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Thomasians nostalgic as Pope visits UST again

/ 09:38 AM January 18, 2015
Pope Francis greet the crowd on his Popemobile as he arrives for the "Meeting with the Youth" at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines on Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015. AP

Pope Francis greet the crowd on his Popemobile as he arrives for the “Meeting with the Youth” at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines on Sunday, Jan. 18, 2015.  AP

With Pope Francis gracing the Philippines this Jan.15 to 19, the fourth apostolic visit in our history, several Thomasians cannot help but sense a tinge of nostalgia by recalling their personal experiences from unexpected meetings to fruits of hard work last 1995 with then pope and now Saint John Paul II’s visit for the World Youth Day (WYD).

For the then six-year-old Rhea Capuloy-Ylagan, she was stunned when a hand wave she thought Saint John Paul II would not see was returned to her.

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“I did not expect that the Pope would pass by Lacson [Street],” Ylagan, now an instructor for the University’s National Service Training Program, said. “[At first] there weren’t many people, but they all appeared when [the Pope] came.”

The papal motorcade unexpectedly passed by the Sta. Catalina dormitory, where Ylagan was luckily situated. Hoping to see the Holy Father, the then-little girl even asked to be carried by her uncle.

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“I saw him (Saint John Paul II) and waved,” she said, adding she never thought the saint would see her in the crowd.

Not simple as luck

Meanwhile, Thelma Maraña persevered for a chance to see the Vicar of Christ.

Maraña, who was just a student at the time, recalled how determination and camaraderie helped her and her entire parish pay the solidarity fee to attend the 1995 WYD.

“Because there were many less fortunate members of our parish, we even had to wash cars to help put together the payment for the solidarity fee and attend [the 1995 WYD],” she said, remembering days of washing cars just to earn money.

In 1997, Maraña’s parish helped one of its own members to attend the WYD in Paris, France. Despite not being selected to be sent to the Eiffel Tower’s home city, Maraña never complained nor felt underprivileged.

“I never thought ‘Why not me?’ the entire time,” she said. “[My friend] really deserved it. I just know we should not expect things, because [the Lord] will give us what we deserve [in the right time].”

And her time came when she was staying at the Office of Student Affairs. By the time the 2005 WYD came, it was her moment–and by the time they visited Saint John Paul II’s grave, the tears came.

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“We were crying and we really didn’t know why,” she said. “I was really lucky. Imagine, everyone else who was with me spent like 200,000 [pesos]. [Meanwhile], I served as chaperon for the University’s students attending the event, and I didn’t even have to pay for anything.”

Maraña realized fate’s hands were at work when the house assigned to them did not have anyone to help them cook, and Thelma coincidentally loved cooking.

“Not everyone would like to wake up in the [cold] morning just to pick up vegetables, but I did,” Maraña added.

Luckily, among the hundreds in high school, Maraña’s son, Andres Gabriel, was chosen to be one of the four children to meet Pope Francis this Jan. 18 when the Pontiff will set foot on the University.

Beyond the call of duty

Mercy Galicia is oldest maintenance worker assigned to the St. Raymund de Peñafort building. She is once again tasked to make sure the University stays prim and proper throughout the apostolic visit.

“This papal visit is very unlike the past one,” the 60-year old maintenance worker said in Filipino. “The police were already checking places days before the visit to make sure the pope stays safe and protocols were in place to make sure everything is orderly. This is good, since we’re a lot more ready than before.”

Already working in the University for the past 35 years, Mercy had a good look at the crowd throughout the 1995 WYD.

“I was not with the others that were gathering in the field, but it was very open back then,” she said. “Everyone was so excited to see him, there were even people climbing up trees just to [get a glimpse of] him.”

Meanwhile, Ian Clemente came meters close to touching the popemobile that same eventful day.

“I was assigned as gate controller [along] Gov. Forbes Street (now A.H. Lacson Street), and every [person] I saw in the campus projected either a tired face or a radiant smile brought by the pope’s nearing arrival,” he also said in Filipino, recalling the intense preparations for Saint John Paul II’s visit.

Having given tickets to his parents and relatives, the Clementes were positioned quite near the gates. People were gathering outside the campus, waiting for the signal to enter the gates.

“You can hear people shout, ‘JP2, we love you!’ over and over again until he reached the grandstand,” he said. “I cannot describe how I felt when I saw [the saint’s] face, [but] all I know is that I was blessed to see him.”

Up close

The Varsitarian alumnus Hadrian Hernandez covered the event as a photographer for the campus paper during his stay from 1994 to 1996.

“Seeing him (the saint) in person [was] the highlight of my professional life which I got the privilege to nurture guided by the teachings of Jesus Christ,” he said in an online message. “[Though] I am not really a religious person, seeing [Saint John Paul II] in person awakened the Thomasian in me to keep the faith in trying what to do is right.”

Hernandez also wanted to remind people planning to visit the University on Sunday to keep the faith in following Christ’s teachings.

“I am hoping the papal visit [in the University] will be [a] safe and reawakening experience to Thomasians in spite of the many wrongs we see and experience every day in society.” Dayanara T. Cudal and Rhenn Anthony S. Taguiam

From The Varsitarian

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TAGS: John Paul II, Luneta, Papal Visit 2015, Philippines, Pope Francis, Pope Francis visit, UST, Vatican
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