Pope Francis arrives at Villamor Airbase in Pasay City at around six in the evening. Photo by John Paul R. Autor

THE POPE has arrived.

At 5:30 p.m., Pope Francis touched down at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City after a seven-hour flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The Pope, who arrived via a Sri Lanka Airlines flight, was greeted by 12 bishops and 12 government officials. The 12 government officials included President Benigno Aquino III, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

The 12 Church officials were led by Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, archbishop of Manila; Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, O.M.I., archbishop of Cotabato; Antonio Ledesma S.J., archbishop of Cagayan de Oro; and Romulo Valles, archbishop of Davao. Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, also greeted the Pontiff.

First to welcome Pope Francis on the red carpet was President Benigno Aquino III. The Pope was then offered flowers by two street children, nine-year-old Lanie Ortillo and 10-year-old Marc Angelo Bartolas.

In an earlier interview, Bartolas told the Varsitarian that he would ask the Pope to pray for the return of his mother, who is said to be in Quezon City.

Originally from Tondo, Ortillo and Bartolas currently live with Tuloy Foundation, in a village for street children founded by Fr. Rocky Evangelista of the Salesians of Don Bosco.

Some 1,000 youth participants also welcomed the Pope with a dance number.

High school students performed a dance number to the songs “Piliin mo ang Pilipinas” and “Kapayapaan.” The students came from different Catholic schools such as San Beda College, Southridge School for Boys, Woodrose School for Girls, and De La Salle-Zobel.

Meanwhile, elementary students from different parochial schools around Pasay performed the “Sayaw ng Pagbati” or “Bati-bati,” a ritual dance in Parañaque performed during Easter Sunday.

However, the Pope left before the performance of the elementary students began.

At around 6:15 in the evening, the Holy Father rode the popemobile for the start of his first open-car motorcade. Arianne F. Merez


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