TACLOBAN City, Leyte, Jan. 17, 2015—Pope Francis on Saturday got a taste of what super typhoon Yolanda must have been like with tropical cyclone Amang sending non-stop rains and strong wind to Tacloban City, which hosted the Holy Father’s papal Mass earlier today.
According to PAGASA’s 11:00 a.m. weather update, tropical storm Amang (international name: Mekkhala), packed maximum sustained winds of 100 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 130 kph.
With the storm moving closer to Eastern Samar, papal visit organizers were forced to compress the Holy Father’s trip to a short but sweet four hours.
After his arrival at the Palo Cathedral at around 12:20pm, the Holy Father announced he was advised to travel back to Manila as early as 1:00 p.m., a lot earlier than the original 5:00 p.m. departure from Leyte.
“I would like to tell you about something that displeases me. The plan today was for the plane to leave at 5:00 p.m., but there is a second-grade storm that is around us and the pilots have insisted that we leave at 1:00 p.m.,” the Pope said, as translated on his behalf by official priest-interpreter, Msgr. Mark Gerald Miles.
The Pontiff apologized to the people of Leyte, noting that his hurried visit to the province was something that “truly saddened” him.
“So I apologize to you all. I am sad about this, truly saddened, because I have something prepared, especially for you. But let us leave everything in the hands of Our Lady because I have to go now,” he said.
The Holy Father arrived at the Tacloban airport before 9:00 a.m., where he relayed a strong message of hope to rain-drenched Taclobanons and other Visayans during the Mass at the Tacloban Airport.
Super typhoon Yolanda battered Central Philippines in 2013, leaving approximately 6,300 people dead; 2,000 others still missing; and nearly four million people homeless. Yolanda was said to be the “most powerful” storm that hit the country in 2013.
The Holy Father then asked two things from the crowd. First is for them to pray from him as he performs his duties as the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.
Second, he jokingly asked to crowd to “be quiet” in response to their warm and loud welcome for his coming.
Before he left, officials of the Palo Cathedral gave him a figure of the Our Lady of the Immaculate Concepcion, made from the debris of the church when it was ravaged by typhoon Yolanda.
Pope Francis, in return, blessed and gave the Cathedral a mosaic of La Madonna Del Populo.
Pope Francis left Leyte at around 1:00 p.m. onboard his Philippine Airlines flight. He will be travelling back to the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City. (Jennifer M. Orillaza/CBCP News)