PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS WEEK

POPE LEAVES SRI LANKA, THURSDAY MORNING

NETIZENS WELCOME 'LOLO KIKO' TO THE PHILIPPINES ON TWITTER 


FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015, file photo, Pope Francis stretches out his hand to touch the hands of his devotees as he arrives at the church of Our Lady of Madhu in Madhu, Sri Lanka. Pope Francis has worked to avoid cloaking himself in the mystical power that popes are so often endowed with by believers, but still many of the thousands who came out to see him hoped for a touch or a blessing from him. AP/Eranga Jayawardena, File READ MORE, READ TWITTERS WELCOME...

ALSO: Pope Francis on his way to Philippines


Pope Francis boards the airplane on the occasion of his trip to Sri Lanka and Philippines, at Rome's Fiumicino International Airport, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. AP/Gregorio Borgia MANILA, Philippines - Pope Francis has left Sri Lanka and is now on his way to the Philippines for a five-day state and apostolic visit. Live television footage showed the pontiff boarding the plane that was set to depart for Manila before noon. Pope Francis is expected to arrive at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City at 5:45 p.m. READ MORE...

ALSO Payatas (Urban poor) residents prepare 'pagpag' for Pope Francis


Residents of the garbage dumpsite of Payatas partake of a meal to celebrate Thursday's visit of Pope Francis Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines. Pope Francis is embarking on a five-day visit to the only predominantly Catholic nation in Asia Jan. 15-19 and is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of the Filipino faithful. In their statement, the residents are hoping for Pope Francis to take notice of their plight when he meets President Benigno Aquino III. AP/Bullit Marquez  "But the Filipino urban poor are expecting more from the Pope, something that will translate his criticisms to concrete actions that will directly affect the poor even with the slightest change possible," Arellano said. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle said he is expecting Pope Francis' to talk about the "daily disaster of poverty and inequality" in the Philippines as seen in various issues such as corruption. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: What Pope Francis may say in his homilies


A Catholic priest adjusts the uniform of boys who are dressed as Vatican Swiss guards during a rehearsal for the visit of Pope Francis outside the Manila Cathedral Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Pope Francis arrives Thursday from Sri Lanka for a pastoral visit which is expected too draw millions of faithful where about 81-percent of the population is Catholic. AP/Bullit Marquez LIPA City, Batangas – Pope Francis is expected to arrive in Manila from Sri Lanka by plane late Thursday afternoon for his week-long Apostolic Visit to deliver his message of mercy and compassion. The event, which will be held in 11 different venues in Leyte and Manila, is expected to draw millions of people from a predominantly Catholic country. But what does the Pope will tell the people in his homilies? READ MORE...

ALSO: Pope’s Filipino host is a humble rising church star


File photo shows Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle prepares for a simultaneous announcement with the Vatican on the five-day Apostolic visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines. Pope Francis will be welcomed in the Catholic heartland on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, by the Filipino cardinal who might one day succeed him: a boyish-looking priest who rode the bus as a bishop and has impressed many with a humble life, intellect and compassion for the poor. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File) Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle sings on stage, preaches on TV and is on Facebook to spread the church’s message. His down-to-earth demeanor, poignant homilies and accessibility to the masses reflect many of the same qualities that have enabled Francis to dazzle the world. READ FULL REPORT..

ALSO EDITORIAL: Mabuhay, Francis!  

By Jojo Robles Jan. 15, 2015 at 12:01am ---An American friend who has been staying in the Philippines for some months now has been awed by the preparations for the arrival today of Pope Francis, who is making his first apostolic visit to “the only Catholic country in Asia.” And she wondered why things can’t be like this every day. “Everything is so clean,” she wrote. “The pope needs to move here. Why can’t it be like this 24/7? The papal visit is not a Better Homes and Gardens visit. The government here should always be this forward-thinking for its people. Take care of your people all the time!” Of course, as a Filipino, I’m proud that the government and the people are doing their best to welcome the pope in style. Filipinos are that way, after all: firm believers in making the best first impression they possibly can. READ FULL COLUMN...

