Manila, Philippines, Jan 18, 2015 / 04:02 am
Harold Ducusin, like many of his peers, traveled several hours to join tens of thousands of other young Filipinos to see Pope Francis at the sports field of Santo Tomas University Jan. 18.
Unlike most of his peers at the event, however, Ducusin isn't Catholic.
"It's really the first time I've participated in an activity like this, I really admire him as a Pope," he said.
During the event, Pope Francis heard testimonies from three Filipino youth during the meeting on the sports fields, and then answered questions they had posed about their lives as young Christians.
Self-described as a "born-again Christian," Ducusin traveled with a group the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University in the province of La Union, where he is the head of the student body.
Ducusin said he wouldn't have made such a long trip to see many people, but he came because he admires Pope Francis as a leader, particularly for his concern for the Filipino people and the survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. The storm, known locally as Typhoon Yolanda killed over 6,000 and left hundreds of thousands homeless after it struck the country in Dec. 2013.
"I thank him for his concern in my concern…we need it because he motivates us to work together to conquer some problems that we are facing."
Conchi Ferrarin, a Catholic and a teacher of Psychology and Sociology who traveled with Ducusin, said she was also grateful for Pope Francis' concern for the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda.
"I would like to thank the Pope for his strong influence on the Filipino people, for giving them hope to overcome all the difficulties that they have experienced, especially the Yolanda survivors," she said. "I would also tell the Pope to continuously pray for all mankind."
Ed Christopher Chua, from the island of Cebu, came to the event with the Filipino-Chinese Catholic youth, a group of young people of Chinese descent who are citizens of the Philippines. Members of the group serve in various ministries in Chinese parishes throughout the Philippines.
"Most of us are third or fourth generation," Chua said. "Most of (our ancestors) came to the Philippines in search of more fortune and a better life, so they came perhaps in 1920s, 30s, or 40s."
"The communist government did not allow them to return to china, so they remained here, and they brought us up in the Catholic faith," he said.
It was a bit of a sacrifice to leave Cebu to be with the Pope – the festivities for the feast of the Santo Ninos, or the Holy Infants, were occurring on the same day.
"But we think (meeting the Pope) is an opportunity that we cannot miss," Chua said.
"A lot of us can't describe the feeling to be able to see the Holy Father in the flesh, and I think it is such a blessing for us to be here," he said. "Some of the group got to see him just meters away, just a few feet away."
"For me I was looking from afar, but I could sense his presence, and I could sense his holiness. And we are very blessed that he's around."
Pope Francis wraps up his visit to the Philippines on Monday, Jan. 19, which will complete his second papal Asian pilgrimage.