The color white covered the streets of Tacloban City today, as Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors, religious and other grassroots sectors under the People’s Committee to Welcome the Pope in Eastern Visayas (People’s Welcome – EV) scoured the avenues to tie thousands of white ribbons and put up creative posters bearing quotes from the pontiff’s social teachings on homes and establishments.

 

“We will paint the town white with ribbons to remind the public that the real purpose of Pope Francis’ visit, lest it be forgotten, is the Holy Father’s solidarity with our plight as survivors of Yolanda and other subsequent typhoon disasters. When Pope Francis arrives, we may not have the opportunity to raise our concerns over the continuing injustices we experience under the current administration, as he will be met instead by thousands upon thousands of police, soldiers and wooden barriers,” said Dr. Efleda Bautista, convener of People’s Welcome – EV.

“The ribbon’s white color represents purity—that of the Pope and the truth that we intend to raise and that the Holy Father himself seeks in his journey to Typhoon Yolanda ground zero. It also represents simplicity, as in Pope Francis’ choice to wear simple white robes instead of the lavish ones, as symbolic of his giving voice to the cry of the poor,” Bautista explained.

 

Volunteers from the People’s Welcome – EV dramatized the plight of their fellow disaster survivors by wearing mud on their bodies while tying white ribbons and distributing pamphlets around the streets of Tacloban.

They were joined by members of the Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN) and the indigenous Lumad leaders from KALUMARAN later in the evening to light white candles in a prayer activity at the San Jose Junction to pray for the Pope’s safe arrival in Metro Manila. The Mindanao sisters and their indigenous laity journeyed to Tacloban City to learn and practice the Pope’s social teachings among Yolanda survivors as well as to raise concerns of the Mindanao people to the Pope.

 

“We hope the simple gesture of welcoming Pope Francis with a humble ribbon, in contrast to the layers of expensive and expansive print banners by businesses and politicians, would help fellow Filipinos understand the spirit of the Pope’s visit,” Bautista said.

 

Seeking @Pontifex online

The Yolanda survivors also went to the blogosphere to seek the Pope’s audience. Supporters have started wearing white ribbons on their profile pictures. Through the assistance of solidarity groups from Canada, they have also launched an Open Letter Video campaign at http://www.dearpope.org, where netizens can watch the 14-minute short documentary narrating the lives of Yolanda survivors rising up to demand justice from negligent authorities, and share the appeal to Pope Francis through his @pontifex twitter account.

 

“Pope Francis’ visit will show him only the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, given the unnecessary highly militarized security surrounding his travel. We hope to further spread our appeal for the Pope to stand with our continuing struggle for social, environmental, and climate justice through social media given how he is a tech-savvy pontiff,” Bautista said.

 

On January 16, the People’s Welcome – EV is set to hold a Gathering of the Poor at the Balyuan Amphitheatre to prepare a meaningful welcome to the Holy Father. They will be live-tweeting the event using the #DearPope hashtag.