Pope Francis bid the Philippines farewell last January 19 after a five-day apostolic visit to the Philippines. Over the duration of his stay, the pontiff visited several locations, including Malacañang Palace, Luneta Park, and Tacloban, Leyte – one of the locations most devastated by Typhoon Yolanda. In each of his appearances, huge crowds gathered to catch a glimpse of the Holy Father, highlighted by the six million attending his concluding mass at the Quirino Grandstand.
The effect of Pope Francis’ presence in the country for just five days was staggering, to say the least. The country, especially the areas that the Pope visited, was almost unrecognizable over the duration of his visit. The streets were clean, the police well-behaved, and the crime rate was close to zero. Metro Manila, which is usually known for its pollution and treacherous streets, seemed to transform into an entirely different city, one of peace and order.
It leads many to wonder why all of this was possible for one person’s visit, but not for the daily welfare of the several millions of people that reside in Metro Manila. The fact that it was entirely possible for the nation to celebrate in solitude shows that the Filipino people are indeed capable of changing for the better. However, in the days following his departure, though the sample size is still small, it seems like we have reverted back to our old selves, rather than continuing the discipline and order exhibited during the Pope’s stay.
After the fanfare and celebration wear off, what does his visit truly mean to us both as Filipinos and Catholics? As the dust has settled and the lively songs and presentations have come to an end, the success of the Papal Visit cannot only be determined by the grand celebration that happened when Pope Francis was on our shores, but by how we act even after he has departed the country.
It seems highly unlikely that the Philippines will transform into a first-world nation overnight, but as to the long term effects of the Pope’s messages of mercy and compassion, as well as his comments against systematic corruption in the government, concrete changes are yet to be seen and will definitely take some time. The country must prove that the Pope’s visit was not just an excuse to garner international media attention, but instead, show that we can translate the message delivered by his Holiness into legitimate action.
It is time to show that the behavior of the nation during the stay of the Holy Father was not fake hospitality done to better our image in the eyes of the rest of the world, but instead, actual warmth born out of affection for the head of the Catholic Church. In the wake of the Pope’s departure, will we truly live his message of mercy and compassion towards our troubled nation? Or will our country continue its state of corruption and poverty, only covering everything up until the next Papal isit?
There are high hopes that this time around, things in the country will change for the better, but only time can tell if the progress that we have gained from the Papal visit will once again be nipped in the bud.