All in a day

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Sunday, May 4, 2014


ROME, ITALYAn estimated 500,000 people had gathered at St. Peter’s Square and side streets to witness and celebrate the dual canonization of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II.

We were among them, this group of 20 travelers escorted by Cookie Chan, outbound-in-charge and daughter of Alice Kintanar-Queblatin, proprietor of Southwind Travel and Tours.

We could only sing, however, Burt Bacharach’s line “Didn’t we almost make it this time?” There just was no way of getting past the Vatican guards and into the gates, and survive the pushing, shoving and jostling crowd.

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We were at St. Peter’s Square before six in the morning, but others from all over the world had camped out the night before, laying out sheets of paper to sit or lie on to secure their spots on canonization day.

And we were certainly no match to the kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers, and other representatives and VIPs from an estimated 90 countries queuing up to see the rites up close and personal.

Still, we witnessed the fervor of pilgrims young and old, all walking to the Square, identified by flags they proudly waved or national attires and tribal dresses in spectacular colors with matching headdresses.

Priests, friars and nuns were identifiable as well in frocks and habits of brown, black, grey or white.

By six in the evening, the streets were a heaping mass of papers strewn around and empty packs of food, snacks, water bottles and juice packs.

From the abundant memorabilia and souvenir items in on-route stores or makeshift stands, it was clear that Pope John Paul II was the more popular of the two declared saints.

Understandably. Pope John XIII served only for five years from 1958-1963. Pope John Paul served for 27 years from 1978-2005, and traveled the most.

Undeniably, Pope Francis is much loved and very much of celebrity status, wherever we traveled. In Vatican City, posters and placards of him proliferated, often side by
side Pope John Paul II’s.

In San Giovanni Rotondo, Pope Francis’ photos were alongside those of Padre Pio the saint. And in Lanciano and Assisi, photos featured him with Italy’s patron saints, St. Francis of Assisi and Sainte Chiara (St. Clare).

As is true in our own Cebu City during religious occasions or fiestas, other religious items were abundantly displayed on sidewalks. Rosaries, stampitas, medals, statues, crosses, scapulars, novena books.

So were non-religious wares--flags of Italy or Rome, ladies’ fans and scarves, I Love Italia shopping bags, umbrellas, reprints of landscape paintings and even Hollywood celebrities, wooden carvings, and even leather bags bearing Prada or Gucci brands.

Even paste-ups of Donald Duck and Daisy Duck dancing to the tune of a Latin beat from the radio. All for the discounted price of three euros.

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 05, 2014.

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