ALSO: Modeling the crowd

by GIOVANNI TAPANG, PHD  ---METRO Manila and Tacloban are bracing for a warm welcome for Pope Francis today and over the weekend. The authorities have estimated that a total of four to six million will be attending the Mass of the pontiff at the Rizal Park. This estimate is about the same volume as the number of people who attended World Youth Day in 1995.
In such events, crowd safety is always a concern. The recent traslacion of the Black Nazarene image of Quiapo in Manila, where the crowd also swelled to around five million, has shown us the difficulties that a large crowd can bring. Last week, there were two deaths–a heart attack and a trampling amid the swarm of devotees who either did not know or care to notice their feet were killing a fellow human being.READ FULL COLUMN...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Netizens welcome 'Lolo Kiko' to the Philippines


FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015, file photo, Pope Francis stretches out his hand to touch the hands of his devotees as he arrives at the church of Our Lady of Madhu in Madhu, Sri Lanka. Pope Francis has worked to avoid cloaking himself in the mystical power that popes are so often endowed with by believers, but still many of the thousands who came out to see him hoped for a touch or a blessing from him. AP/Eranga Jayawardena, File

MANILA, IANUARY 15, 2015 (PHILSTAR) By Patricia Lourdes Viray -  Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in the country on Thursday afternoon but netizens are already excited for the arrival of the Roman Pontiff.

"Welcome to the Philippines" and "Lolo Kiko" are some of the Philippines trends on Twitter as of Thursday morning.

MORE TWITTER WELCOME: http://www.philstar.com/news-feature/2015/01/15/1413200/netizens-welcome-lolo-kiko-philippines


PHILSTAR

Pope Francis on his way to Philippines (philstar.com) | Updated January 15, 2015 - 11:57am 16 39 googleplus0 0


Pope Francis boards the airplane on the occasion of his trip to Sri Lanka and Philippines, at Rome's Fiumicino International Airport, Monday, Jan. 12, 2015. AP/Gregorio Borgia

MANILA, Philippines - Pope Francis has left Sri Lanka and is now on his way to the Philippines for a five-day state and apostolic visit.

Live television footage showed the pontiff boarding the plane that was set to depart for Manila before noon.

Pope Francis is expected to arrive at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City at 5:45 p.m.

President Aquino and some members of his Cabinet are set to welcome the pope.

The pontiff will then have a motorcade to his official residence at the Apostolic Nunciature on Taft Avenue in Manila.

Pope Francis is heading for the Philippines where adoring crowds await his arrival as the first pope to visit the predominantly Catholic nation in 20 years.

The government has declared national holidays during his visit, which runs through the weekend.

During his time in Sri Lanka, he traveled to the jungles of war-torn north for a show of solidarity with the victims of the country's 25-year civil war, urging people to forgive one another "for all the evil which this land has known."

The pope's trip is giving Philippine authorities daunting security challenges, including an outdoor Mass on Sunday that could draw a record 6 million people.

Francis also plans to visit Tacloban, which devastated by a typhoon in 2013. -with AP


PHILSTAR

Payatas residents prepare 'pagpag' for Pope Francis By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated January 15, 2015 - 11:19am 4 6 googleplus0 0


Residents of the garbage dumpsite of Payatas partake of a meal to celebrate Thursday's visit of Pope Francis Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at suburban Quezon city northeast of Manila, Philippines. Pope Francis is embarking on a five-day visit to the only predominantly Catholic nation in Asia Jan. 15-19 and is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of the Filipino faithful. In their statement, the residents are hoping for Pope Francis to take notice of their plight when he meets President Benigno Aquino III. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines - Urban poor families in the Philippines have staged various activities to welcome Pope Francis.

In Payatas, Quezon City, some residents prepared for the visiting pope a feast of "pagpag" or dishes made from restaurant leftovers.

"They say, it's up to the Pope if he will eat pagpag, and it's purpose is but a symbol to show the extent of their suffering. They still wish that the Pope will find time to visit their community despite his busy schedule, as Pope Francis is known to divert from his travel itineraries," the group Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) said.

The families are hoping for Pope Francis to take notice of their plight when he meets President Aquino on Friday.


12 Residents of the garbage dumpsite of Payatas, partake of a "pagpag" or recycled meal to celebrate Thursday's visit of Pope Francis Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at suburban Quezon city, northeast of Manila, Philippines. Pope Francis is embarking on a five-day visit to the only predominantly Catholic nation in Asia Jan. 15-19 and is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of the Filipino faithful. In their statement, the residents are hoping for Pope Francis to take notice of their plight when he meets President Benigno Aquino III. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Groups supporting the urban poor also hope that Pope Francis, who is hailed as the people's pontiff, will pressure Aquino to implement pro-poor policies that will address issues like unemployment, labor, corruption and land reform.

