I’ve noticed that almost on a daily basis for some months now front pages of national dailies have been featuring Pope Francis and his impending visit to the country set on January 15 through 19 next year. I get it that the Philippines is predominantly Catholic and Francis is the Pope but is there no other front-page material?
It’s like how Christmas is now celebrated here for which I blame national and local media particularly the FM stations. At the start of the so-called ‘ber’ months which is September they play Christmas songs and launch the countdown to Christmas Day. One wonders if the excitement over the countdown is really in anticipation for the Birth of Christ or merely a count of days until Christmas Bonus or 13th Month Pay when we can go berserk with our shopping and what have you. Christmas has now become an activity focused on frenetic accumulation of perishables. And then when children carolers come to our front steps we can’t even invite them in and have them partake what’s on our tables and inside our pantries. We throw them a coin or two instead and when feeling especially devilish unleash the canines on them to boot! This isn’t Christ-mas.
So it’s not the visit per se of a Pope or a religious relic for that matter that Filipino Catholics and the media should overly concern themselves with. Mumbling the National Prayer for the Papal Visit out of rote isn’t enough too. Rather it’s how prepared we are to truly imbibe that which the Pope represents who is Christ and when I say Christ I’m referring to Christian values of justice and concern for community, and yes, mercy and compassion according to the theme of the national campaign. May I also add that the Pope’s assumed name of Francis stands for poverty of spirit and love for creation?
The country’s been visited by a Pope before, Pope John Paul II, and has there been significant change since because of his visit? Has Baguio City which he visited changed? There was change but not at the level JP II had hoped Filipinos were potentially capable.
Just as we have remained reactive after the innumerable and deadly storms that have visited the country, there can be several more Popes who will visit after JP II but if people are not prepared to align themselves to the symbolic meaning of such, the visits are rendered fruitless like the seeds planted in dead soil.
But, there’s still time to make real preparation, in fact, now is the best time for it: the Christmas season.