An estimated 300,000 pilgrims from typhoon-ravaged Tacloban and Palo gathered to hear mass celebrated by Pope Francis at the Tacloban airport on Saturday. Among them, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and his mother, Rep. Imelda Marcos, stood quietly. They were joined by survivors of the magnitude-7 earthquake that devastated Bohol in 2013.
Drenched by showers and battered by winds after waiting for hours, Sen. Bongbong excitedly reported the Pope's arrival. "He's here! Just landed in the pouring rain. He's getting soaked in the Pope mobile."
Sen. Bongbong flew to Tacloban immediately after addressing the 34th foundation anniversary of the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University in La Union. Although the Senator was not certain he would get close enough to see the Pope, he said it was "enough to be in the Pope's presence, even from a distance." He added, "being in the vicinity is enough for me to feel his peaceful aura.”
Sen. Bongbong briefly met Pope Francis in June last year, when he, his wife Liza and eldest son Sandro visited Rome for a Papal Audience. In an interview, the Senator shared how starstruck he was. "I was with my wife and my son in this chance meeting with Pope, and we were awed by his presence. He is a rockstar, iba ang dating talaga. At imbes na sabihing, 'I'll pray for you,' alam mo ang sabi nya sa akin? 'Pray for me.'"
The Tacloban mass pushed through despite a brewing signal no. 2 storm. "This is a new experience," Sen. Bongbong said. "Mass in the rain but we don't notice when we listen to the divine message of the Pope." The Pope's homily resounded deeply with the Leyteño attendees. Pope Francis said, “Christ has been there before you in suffering what you went through, and He completely understands the pain you are in right now.”
As Pope Francis made his rounds after the mass, Sen. Bongbong tweeted a photo, remarking, "Tacloban is washed clean by the rain and blessed by the Pope. Suerte pa rin!"
After the Pope's departure on Monday morning, Sen. Bongbong had only gratitude for the visit. In an open message to the Pope, Sen. Bongbong said, "your visit has strengthened our faith and reminded us of the joy in Jesus. You are truly a man of God. Thank you Pope Francis! We will always pray for you."