MANILA (5th Update) -- Pope Francis has arrived in the Philippines, Asia's most populous Catholic nation, where ecstatic crowds awaited the first papal visit in 20 years.
The leader of the 1.2 billion Roman Catholics waved to the crowd as he disembarked Thursday afternoon from Sri Lankan Airbus 340, which brought him from Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, where he had a three-day visit.
President Benigno Aquino III, senior government officials and church leaders, met Pope Francis as he deplaned at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, for the second leg of his weeklong Asian trip.
Seconds after Pope Francis appeared at the top of the Sri Lankan jet's steps, as the crowd noise swelled, a gust of wind abruptly kicked up and blew away his papal skullcap.
The pontiff grabbed at his hat — a futile effort, since it was already long airborne — then smiled and descended the steps into the Philippines, heading toward the TV camera, hatless.
A welcome ceremony was immediately conducted at the airport's tarmac as church bells tolled across the country to welcome the Pope.
Young Filipinos in matching white T-shirts gave him a rousing, thumping hip-hop welcome that drew the flight attendants from the plane out onto the stairwell to watch.
On the tarmac, a boy and a girl from a house for street children handed flowers to the pope, who embraced them.