[#AwaNgDiyosPH] An evangelical’s reflection: Hope that the Pope brought


In October 1980, I was a grade 6 student at Crusader’s Academy in Ongpin, Binondo, Manila.  Our class, Grade 6 Rose, was brought to the Alvin Angchapel  to learn a new song.  That a song was dedicated to the beatification of Lorenzo Ruiz.  His beatification on was to be held on the occasion of the first visit of St. Pope John Paul II to the Philippines (the first beatification to be held outside the Vatican).  This was to be since this was the school where Lorenzo Ruiz served as church secretary.  We practiced until we remembered the song by heart, only to be told that another choir was going to sing it during the beatification rites at the Quirino Grandstand.

I have totally forgotten that experience but 35 years later and many years after I have surrendered my life to Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I face another Papal visit.

This visit by Pope Francis comes in a different time and different season for me, for our country and for Filipino spirituality.  Since I committed my life to Christ, my spirituality is modeled after Him through the reading of His Word.  Hence, I have very little notice of what the Pope does and his activities.

But this Pope is different.

He is willing to break tradition for the sake of expanding communion with others, regardless if they are Christian or not.  This is a breakthrough!  Finally, a Pope that can connect with almost all Christian groups.  His message of taking away the focus from him, and instead putting that attention unto Christ, is an exposition of Pope Francis’ true humble character.  Watching him during this recent Papal Visit proved such character – the core being his insistence of going to Tacloban City despite typhoon “Amang”.

I have to admit that I admire this Pope and I marvel at his humility.

Looking at how our country responded to this visit, I can say that we have the capacity to be a disciplined-nation.  National artist F. Sionil Jose is right in distinguishing between ethics and religiosity.  The Japanese and the Koreans can follow rules not based on their religions but on their ethical convictions.  We are a overwhelming Christian majority in this country but ethics remains as a subject to be studied, not embedded in our culture and society.

A participant of the encounter of the youth by Pope Francis at the University of Santo Tomas (photo by JEREMAIAH OPINIANO / The Filipino Connection)

A participant of the encounter of the youth by Pope Francis at the University of Santo Tomas (photo by JEREMAIAH OPINIANO / The Filipino Connection)

I would like to believe that the number of people who came to see the Pope in Manila and in Leyte also had other religions.  But they came to see the Pope as a symbol of hope.  The personification of unity, integrity, justice and ethical leadership.  While others came out of superstition –that the Pope can make miracles, heal the sick, give jobs, pay debts, etc and others came because of barkadahan or peer acceptance– Filipinos converged because they want to see hope.

They did not fail.

The Pope obliged them by speaking on topics that demands those who can to give hope.  Religious, politicians, businessmen, academics, workers and students are called upon to do something about the “scandalous inequality” that we see everyday.  This call also demands that the poor cannot have a sense of entitlement but that they too have a responsibility in moving out of their circumstances.  I dare to say that the action of the Pope to go to Tacloban City despite a typhoon and his first experience of being one with typhoon Yolanda survivors is something our leaders also need to emulate: The willingness to face the unknown.  Pope Francis insisted on the Tacloban City trip because he wanted to fulfill his purpose,and promise, of coming here –something that our leaders almost always fail to do.

The Pope had left and we will be left to our own again.  I propose that we demand markers of change to see the impact of how a person of hope had affected us as a nation.

For the coming elections this 2016, I would like to see that the candidates are evaluated as bearers of hope.  For business, I would like to see that rights of workers and fairness of competition prevail.  For government, that black will be black and white will be white.  For students, that getting an education is a right but studying is a privilege to excel.

Ultimately, what we want to see is that this visit of Pope Francis is not a one-time event:  It should be life-changing.

The Pope is right: The only way that we can achieve the personification of hope is not to look at him but to look at the source of hope, the positive expectation of good: Jesus Christ Himself.  I look forward to the day that individually, Filipinos can serve as beacons of hope to our countrymen, whether they are here or abroad.

That could only be true if we have the blessed hope of Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).



The Filipino  Connection columnist Dr. Alvin P. Ang is professor of economics at the Ateneo de Manila University in Manila. Studied and trained at the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, Dr. Ang is also an evangelical Christian.