A shrine dedicated to John Paul II in the Philippines will coincide with the late pope’s beatification. The shrine would feature a statue of John Paul II and a replica of the stage from where he celebrated mass. It will be inaugurated on May 2, a day after John Paul II’s beatification in Rome. It will be located in a former U.N. refugee camp.
In 1979 President Ferdinand Marcos provided a site (365 hectare of land) for the establishment of refugee camp. The Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC) located in Barangay Sabang, Morong, Bataan was established on January 21, 1980 with an agreement between the Philippines and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as a way of helping the refugees of Indo-China conflict.
Probably about 400,000 Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian stayed in the PRPC camp from 1980 to 1994 after coming from the first asylum camps in Palawan and others located in HongKong, Thailand and Malasya. They were called “boat people” because almost all of them arrived by boats crossing the China Sea. The UNHCR closed the PRPC camp in January 1995 and many refugees were resettled to different countries. Today, the camp has been converted into an eco-tourism destination known as the Bataan Technology Park.
Pope John Paul II made two visits to the Philippines:
The first for the Beatificazione (February 18, 1981) of Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila (and other martyrs). On February 21, 1981, the Pope visited the PRPC refugee camp and held a field mass attended by thousands of refugees of different religions and belief.
His second visit was in 1995 when the Philippines hosted the World Youth Day Catholic festival. An estimated crowd of between five and seven million attended his Mass in Luneta Park, Manila, which was considered to be the largest single gathering in Christian history
Palm Sunday, is a quite dynamic day with thousands people moving to and fro with blessed palms in their hands. Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Friday (Good Friday) and Saturday (Black Saturday) instead are days were souls should not go around. In these days towns are abnormally less crowed while churches are filled to capacity. Holy Week in the Philippines is “visita iglesia” or collecting visits to various churches. A good number of businesses are closed. Of course these are days different from the noisy fiestas (almost every city, town, village and locality in the Philippines has its own festival) where people celebrate the local patron or saint with processions, colorful parades, street dances and every one is more cheerful then never. These are regarded as somber days. So, no parades or fiestas. In the past if you held a feast in your community or in your house, during these days, you would be measured in a very bad manner, because as a Christian you were expected to concentrate only on the events that brought Jesus to the Cross. When we first moved here, 40 years ago, even the TV and radio stations went off of the air, some for the entire Holy Week! Gasoline stations and cinemas were closed. Everything was shut down from Thursday afternoon until morning of Easter Sunday. It was strange not to see young people playing basketball considering that Holy Week is also part of the summer vacation. The only song that you would listen (outside the church) was the ‘Pabasa ng Pasyon” .
But things are changing. Today the big air-conditioned Malls (where, however, holy masses will be celebrated each day of the Holy Week, except in Good Friday) are open for those who happen to be there and more and more people are moving around with their cars or motorcycles looking for places like parks, beaches, resorts, picnic areas, playgrounds or, yes, Malls, where to spend hours in relax. Strangely enough when Easter Sunday will arrive all seem to fall back to the ordinary way of living as nothing had happened and, somber no more, on the same day of the Resurrection television programs will resume their reality TV games, wealthy only of trash.