there are no changes in his itinerary in Leyte. What was being announced shall proceed,” he added.

Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive at 10 a.m. on Jan. 17 at the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport where he will celebrate a Mass.

He will then be brought in a motorcade to the Palo Archbishop’s Residence to have lunch with 30 earthquake and Yolanda survivors .

According to Militante, the Pope will be seated at the center of a U-shaped table inside the dining room of the Archbishop’s Residence.

Fifteen survivors will take the reserved seats to the Pope’s right and the other 15 to the left.

Only Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle of Manila and Palo Archbishop John Du will join the lunch.

Militante said the papal lunch has been scheduled to start at 12:50 p.m. and would last for about an hour.

The pope will then be given a 30-minute ‘siesta’ at the room of Archbishop Du before he will proceed to bless the Pope Francis Center located within the eight-hectare Archbishop’s Residence at 3 p.m.

He will then proceed to the Palo Cathedral, about 500 meters away from the center to meet with the priests, women and men of the different religious communities at 3:30 p.m. before he departs for Manila.

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TAGS: Baby names, Eastern Visayas, Francis, Leyte, papal visit, pastoral visit, Pope Francis, Tacloban City
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