MANILA, MAY 2, 2011 (STAR) By Evelyn Macairan [Photo is loading... Former Philippine ambassador to the Vatican Henrietta de Villa (middle) and fellow organizer of Pope John Paul II's visit to Manila in 1995, Jimmie Policarpio, are blessed by the pontiff in this file photo]

With Pope John Paul II's beatification today, an organizer of his second visit to the Philippines in 1995 recalled the "miracles" they experienced during the pontiff's stay in the country.

On Jan. 14, 1995, two days before Pope John Paul II was scheduled to leave the Philippines, the organizers were faced with a problem: there was no plane that would bring him to Papua New Guinea, his next destination.

Jimmie Policarpio, who headed the arrival and departure committee for John Paul II's visit, related that they were able to talk to Philippine Airlines (PAL) president Lucio Tan and his brother Harry, the airline implementing officer, about their predicament.

He explained to Tan that the pontiff arrived in the country on board an Alitalia plane but that it had left and it was the Philippine government's responsibility to bring the pope to his next destination.

Policarpio said Tan immediately said, "No problem. An Airbus would bring him to Papua New Guinea."

But there were other complications - the pope must have his own private quarters, plus they had to take into consideration the other cardinals, archbishops and members of the papal entourage.

Again, the PAL owner offered the solution. He said he would have the entire business class of the Airbus converted into the pope's room, while half of the economy class would be turned into business class. The rest of the entourage, on the other hand, would be accommodated at the back of the plane.

Policarpio said Tan only asked for one thing in return: If it was possible for him to be inside the plane when the pope arrived, although he would not join them on the trip.

Policarpio added that PAL set aside one plane for the exclusive use of the pope and they worked on renovations overnight and finished these on time.

Apart from this miracle, Policarpio said there was also a synergy of volunteerism from Catholic devotees, prominent businessmen included, during the pope's visit, which coincided with the 10th World Youth Day (WYD) celebration.

Policarpio also could not forget a particular meeting with Fred Elizalde, owner of radio station dzRH, a few days before the event.

At that time, the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) had not yet installed electricity at the Quirino Grandstand.

Policarpio recalled making a visit to the late STAR columnist Louie Beltran, who was also then an anchor of dzRH.

"It was at this time when Fred Elizalde walked in. He asked, 'Are you ready for the papal visit?' I told him that we needed P280,000 to give to Meralco as downpayment," Policarpio said.

Elizalde left and five minutes later, his secretary came and handed Policarpio a P280,000 check.

ShoeMart and businessman Bert Lina also provided portable toilets at the Quirino Grandstand while food chains Jollibee and McDonald's gave away hamburgers to the crowd at the WYD event.

The International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) donated 50 refrigerated container vans that were converted into holding areas for the pope and other religious leaders.

Even the weather cooperated during the six-day visit of the pope. It did not rain, and not a single criminal incident was reported during this time.

Policarpio admitted crying upon seeing the pontiff up close.

"It was a different experience. They were tears of joy. He had a different aura, it was as if you were with God. I was able to touch a man of God," he said.

Policarpio, now a public relations man, said the meeting with the pontiff was a life-changing experience because it helped him become a more prayerful person and develop a closer relationship with God.

He considers it his greatest achievement to have been part of the group that organized the papal visit.

"Pope John Paul surely deserves to become a saint because he touched the hearts of both Christians and non-Christians,he said.

Beatification, a step toward sainthood, bestows upon a candidate the title "blessed."

The pope's kiss

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Amadeo Forteza Jr. has secured many prominent persons but the visit of Pope John Paul II at the Nichols Air Base (now Villamor Air Base) in 1981 proved to be a life-changing experience.

Forteza, now 83, recalled vividly how the charismatic pope kissed his son Paulo, a special child, as he was being carried by his wife Lita.

Forteza, who led the security team during the pope's visit to the air base, said the incident helped strengthen his faith and his love for his children.

"I told my wife: 'Mommy, dress up. The pope will visit us.' My wife and my son went to Nichols. The pope was very happy to see my son. He touched his face and kissed him," he told The STAR yesterday.

Forteza said Pope John Paul II also gave his wife a papal medallion that they still treasure.

"I think the pope was happy to see someone who takes care of children with special needs," he said.

Forteza said he and his wife were in high spirits after the encounter with the Polish church leader.

"I cannot describe fully the joy that we felt. It was a different experience. Now, the pope that gave us the medallion would soon be declared a saint," Forteza said.

Forteza admitted that he felt pressure when he was tasked to secure the pope, but it was worth it.

"I saw him face-to-face while providing him security. That really boosted my morale," the retired general said.

Forteza believes that God, through the intercession of John Paul II, is continuously helping his son improve and live a normal life.

Paulo, now 33, can travel by himself and is capable of making attractive sketches. Forteza said his son is aware and proud of his encounter with the pope in 1981.

Paulo graduated in 1997 from Norwalk High School in California and is now working for a non-government organization in Los Angeles.

Forteza, who retired from the service in 1984, believes God is continuously providing guidance to his family.

Another Filipino who experienced the pope's kiss is Carmela Meim-Bataoil, daughter of Pangasinan Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in January 1995. Carmela, then 3, was visiting her uncle Fr. Dennis Meim.