"We request our Dear Pope to push the Aquino administration to ending the pork barrel system and other schemes that perpetrate corruption within its bureaucracy, as well as the privatization of public lands which is behind the demolition of our homes, and the privatization of social services in the country," said Normelito Rubis, spokesperson of the Pagkakaisa at Paglaban ng Maralita sa Korupsyon at Sistemang Pork Barrel.

Gloria Arellano, Kadamay national chairperson, described Pope Francis as a "progressive leader" and an "icon of hope" for the poor.

"But the Filipino urban poor are expecting more from the Pope, something that will translate his criticisms to concrete actions that will directly affect the poor even with the slightest change possible," Arellano said.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle said he is expecting Pope Francis' to talk about the "daily disaster of poverty and inequality" in the Philippines as seen in various issues such as corruption.

"We await the call of the Pope to the shapers of government, culture and the economy to return to love as the supreme law that must shape their policies and programs," Tagle said in a statement posted on the website of the Archdiocese of Manila.

Tagle expects Pope Francis to challenge religious leaders as well.

"We await the renewed challenge for the ordained and religious to embody the love, patience and healing of the Jesus as they bring the Good News to the poor," Tagle said.

Malacañang said yesterday that the government is ready to heed whatever message Pope Francis has for the country.

"Whatever message the Pope chooses to impart... we will certainly listen to the Pope as primarily the shepherd of the Catholic Church. And so certainly we will take note and listen to Pope Francis' message," Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a televised press briefing.

Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in the Philippines on Thursday afternoon for a five-day state and apostolic visit.

The pontiff will be meeting some Filipino families, including typhoon victims in Tacloban City, Leyte.


PHILSTAR

What Pope Francis may say in his homilies By Marlon Luistro (philstar.com) | Updated January 15, 2015 - 12:26pm 5 4 googleplus0 0

A
 Catholic priest adjusts the uniform of boys who are dressed as Vatican Swiss guards during a rehearsal for the visit of Pope Francis outside the Manila Cathedral Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015. Pope Francis arrives Thursday from Sri Lanka for a pastoral visit which is expected too draw millions of faithful where about 81-percent of the population is Catholic. AP/Bullit Marquez

LIPA City, Batangas – Pope Francis is expected to arrive in Manila from Sri Lanka by plane late Thursday afternoon for his week-long Apostolic Visit to deliver his message of mercy and compassion.

The event, which will be held in 11 different venues in Leyte and Manila, is expected to draw millions of people from a predominantly Catholic country.

But what does the Pope will tell the people in his homilies?

Religious unity is one, living according to the gospel is another, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said.

“We should join one another, we console each other and we can rise from our misery. Because God helps those who know how to love and serve their neighbor,” Arguelles said in an exclusive interview, when asked of what he expects to hear from the pope.

“We may call on the same God with different names but what is important is the people’s brotherhood.”

Barely 17 months before the country chooses its next president and other set of leaders, Arguelles also hopes that the pope will tackle the issue of corruption that has befallen a predominantly Catholic country over the years.

“You try to have a clean government. Not a corrupt one. Because corruption will only lead to poverty,” said the Lipa bishop and known Aquino administration critic, adding that Catholics should also be sensitive with the poor’s plight.

In its latest corruption perception index, Transparency International ranked the Philippines 85th among the 177 countries surveyed, nine notches higher than 2013 and the first time it was able to break into the upper half of the list. The higher the country ranks on the list, the less corrupt it’s perceived to be.

Corruption issues however hounded the Aquino administration in the previous years like the P5-billion pork barrel scam, which involves alleged misuse of public funds that were channeled to bogus non-government organizations of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles in alleged connivance with some lawmakers and government officials.

Detained opposition senator Jinggoy Estrada previously accused Aquino of bribing senators P50 million each for projects funded through the assailed Disbursement Acceleration Program in exchange for the conviction of former Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012. The president has denied this.

Arguelles said the pope’s message might also challenge millions of Filipino Catholics, whom he thinks are not living according to the religious teachings.

“We can’t be Catholic but we are cheating. We can’t be Catholic but we don’t love especially for the unborn ones. You can’t be Catholic if you are spreading indecency, worldliness and we’re enslaved by our vices,” the Lipa bishop said.


