When the 1995 World Youth Day was announced to be held in Manila, right there and then I was extremely excited to get my things and start to put it into action. I told myself I must be there for I really wanted to witness such rare and significant event that will enhance my spiritual and social stand. It is an event that may happen to me once in my whole life. To begin with, I brought myself in bookstores and newsstands, browsing books and magazines and read articles, news and short stories relating to the Pope and World Youth Day. I searched church to become a qualified member of a delegation, though school youth and students were prioritized over the young career men. I went to Catholic religious group to apply volunteer that will best represent our group. When I'd got my identification card as legitimate delegate, I planned my schedules and prepared myself for a big event that may happen to me once or never.
In three days and nights I was in the street. There I did my foods and sleep. In between times we walked the long miles from one place to another, following the route of the Pope. My first destination was in University of Santo Tomas where youth representatives have spoke their issues and concerns. Here I was there shouted “Totus Tuus” (totally yours) amongst the tens of thousands attendees in that wide quadrangle of the campus. On next stop, we were in Cultural Centre of the Philippines complex for a homily where the wide space was filled up with devotees – young, old, men and women, business men or students. In here I had able to see the Pope in up-close and personal. My closest encounter with the Pope was about ten metres when the Popemobile where He was riding had just passed in front of us. I will never forget that moment. Still in my mind I can see His face with those rosy cheeks and wearing that big smile while waving to all He’d just passed by. It was really rare feeling to see the Pope in person that may not happen again in my life. After hearing the mass in CCP, all delegates were moving towards to the last leg of Pope’s mass in Luneta Park where more youth, family and other delegations from different parts of the world were waiting to be blessed with His homily. Walking along the Roxas Boulevard, delegates from different countries were waving their flags, exchanging smiles and shake-hands, and shouting their extreme joy over their strong faith. There were groups of local delegation headed by nuns reciting their prayer while going to Quirinio Grandstand or Luneta.
It was at noon when we finally reached Luneta. There was already large number of crowd where some of which were already doing the pilgrims. There were programs where gospel songs were rendered. The spirit of cooperation and solidarity were very much present, felt and appreciated. Packed foods were given to anyone indiscriminately be official delegates or merely observers. Liturgies were held throughout the days until the night came where we lighted the candles. In the place where we designated ourselves we laid our sleeping mat and blanket. It was not in our home, it was outside yet we felt safe and comfort where the dark sky was our blanket and the flickering stars were our lights while we were on sleep. And we were secured for we knew that God was protecting us.
The following morning and the last day of World Youth Day, more delegates were kept on coming until the park were filled up, little did I know that the crowd was overwhelmingly and unpredictably that big. It was reported that the closing Mass held in Luneta Park was estimated to have been attended by more than five million people and that includes me and its feel blessed and lucky to be part of the largest Papal gathering in Roman Catholic history. During that closing mass, there was this one line that the Pope had uttered in the three and a half hour mass that I cannot forget. He said, he wanted to come back again but if when and how that still he doesn't know. In the remaining times of my life, I am not certain if I can still able to meet the Pope when He comes to my home or will I have to visit Papal Palace in Vatican?
The Papal visit and the 10th World Youth Day in1995 taught me lessons. In that time that everybody was fascinated by technologies, I’d realized that the youth are so powerful, capable to be united and there's still time to become religious in this modern time world.
By Alex V. Villamayor
January 16, 2015.