Looking back, she said she is grateful for the experience and relates that from the time it happened, she and her family have received countless blessings. - With Alexis Romero, Jaime Laude

'Emulate late Pope's example' By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) Updated May 01, 2011 12:00 AM

[Photo is loading... Stamps of Pope John Paul II released by the Philippine Postal Corp. in 2005.]

MANILA, Philippines - Pope John Paul II is a "model of simplicity, openness and compassion" who must be emulated by Filipinos.

Malacañang yesterday called on the faithful to extol the virtues of the late pontiff, whose visits to the country in 1981 and 1995 left an imprint of lasting unity being shared by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Malacañang joins the nation in sharing the excitement over the beatification of Pope John Paul II today.

John Paul II died on April 2, 2005 and in April 2009, his successor Pope Benedict XVI prayed for "the gift of beatification."

The Holy See released the decree for the beatification of John Paul II last Jan. 14.

Based on reports, the choice of the Feast of Divine Mercy today was not accidental as the late pope had a deep devotion to his fellow Pole Sr. Faustina Kowalska and to the Divine Mercy devotion identified with her.

Filipinos - Catholics as well as members of other religious groups - have been following developments leading to the late pope's beatification today.

Filipinos remember Polish Karol Józef Wojtyla, the first non-Italian pope, for his visits to the country and his prayers for the Philippines every time there were developments he found significant.

Lawmakers said the present generation of Filipinos owes much of their character and moral strength to John Paul II.

Ang Kasangga sa Kaunlaran party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco said John Paul II helped the nation pull through dark times and upheavals like economic crises and the two people power revolutions in 1986 and 2001.

"Maybe we don't fully realize it, but we have always been spiritually, morally guided by the late Blessed Pope John Paul II," Haresco said. "He has always been there, just barely beneath our consciousness and in our hearts."

"This is the reason why, despite the relentless assault of so-called 'modern' values that degrade our dignity as human beings, Filipinos have remained mindful of the true moral values and have not, in general, strayed," he said.

Haresco, a member of the Pabahay ng Diyos Foundation chaired by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, said the "extraordinarily fast process by the Vatican to beatify him shows indeed that he was God's man and instrument."

Quezon Rep. Winston Castelo said the beatification means that "Catholics throughout the world have reason to rejoice."

"Filipinos will have this sense of pride as the late pope was very close to us," Castelo said.

Parañaque City Rep. Roilo Golez said Filipinos have a very close emotional attachment to John Paul II.

"His visits were meaningful and we all warmed up to him," Golez said.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said the beatification comes as no surprise "given his inspirational leadership of the Catholic Church and his efforts to reach out to many faiths."

House Senior Deputy Minority Leader and Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez said John Paul captured the hearts of Filipinos, regardless of their faith, because of his humility.

Pangasinan Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil fondly recalled his daughter Carmela was kissed by the late pope in 1995 when she was three years old.

"With the beatification of the pope, we join the whole world in prayer and thanksgiving," Bataoil said.

'Choose the path of righteousness'

Tuguegarao City Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan also urged the faithful to emulate the virtue of humility of John Paul.

Talamayan said the late pope has led the life following the footsteps of Jesus Christ by choosing the simple life in his mission to unify his flock in his advocacy of love and peace.

"Anyone of us could be saints for as long as we choose the path of righteousness manifested by the pope during his lifetime," Talamayan said.

The Archdiocese of Manila is set to hold a fun run this morning at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in celebration of the beatification of John Paul II, who is loved by many Filipinos because he visited the country twice.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said the fun run was a way for them to celebrate the beatification.

A Mass to be officiated by Pabillo would also be held at the finish line.

To mark the beatification, the Philippine Postal Corp. (Philpost) intends to come out with limited edition stamps of the pontiff this month.

Philpost general manager Antonio de Guzman said they are now looking for the appropriate pictures as designs for the stamps.

Though there was no request from the Catholic Church to issue the stamps, De Guzman said Philpost would take the initiative of informing the Church of their intention to come out with stamps in honor of the late pope.

"We intend to come out with limited edition of Pope John Paul II stamps, hopefully this month of May or within the year. We might produce between 200,000 and 300,000 stamps, depending on the demand. But if there would be great demand then we could always reprint the stamps," he said.

The stamps may be sold in the denomination of P7 each.

This is not the first time that Philpost is issuing Pope John Paul II stamps. It printed stamps during his two visits to the Philippines in 1981 and 1995, and at the time of his death in 2005.

John Paul II has been acclaimed as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. It is widely held that he was instrumental in ending communism in his native Poland and eventually in all of Europe. Conversely, he denounced the excesses of capitalism.

He is widely said to have significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion.

Though criticized by progressives for upholding the Church's teachings against artificial contraception and the ordination of women, he was also criticized by traditionalists for his support of the Church's Second Vatican Council and its reform of the Liturgy as well as his ecumenical efforts.

John Paul II was one of the most-traveled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate.

He spoke a variety of languages, including Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Croatian, Latin and Ancient Greek, as well as his native Polish.

As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 people and canonized 483 saints, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the last five centuries. - With Paolo Romero, Evelyn Macairan, Raymund Catindig


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