MANILA BULLETIN

Pope’s Filipino host is a humble rising church star by AP January 14, 2015 (updated) Share this:


File photo shows Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle prepares for a simultaneous announcement with the Vatican on the five-day Apostolic visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines. Pope Francis will be welcomed in the Catholic heartland on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015, by the Filipino cardinal who might one day succeed him: a boyish-looking priest who rode the bus as a bishop and has impressed many with a humble life, intellect and compassion for the poor. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)

Pope Francis will be welcomed in this Catholic heartland on Thursday by a Filipino cardinal who might one day succeed him: a boyish-looking priest who rode the bus as a bishop and has impressed many with his intellect, humble life and compassion for the poor.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle sings on stage, preaches on TV and is on Facebook to spread the church’s message. His down-to-earth demeanor, poignant homilies and accessibility to the masses reflect many of the same qualities that have enabled Francis to dazzle the world.

Those traits and his keen knowledge of theology helped the 57-year-old archbishop of Manila nurture the faith amid a tide of secularism, competition from other faiths, clergy sex abuse scandals and other crises that have rocked the Catholic world. He has emerged as Asia’s most prominent Catholic leader.


Manila Archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle (center) poses for a selfie with students following a forum on Pope Francis’ visit in Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

When Tagle’s name was mentioned in Vatican circles as among the possible successors to Pope Benedict XVI two years ago, even the remote prospect of a Filipino pope electrified many in the heavily Catholic Philippines and turned him into a celebrity.

“He became the darling of the masses,” said Cynthia Campos of the Catholic group Couples for Christ.

“He has this personal touch, presence or aura that allows him to connect with the young and the elderly, the rich and the poor,” Campos said, adding she could not help comparing Tagle with Francis, whom she met last year in the Vatican during a synod of cardinals, bishops and lay workers.

Rita Asibar, a 53-year-old who lives with her three children in a Manila garbage dump, said she prays that Tagle will become pope someday.

“That’ll be good for all of us,” Asibar said. “Our prayers can easily reach God.”

The churchman who last drew such deep admiration among Filipino Catholics was Cardinal Jaime Sin, who died in 2005. An influential spiritual leader and moral compass, Sin helped rally multitudes in the massive “people power” revolts that ousted two presidents, including dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

Sin’s death left a vacuum in the church saddled with the task of shepherding Catholics in a country plagued by poverty, divisions, crimes and long-raging Muslim and Marxist insurgencies. Unlike Sin, Tagle was not propelled by extraordinary political events; people who know him say he slowly carved a reputation for simple, day-to-day acts that defined him as a man of deep faith and compassion.

Even as a bishop, Tagle did not own a car. He took buses or popular working-class minibuses known as “jeepneys” to church and elsewhere. He ate with workers and sang for church charities, impressing many with his baritone.

“He told me that from time to time, he would go to the slums and eat and exchange stories with the residents there,” Campos said. She added that the cardinal maintains Twitter and Facebook accounts to stay in touch with large numbers of tech-savvy Filipinos.

Both Benedict and Francis placed high hopes on Tagle. Benedict appointed him archbishop of Manila in 2011 and made him a cardinal in 2012. Francis followed up with a vote of confidence by naming him one of three presidents of the cornerstone of his papacy so far, the Synod on the Family, a two-year church study on providing better pastoral care for families.

Tagle has impressed with his call for the church to be more humble, to listen to ordinary Catholics and to look out for the poor and suffering.

He has voiced particular concern over the plight of Filipinos who must go abroad to find work to earn enough money to support their families back home. Such marriages, he says, can fail because of love and not hatred.

At the same time, Tagle has not shied from defending core church doctrine on contraception, helping lead the Philippine church’s opposition to a reproductive health legislation backed by President Benigno Aquino III. Congress, dominated by Aquino’s allies, passed the legislation in 2012.

Tagle’s appointment as Manila archbishop was initially met with surprise, given his participation in a controversial, progressive written history of the Second Vatican Council, the ground-breaking 1962-65 meetings that ushered the Catholic Church into the modern world.

Benedict spent the better part of the past quarter-century insisting that Vatican II was not a break with church tradition but rather a continuation, whereas the so-called Bologna school which produced the multi-volume Vatican II history viewed it much more as a rupture from the past.

Tagle was a young theologian when he wrote a key chapter in the series in 1999. He studied at the Catholic University of America under the American editor of the series, Father Joseph Komonchak.

Francis’ visit to the Philippines, with the theme “mercy and compassion,” comes after a difficult period of armed conflict and natural disasters, including Typhoon Haiyan, which leveled entire villages and left thousands of people dead and missing in November 2013 in central Leyte province, where the pope will spend a day to console survivors.

