Meaningful for all

My January 18, 2015 column.

There are many insights and lessons that could be drawn from the collective journey of reflection and spirituality that Filipino people embarked on in the last few days since Pope Francis descended into the country.  But unlike the President, I will wait for the right time to offer my two cents’ worth.  In the meantime, I think it is important to try to help in whatever way we can to make the next two days – today and tomorrow – as orderly as we all possibly can.
I continue to believe that Filipinos along the route of the various papal motorcades and those present in the papal events behaved well because of three reasons. 
First, because people knew exactly where they were supposed to go and how they were expected to behave.   Media outlets were saturated with maps, advisories, notices, etc., - an app was even developed for the purpose and made available for free to everyone.   It always helps if an effective communication program is in place.
Second, the structural preparations were adequate and made ahead of time.  The concrete barriers were set up ahead of time and other provisions for crowd management and control were obviously thought through. Clearly, there is no substitute for careful planning.
But above all else, I think what really worked was the positive messaging.  Most everyone focused on appealing to the inherent values of Filipinos.  Many of our leaders kept praising people for their fortitude, their discipline, and their sense of “kapwa.”  The positive reinforcement clearly worked.  I heard of instances when the few who tried to break rules or took advantage of others were quickly reminded by everyone else to be mindful of the collective responsibility to make a good impression on the Pope.  From what I gathered, what worked in many instances were friendly appeals such as when policemen nicely told a few unruly people at the Manila Cathedral not to sully the good image the Filipino people have been generating in the last few days.  Hiya (sense of shame) is a powerful value to correct or modify behavior, but I guess most of our leaders have forgotten our own values.
Thus, I hope that as we converge at the University of Santo Tomas grounds or at the Quirino Grandstand of Rizal Park for the Sunday mass today, or at the routes of the remaining papal motorcade tomorrow, we would continue to display the kind of discipline and concern for others that we have been showing since Thursday.
Given that there are now few opportunities to see the Pope, I hope that those who have already seen Pope Francis will give way to others.  I was dismayed to read messages in social networking sites were people engaged in competition as to the who got to see the pope more times.  Give chance to others.
Let’s all take heed of the instructions, please.   Umbrellas, back packs, bladed weapons, mono pads, etc, will not be allowed at Quirino Grandstand or at the UST grounds.  It is best to just follow the rules for everyone’s safety.  
But over and above everything else, let us try to bask in this rare opportunity to embark on a collective journey of reflection and spirituality.  Let’s help make the papal activities become joyous celebrations of faith and not a free-for-all street party.  Let’s all imbibe the message of mercy and compassion – concern for others, beginning with the very people we stand with as we join the papal activities.  And more important, let us all fill or hearts with gratitude for the great blessing of having been in the presence of a Pope who is revolutionizing the church and making it closer to people.


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