Shooting The Pope

I do not know but I really find it hard to gather all my thoughts so I can blog about my photographic experience about the recent Philippine Papal 2015 visit. Fast five days it was, but no matter how fast it is, the whole nation dropped everything and stopped.

It was a personal journey for me. In the beginning, my vision and intent was to shoot all the barricade set-up on all the Papal roads. I thought it was a waste of money. I thought it was over-acting from the powers that be. To my mind they are denying the Faithful from the Pope.
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On the first day, seven hours before arrival, that early – Dewey Boulevard was already dotted with white, yellow and blue people, seems like this is a display of uniforms. Displays of statements and conformity, those big IDs and personalities. The barricades were still empty but not with expectations. The early birds were all smiles as they position themselves for what they think is the best position to get  glimpse of the Pope. I was able to talk to a happy group from the  Duty-Free Shop, who gladly said that they will wait till He comes. Same goes to a family from a nearby province who where there since the early morning. The day offers a lot of promise, a lot of photo opportunities, a lot of street photography and the portrait of anxiously waiting. After a few minutes, I got bored with the continuous arrival of people with six hours to go, I need to go to Villamor Airport and see the barricades.

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On board the jeep going to the airport, a heavier set of human barricade slowed the traffic. Blue Regulars  and White Plebes. It was a sight. To my mind again, with this set-up, how can the people see the Pope? As I look around, the faithful comes in all sizes. Some were even babies. Nobody seems to mind long hours of wait and nobody seems to complain about the afternoon heat. After a while the sky was overcast. Light diffused, yet everything bright.

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I positioned myself with the mainstream media and the MMDA managers. They have a very good vantage point. I changed my lens to 70-300mm and continued shooting. There were not much of a subject to speak of, what could be seen without even pronouncing it is the numerous selfies and “We were there” shots. It was at that time that I began to take a shot or two for the MMDA group. I began to have small talk with them as we all wait. At the background, people alll over are working, coordinating, manning, positioning. The waiting is not really the boring waiting, it is preparing. True as it is, boredom is only for boring people.

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Can’t imagine how five hours passed standing, I was lucky enough to have a few square meters to roam. Then I overheard the broadcast person beside me, saying that the Pope’s plane is ow over Lubang island, I guesstimate that the plane would arrive in 20-30 minutes. People all around are also monitoring through their phones and handheld radios, excitement pumps up in new levels. Soon enough, I saw the singular plane against the orange sky, it was not yet visible to many, but the silhouette can already be seen on 300mm. Hmmm. I begin to train my camera settings on the road. I said to myself, if the sun would still hold up, until the Pope gets out of the airport without much state ceremonies, I still would have a clear shot. But no, the sun does not stop for a shot. The environment was not dark, but I have to chase the light. Waiting…

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Soon thereafter, maybe after 30-45 minutes, about 20 motorcycle escorts came zooming. It is a sign. People began to cheer loudly. There it was, I can see from 100 meters lights from the motorcade. The Pope’s entourage is here. Then I see the Pope’s silhoutte. I took a shot, then another. Then the camera does not seems to cooperate. Whew the Pope’s mobile is too fast, can’t get a clear shot. I ran for another. It was just a glimpse, and courtesy of my naked eye it was a clear vivid shot for my memory only.

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I need to get another. I soon found myself amidst happy people, graced by the Pope’s hand wave. Their faces are evidence enough and picture perfect enough.
I want to shoot them, but I need to follow the motorcade soon. There are no public transportation around, roads are closed, so how? I begin to hitched a ride with traffic enforcers, and they did let me till the next outpost. Still to far from the motorcade. Then another scooter, this time it was the longer Villamor to Baclaran. I was hoping I could still catch the Pope in Baclaran, I was talking to the rider and I realized we were of different faiths. Or shall I say religion?  Does it matter now. As I got down the saddle, I was really thankful to him and snapped a shot. But the Pope had already passed Baclaran, people are clearing and moving in any direction but the barricade hole.

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I saw a Firetruck and asked for a ride. Wow people are really nice. My feet on the stepboard and my hands grabbed the sidebar, got the feel of how is it to be a Fireman, but as soon as the Firetruck, being a Firetruck gets the usual speed, my grip tightened as I am in between thrill and fear. What a speed! Then there was traffic, I got down snapped the firetruck people, thanked them and chased the entourage again.

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This time, I am quite resigned to the chase. Another motorcycle hitched me all the way to Vito Cruz, a stone throw to Quirino Ave. hoping I can still get my shot. Nope.
But what I found is a Mother and her Child, with the former wearing a World Youth Day 1995 T-Shirt.
A reminder of how in my Youth had the opportunity to organize the Parishes for the WYD 95.

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Then that was the first day. And all is good.

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