Campos said the combined presence of Francis and Tagle during the pope’s trip will be a doubly reassuring sight.

While all the attention could help their evangelical work, the two church leaders apparently don’t relish the attention heaped on them.

“He doesn’t want his humility extolled,” Tagle’s spokeswoman Peachy Yamsuan said.

Tagle said as much for the pope. After meeting Francis in November to discuss the Philippine trip, Tagle said the pope told him people were “creating their own Pope Francis.”

“Who creates those stories? Who creates those legends?” Tagle quoted Francis as saying. “… Don’t focus on me. Focus on Jesus.”


MANILA STANDARD COLUMN

Mabuhay, Francis! By Jojo Robles | Jan. 15, 2015 at 12:01am


By Jojo Robles

An American friend who has been staying in the Philippines for some months now has been awed by the preparations for the arrival today of Pope Francis, who is making his first apostolic visit to “the only Catholic country in Asia.” And she wondered why things can’t be like this every day.

“Everything is so clean,” she wrote. “The pope needs to move here. Why can’t it be like this 24/7? The papal visit is not a Better Homes and Gardens visit. The government here should always be this forward-thinking for its people. Take care of your people all the time!”

Of course, as a Filipino, I’m proud that the government and the people are doing their best to welcome the pope in style. Filipinos are that way, after all: firm believers in making the best first impression they possibly can.

But when the visitors have gone, we slide back to the old ways. We have no problem whatsoever with how bad things can become, as long as important people that we want to impress, like a visiting pope, don’t see them.

I sincerely doubt if Pope Francis is going to experience a welcome, a stay and a send-off like the one he is going to get here, regardless of the number of Catholics (or the percentage of Catholics compared to the entire population) in any other country. The pope’s visit promises to showcase Filipino hospitality at its finest—or perhaps at its most extreme, like in the case of that painter who came up with an Amorsolo-like rustic landscape featuring the pope and a bunch of local movie actors and actresses, for a reason only the artist himself can fathom.

Of course, because my foreign friend is no new visitor, she understands that the show being put up for the benefit of the pope is by no means the norm. In fact, I would hazard a guess that if the pope found it so nice to be here that he decided to stay, like Peter upon seeing Jesus with Moses and Elijah, I doubt that the government and the Catholic faithful would find the energy to sustain the enthusiasm and effort that they are displaying now for even several days more than the five that Francis will be here.

It’s sad, but we really are a Better Homes and Gardens people. We pull out all the stops, bring out the best linen and silver, serve the best food and clean the house from doorstep to roof when an important visitor is set to arrive; then we go back to living in dirt and grime, eating leftovers with our hands, the moment the visitor leaves.

And we’re no good at sustaining the effort, especially when there’s no one to impress. “Pakitang-tao” is what we’re really good at, with all the negative and hypocritical connotations that phrase carries.

So we prepare for six million people at Rizal Park, because the last pope who visited attracted an estimated five million during his mass there. We bring in tens of thousands of soldiers and policemen from all over the country, praying that no opportunistic rebel or criminal groups will strike, because we need warm bodies for crowd control.

Does the pope need a vehicle to get around? We provide him with three.

The biggest irony, of course, is that Francis is visiting because he wants to commune with and console the victims of super-typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban City and other parts of Leyte. He is not coming, bless his sympathetic heart, to be blown away by the thousands who will sing in the choir at his Luneta mass or to be photographed with the high and mighty, who are seeking absolution for their grievous sins against the people or who are just seeking office in next year’s elections.

As for the government taking care of the people all the time, even when the pope is long gone, well, good luck with that. Pakitang-tao is driving the frenzied activity; after that, it’s back to “bahala na kayo sa buhay niyo.”

* * *

The Vatican may have noticed the Filipinos’ penchant for idolizing specific personalities, often to the detriment of their message and actions, when it urged the local faithful to display images of Christ instead of the face of the Argentinian pope. Sadly, for most Filipinos, the pope’s theme of mercy and compassion has already long been buried under the avalanche of the glorification of “Lolo Kiko,” as many have already decided to call the visiting pope.

Indeed, whatever statements Francis may make and whatever edicts he intends to issue will surely be drowned out by the super-celebrity treatment that awaits him the moment he arrives in Manila. And that’s just the way it is in this celebrity-worshipping country: the pope will be accorded a welcome that is more befitting of the biggest movie star instead of as the reformist and populist head of the dominant religion of the land, who comes with a message of hope and compassion.

