¡Esta es la juventud del papa! (WYD Chronicles, Part 3 of 4)

Also known as: Seeing the Pope, and the Way of the Cross
Rough translation: “This is the Pope’s youth!”
* Here’s part 1 and part 2, in case you missed them

You know how you know some things or some people are exist because you see them on TV or read about them, but it never becomes really real until you see it/them with your very own eyes? That’s how I can sum up my third day of WYD 2011.

Buenas tardes, Madrid!

The third day of WYD’s highlight was Pope Benedict XVI’s welcoming parade in Madrid. Here’s the thing about WYD that I learned that day: you need to be able to tolerate enjoy crowds if you want to enjoy and make the most of all activities. Remember that it’s an international crowd, too, so be prepared to squeeze in with people from all parts of the world, some of which seem even unfamiliar. And be prepared for all kinds of culture to surround you, especially those you are not used to. More often than not, you’d be standing with them for a loooooong time, so it’s best to learn to enjoy the experience because hey, all of you are waiting for the same thing, anyway.

So, we headed over as near to Cibeles as possible to wait for the Pope’s welcoming parade.

We're all waiting for him!

Pope Benedict XVI was scheduled to arrive at around 7:00pm, but we were already at our spot by 4. So what do to while waiting?

Read More

Stand Firm! (WYD Chronicles, Part 2 of 4)

Also known as: WYD Day 2, Asian Youth Gathering and on being a part of the Catholic church
* Read part 1 here.

The first full day of World Youth Day 2011 was…well, full. World Youth Day activities are composed of a Catechism session in the morning and festivals in the afternoon/evening. You can choose which Catechism and festival to attend out of almost hundreds of them happening all at the same time.

Now that we have our pilgrim backpacks, we expect to have an easier time going around the city because of our free transportation passes. It was pretty handy, too, because it was big enough to fit the water bottle I carry around and even Cookie. :)

Cookie all ready for Day 2 of WYD!

We were supposed to attend a Catechism in a place a bit far from where our hosts are, because we had to attend the Asian Youth Gathering that afternoon since the Philippines is hosting it. My housemates and I were pretty relaxed with how we were going on in the morning, that it took us a bit by surprise that we were actually running late for the meeting time! Our host told us how to ride a bus, which we can do now since we have our all-city pass. We met up with our fellow delegates at Alvarado, one of our usual meeting places. It turned out we weren’t the latest ones, so we stayed there to wait for the last ones to arrive.

This is where I first got a taste of how God’s plans ultimately trump ours. The original agreement for us at the house is to go to the train station where the Catechism we were supposed to attend was. It was a bit far, but we already planned our route by train. But because we were running late, we ended up somewhere near. While waiting, we saw some pilgrims heading for a church nearby. It turns out that that church was where we were supposed to attend the Catechism, and the one we were supposed to go to was actually German. So our being late was there for a reason. :)

The Catechism was led by the Antioch church group in Australia. The church was jam-packed, but we found ourselves seated comfortably at the front. After some sharing, we started singing some songs, and I caught myself smiling when we started singing this:

Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see You.

This was and still my prayer every morning for the past years now. Open the eyes of my heart Lord, I want to see You. How fitting that we sang this song then. :)

Read More

Jornada Mundial de la Juventud (WYD Chronicles, Part 1 of 4)

Also known as: Hola, Madrid and JMJ!
Translation: World Youth Day (WYD Chronicles, Part 1 of 4) — I know the title is redundant, but let me be :P
Warning: Photo dump ahead. :D

So the weeks leading to our flight to Madrid was really kind of busy. Okay, that was an understatement – it was busy. Seeing that we only had our visa a month before we had to leave, and my ticket was booked three weeks before I had to leave, and I also got sick two weeks before I had to fly…it was crazy. It was a good kind of crazy, though, even if I had to remind myself every time I feel stressed that it’s all good ((Besides, I get asthma wheezes when I get stressed, so stress was a no-no)).

The other, excited part of me couldn’t believe that I was actually almost about to leave. I mean, I only dreamed of this at the start of the year. Now that it was almost a reality, that part of me couldn’t help but be amazed at it. Truth be told, it was almost like the month of August was nonexistent, because I had no idea what to expect during the second half that I would be spending in Europe.

But enough of that. The days leading to the flight was kind of a whirlwind — with meetings (finally meeting other delegates and sort-of finalizing our itinerary for the second week of the trip), work stuff, dinner, send-off stuff and shopping. When Sunday night finally rolled around, I was so wound up with anticipation that I could hardly sleep!

Then came the long wait at the airport before the flight. I was there extra early because our car’s plate number was part of the coding, but I didn’t mind. I was excited and nervous because again, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Especially that I have been out of community for so long and everyone I was with for the next two weeks were all so active.

But like what they said before the trip: empty yourself out and God will fill you in the next few days. Why not, right?

Cookie Monster the traveling doll, first time on a plane :)

There wasn’t really much to say about the flight because it was…well, long. It was my first time to fly for more than 4 hours, so I entertained myself with movies and my Kindle and took pictures of clouds, like this:

Aerial shot! =) I think this was somewhere in Russia?

Too bad I always seem to get the wing seats.

But anyway. We arrived at Amsterdam about 12 hours later — it was 7:00pm in Europe, but it was bright as day. Talk about jarring my body clock.

Just arrived at Schiphol Amsterdam airport. It's 7:00pm but LOOK. HOW. BRIGHT. IT. WAS.

We got on our connecting flight to Madrid an hour later — me and Mitch — while the rest of the team stayed in Amsterdam for the night. Four hours later, we got to Madrid, and our SFC hosts picked us up in the airport. We got settled in, ate breakfast at midnight (because it was already 6:00am in Manila) and finally, finally settled to sleep. After all, World Youth Day officially starts tomorrow — and we need to keep our energies up by then.

The next day.

Buenos días, Madrid!

Read More