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A Date With The Pope
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(Toronto, ON, Canada)

Being out in the crowd, all drenched and shivering under a makeshift aluminum foil raincoat during the Papal mass at Downsview Park on Sunday.  God! I said to myself, I better make this story good so you guys could feel the amazing experience I juz had together with my husband Ernie. Unsure on what's gonna be the impact on me just by being there and seeing the Pontiff, I figured that that was gonna be an experience of a lifetime and for me it's one of the ways to reaffirm my faith to the Catholic church. Taking Cerniel, my daughter, with us was definitely a bad idea. Good enough, the babysitter was always willing to mind her even in the wee hours of the morning. Up at 3:00 am; so so excited, packed our brunch and stuff, woke up ernie at 3:30, sitter arrived at the same time, did a wake up call to a friend who's also coming with us. 4:30, we're on our way to the site, geared with porta-chairs, still and video cameras.  Tho' pilgrims had already camped out, i still anticipated a huge rush of crowd that morning. I was never wrong. As we get closer to the site, people merged until it became a one large mass. I took out my vcam to take some footage but ut of luck. . the moisture sensitive piece of crap conked out! Finally, after the 30-minute walk, we reached the park's gateway. I felt a cold trickle and right there I knew it's gonna be a long damp day. Ernie and I huddled under umbrellas and tarps in a steady drizzle.  Somehow, we were held up in line cuz of security checks. I asked ernie to see if there's a way to avoid it. He came back with a good news. Shortly, we're on our feet again weaving, squeezing ourselves in through the crowd in search of a best spot. at a nearby first aid centre, I managed to grab an aluminum sheet being distributed as raincoats.  along the way,  I saw youths busy hanging up their soggy sleeping bags on nearby bleachers. Others were still dreaming away while some groups started chanting, playing guitars - their wet and musty stuff abandoned on the ground. We eyed-out for Pinoy pilgrims and found some. Threw in some cheery greetings, but all we got were cold shoulders. Pinoy nga naman!!  The search for a space seemed endless, but we did! It was only a few meters away from the Pope's route to the stage. But believe me, claiming the space wasn't that easy. I realized that the youths there were not angels at all. Never mind how we got our spot, but finally, a space to rest! The downpour which started again around 8:00 turned the former air base into a spongy, muddy stew and sea of umbrellas. We weren't put off by more than an hour of heavy showers and tho' the wait seemed forever, that wasn't enough to drown our spirits. Others chose to stand bareheaded in the gusty wind which tore 2 helium-filled balloon lights from their moorings. When I heard it snapped out so loudly, I felt a bit scared and thought of getting out. But somehow I believe that soon we will be rejoicing in the sunshine. Of course not all were young, although most showed a genial coldness to the weather. Instead of using an umbrella, I covered my head and body with the aluminum foil sheet, cuz there wasn't any room anymore for one more umbrella. Several people had passed out cuz of fatigue and luckly I wasn't one of them. 

The Pope's chopper came whirring in the sky around 9:30 am. We cheered with hope to end the dreadful wait. Strangely, or coincidentally, the weather cleared up when the Pope arrived. We applauded when an image of his in the Popemobile appeared on the humongous screen. I said to myself, "sa wakas,makikita na rin kita!" and so he was by our area with guards and all and I angled my camera the best I could for his picture. he looked fine but a tinge of weariness on his face. But then his presence on me was empowering and since he stands as the successor of Peter and a visible principle and foundation of Catholicism,  my faith, at that significant moment,was legally validated. Ernie on the other hand was as happy to see the Pope.

The clouds parted at about
10 a.m. just after the start of the mass. I suggested that we start to weave our way out and juz settle near the big screen for the mass.  While walking, I heard snippets of the gospel and his homily. As always, he urged the youths to build a city of love, and announced the next WYD in 2005 in Germany. For the first time he commented publicly on the sex scandal and told the youths not to be discouraged by the "sins and failings of some of the church's members" a reference to the sexual-abuse scandal that has hit the American Catholic Church hard.  By the end of the three-hour celebration, his hand was trembling, his speech was more difficult to Understand.  Unfortunately, we were also juz too tired to finish the mass so we headed for home. We visited a souvenir booth and both myself a sazzy WYD bag which I really  wanted to have. it was on sale for $ 20 bucks. Of course, the same 30-minute walk to subway station and during the trek back home, I suddenly miss my girl.

Since I've no Pope photos to share, I found a site which you could visit. Just visit this link
http://popups.ctv.ca/content/publish/popups/world_youth_day/photo_gallery/gallery3/picture_gallery1.html