(UPDATE) Millions of people lined up the streets, braved steady rain or intense heat just to get a glimpse of the charismatic pontiff. But what did Pope Francis like best during his 5-day Philippine visit?
While onboard the Italy-bound Philippine Airlines chartered plane, Pope Francis revealed that he was "annihilated" by the massive turnout but what he loved most was the “gestures,” the manner in which Filipinos expressed joy and faith, among others.
"The gestures moved me. They are not protocol gestures, they are good gestures, felt gestures, gestures of the heart. Some almost make one weep. There’s everything there: faith, love, the family, delusion, the future,” Jesuit-run America Magazine quoted the pontiff as saying. The magazine ran a full transcript of pope’s plane press conference.
"When I passed and a father would make this (gesture) and I blessed him, he would say thank you but…for them, a blessing was enough. I thought, but I who have so many expectations, I want this and I want that. This was good for me, no? Moving moments," the pope said.
He said he was shaken by what he felt and saw in Tacloban, Leyte.
"The most moving moment…For me the mass in Tacloban was very moving. Very moving. To see all of God’s people standing still, praying, after this catastrophe, thinking of my sins and those people, it was moving, a very moving moment. In the moment of the mass there, I felt as though I was annihilated (“wiped out”), I almost couldn’t speak. I felt very little I don’t know what happened to me, maybe it was the emotion, I don’t know," Pope Francis said.
Pope Francis said he also took seriously the warning to leave Tacloban early due to the storm but he was unafraid.
Pope Francis enumerated what he learned from Filipinos, emphasizing how gestures moved him.
"That gesture of the fathers who think of their children so that the Pope will bless them. Not one gestures, there were fathers, there were many who thought of their children when we passed by on the road, a gesture which in other places one does not see, as if they say this is my treasure, this is my future, this is my love, for this one it’s worth working, for this one it’s worth suffering. A gesture that is original but born from the heart,” the pope added.
Related story: Recap of pope's Philippine visit
Pope Francis also noted of Filipinos’ “capacity to celebrate” and ability to show joy that’s "not feigned.”
He also acknowledged how mothers, especially those of the sick, proudly showed their children.
"Then many disabled children, with disabilities that make some impression; they did not hide the children, they brought them to the Pope so that he would bless them. This is my child, s/he is mine,” he added.
The pontiff also could not forget how Filipinos depicted "resignation," describing the Filipino people as one “who knows how to suffer, and is capable of rising up.”
Pope Francis also remembered Kristel Padasas, the young woman who died in a freak accident in Tacloban after attending a Holy Mass led by the pope.
“[His father] said she died in service, he was seeking words to confirm himself to this situation, to accept it. A people that knows how to suffer, that’s what I saw and how I interpreted the gestures,” he added.
While on the plane, Pope Francis also discussed other issues such as the Charlie Hebdo Paris attacks, birth control, among others.
Pope Francis is back in Rome after a high-energy pastoral and state visit to the Philippines.