January 18, 2015: Throngs danced and cheered as Pope Francis arrived for an open air Mass in Manila on Sunday — his last full day in the Philippines.
The pope waved, smiled and kissed babies hoisted toward him as he made his way to the venue in an open car.
Others lunged forward, hands extended to shake his as he passed through.
“Papa Francesco, Papa Francesco!” the crowd chanted amid loud, boisterous music.
A sea of adoring fans started gathering at dawn for the Mass, donning ponchos of all colors and spread out as far as the eyes could see.
Heavy rains pounded the city ahead of the Mass, which drew millions. Tropical storm force winds howled just east of the event venue.
The nation intensified security at all venues, with the presidential detail deployed to safeguard the pope.
About 25,000 Philippine national police are backing the presidential security detail tasked with safety for the event, authorities said.
“We are putting our best foot forward in this historic national event,” said Leonardo A. Espina, the deputy director general of the national police.
“We have rehearsed and fine-tuned all our systems and procedures for this event, such that we have established full back-up system that will address any unforeseen situation that may arise.”
Firearms were prohibited in all areas holding events linked to the pope, including the routes his entourage would use.
Trip cut short
A day earlier, the pope cut his trip to Tacloban short as an approaching typhoon with blistering winds threatened the city.
The pope donned a slicker to conduct the Mass for hundreds of thousands who gathered despite stormy weather.
Tacloban is still recovering from the 2013 disaster of Super Typhoon Haiyan, described as one of the strongest storms ever recorded with 195 mph sustained winds. It killed 6,300 people nationwide.
Typhoon Mekkhala, which is called Typhoon Amang in the Philippines, made landfall Saturday afternoon just northeast of Tacloban.
Wet, gusty forecast
Mekkhala was downgraded Sunday, but still packing winds up to 45 mph and heavy rains.
Just two weeks ago, a tropical storm struck Tacloban and surrounding areas, causing a commercial passenger plane to slide off the runway while landing. Tropical Storm Jiangmi, renamed Seniang in the Philippines, killed 54 people in landslides and flash floods in that region, CNN affiliate ABS-CBN reported.
Visit started in Sri Lanka
The pope’s trip began Tuesday in Sri Lanka; he landed in the Philippines on Friday.
On Friday, he met with President Benigno Aquino, and the pontiff urged the political leader to reject corruption and promote “honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good,” the Vatican said. He also spoke of “the moral imperative of ensuring social justice and respect for human dignity,” according to a copy of his remarks provided by the Vatican.
“Here in the Philippines, countless families are still suffering from the effects of natural disasters. The economic situation has caused families to be separated by migration and the search for employment, and financial problems strain many households,” he said.
“While all too many people live in dire poverty, others are caught up in materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality,” the pope said in other remarks.
The pope leaves Manila for Rome on Monday.