If the pope is truly aware of what awaits him here, I’m sure he will seek to use his star status to push his pet advocacies, such as an end to corruption both in Church and state and caring for the poor and the environment. We know this pope has already harnessed his worldwide popularity to do so in the past; his visit here should be no different.

That said, I hope Filipino Catholics remember that the pope’s celebrity is, at bottom, founded on his virtues and statements, and not simply because of his charisma. May we all be moved to follow his shining example.


MANILA TIMES COLUMN

Modeling the crowd January 14, 2015 9:09 pm by GIOVANNI TAPANG, PHD


Giovanni Tapang, Ph.D.

METRO Manila and Tacloban are bracing for a warm welcome for Pope Francis today and over the weekend. The authorities have estimated that a total of four to six million will be attending the Mass of the pontiff at the Rizal Park. This estimate is about the same volume as the number of people who attended World Youth Day in 1995.

In such events, crowd safety is always a concern. The recent traslacion of the Black Nazarene image of Quiapo in Manila, where the crowd also swelled to around five million, has shown us the difficulties that a large crowd can bring. Last week, there were two deaths–a heart attack and a trampling amid the swarm of devotees who either did not know or care to notice their feet were killing a fellow human being.

It is not only during religious events that such tragedies occur. We recall the Wowowee stampede at the Ultra nearly nine years ago in February 2006 where a crowd of 30,000 waiting for the first anniversary of the show grew impatient. As some people tried to get ahead of the queue, the gates were not able to hold the crowd resulting in a stampede. Seventy three people died and around 400 got injured.

Then there is the Ozone disco fire around 20 years ago which left 162 dead. In this case, a crowd of around 390 people was jam-packed into an area approved for only 35 people. A fire broke out but the exits were not properly designed to effect the escape of customers inside.

These events highlight that the danger in crowds is not necessarily the number of people that cause problems in the crowd but it is the density (or number of people per unit area) that one should watch out for. We also need to consider the rates at which the area fill with people as well as how fast do people leave the area of interest.

Other concerns in crowd safety range from crowd estimation, modeling, pedestrian traffic and group behavior in large congregations. A team of my colleagues and myself from the National Institute of Physics is currently engaged in a study on crowd counting, modeling and monitoring in relation to the upcoming visit of Pope Francis. Involved in this study is Dr. Johnrob Bantang and Dr. Rene Batac together with our students and research assistants.

We assessed current literature with regard to the safety thresholds of people per unit area, group behavior and on the exit behavior of crowds. Dirk Helbing and colleagues reported in 2007 that critical safety threshold of people per unit area based on analysis of video recordings of the annual pilgrimage in Mecca is 7 persons per square meter. Above 7 per square meter density, the individual cannot move on his own and can be crushed or brought to directions that he or she cannot control anymore.

The rule of thumb that authorities use as basis to call an area as “full capacity” is 4 per square meter. Local density measurements of World Youth Day in 1995 have reached up to 7 people per square meter while in the 2013 Nazarene march, densities have reached up to 15 or more near the carosa.

We also looked at how many more people can be accommodated along lanes where the Pope will pass by. We have calculated that, depending on the lanes assigned to the viewers, a kilometer of road can accommodate up to 12,000-15,000 people for a 2-meter wide sidewalk/lane. For two sidewalks on both sides flanking the road, this will amount to at most 30,000 per kilometer.

Based on the announced route of Pope Francis in Metro Manila using Google Maps and the activities as announced by the CBCP, it is estimated that a cumulative total of about 1 million viewers will be able to see the Pontiff on Day 1 and Day 2 alone. On the fourth day, it is further estimated that about 360,000 additional viewers can be added on the roadside alone not including those who will attend the Holy Mass within the Quirino grandstand and Luneta Park.

The team worked on limited public data. Much more can be done by directly measuring baseline values and with other observational data. In this regard, we are asking people to join in a citizen science monitoring experiment which will involve people tracking themselves using an application in their smart phones. Please visit popevisitph2015.blogspot.com for details.

The visit of the Pope is of course much more than the crowds. It is an opportunity to have the pro-poor vicar see the actual poverty in the Philippines and for the crowds to have access to the Pope. Instead of looking at the negative side of crowd control, the government should do everything such that everyone can have access and be graced with the presence of the well-loved Pope Francis.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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