There were talks about those who left this world the previous year. Warnings were raised about high blood pressure and cholesterol counts as those around the table feasted on ham and roasted pork.
There were hopes voiced about a “blessed” new year, of dreams that have to be realized in the coming months, of targets to be reached, and of plans to be implemented.
On Facebook, more wishes and dreams were posted with photos of families, of fireworks, and more food.
A friend who serves as parish priest in a poor parish in the south wondered out loud on social media whether those who had New Year feasts last night remebered the poor.
“In prayers, maybe,” I said.
I wonder though if the poor, when they welcomed the New Year in their own humble way, remembered and prayed for the rich.
We – the poor, the rich, the not-so-poor, the not-so-rich, those who think themselves poor and those who think themselves rich – all need prayers. We all need to be remembered. We all need the wishes of good cheers and blessings.
Even as we all welcome another year, let us not forget that we continue to confront the same challenges and issues that we have been confronting the previous year, and the year before the previous year.
There will still be typhoons and storms that will visit our land and our lives, there will still be floods and natural disasters that we have to prepare for. There will still be human rights violations, there will still be war, there will still be elections, and politics will continue to run our world.
There will, however, be holidays and temporary cessation of hostilities, and summer, and Christmas, and New Year. There will be Easter, fiestas, birthdays, and Papal visits.
In 15 days Pope Francis will set foot on the Philippines. There’s a lot of excitement already, and a lot of selfies, and preparations, and politicking.
Yes, everybody wants to see the Pope.
There are those who, led by their faith, believe that by seeing the leader of the Catholic Church they will be healed and their sins forgiven.
There are those who, led by their political beliefs, believe that by meeting the Pope they can push and advance their political agenda.
Of course, there are those who don’t have any agenda at all but who just want to see what everybody wants to see.
What will Pope Francis see when he comes to the Philippines later this month?
The Pontiff will see a people, immature in their beliefs, traditional in their religiosity, cunning in their politics, but very warm, personal, and honest in their hospitality, and “bonggacious” (ostentatious) in their celebrations and parties.
The coming of Pope Francis will be an extended New Year’s celebration.
There might not be fireworks (the security personnel will not allow it), but their will be a lot of food (there is always a lot of good food every time two or more Filipinos come together), talk (Oh, how we love to talk!), and noise (Expect the Left, the Right, and the Center, – sorry Lolo Kiko for the labelling – and anybody and everybody in the 100 million or so Philippine population to talk their mind out. We always do it when we have visitors who may or may not listen.).
So, let the celebrations begin! (Ah, wait! What do I wear for the party?)
This blog also appears on Rappler, which partners with the Union of Catholic Asia News in covering the Pope’s Philippine trip this month.