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Tragedy at pope’s Mass not all doom and gloom

MANILA (UCAN): Jun and Judy Padasas will never forget the day Pope Francis came to the central Philippine city of Tacloban just over one year ago.

As the pope was blessing thousands of teary-eyed victims of Typhoon Haiyan on January 17, their 27-year-old daughter, Kristel Mae Padasas, died.

Padasas was waiting for the papal convoy to pass when a strong wind blew a large speaker stack on top of her, crushing her to death.

“It was an ordinary Saturday,” her father, who was watching the television coverage of the Mass hoping to see his daughter in action, says.

A day after her death, Pope Francis addressed hundreds of thousands of young people in Manila and asked them to offer a moment’s silence for her.

“There is sad news today,” the pope said. “I would like all of you, young like her, to pray for a moment in silence with me and then we pray to Mama, Our Lady, in heaven,” Pope Francis told the crowd.

Padasas was a volunteer worker with Catholic Relief Services, a humanitarian aid agency in the United States of America, and was in Tacloban to assist with the papal Mass. She had been working in the human resources department of a company before taking a leap in faith to follow her passion in serving the poor.

It was also not the first time she had been to Tacloban. She had visited the city on numerous occasions after super Typhoon Haiyan devastated the area, killing well over the official 7,500 people listed by the government in November 2013.

When Padasas’ father received the call informing him of his daughter’s death, he was at a loss and didn’t know what to do.

“It was just too much to handle. I could not bear telling my wife that our child was already gone,” he said. Her mother was working in Hong Kong at the time.

After overcoming the initial shock of their daughter’s death, Jun and Judy Padasas had to face the burden of funeral expenses.

“We did not have money,” her father said. “Where and how would we bury our daughter?”

But officials from the local government in Tacloban offered a place for Padasas to be buried. Then Church groups and volunteer organisations began offering help.

Her father said that he felt most blessed when somebody called informing him that he would be meeting the pope.

“I was in high spirits. The anchor in my heart suddenly felt light,” he recalled, reminiscing on how the pope held his hands while telling him repeatedly, “Have faith, have faith.”

A year on, he is still grateful for everything that has happened in his life since the accident.

“I know that my daughter’s death was for a reason and whatever her mission is—it is already up to the Lord,” he says.

Her family and friends gathered in her memory on January 16 this year. Her father remembered that even when she was already of age, she was like the child Jesus who honoured his family.

Even though her mother was abroad, she spent a lot of time with her on the phone. But while her father seems to deal well with her death, her mother continues to struggle with the loss.

“A lot of reporters have come to us asking for an interview but she politely refuses,” Jun Padasas says. “It hurts her when she is reminded of what happened,” adding that the family is not blaming anybody for the tragedy.

Lorraine Garillo recalls the time Padasas spoke with her about leaving the corporate world and going full-time into volunteer work.

“I told her to consider the risks of the job as the locations are usually unsafe,” Garillo said. “She listened, but in the end she did what she really wanted.”

Garillo and friends still do community work among the urban poor. “We want to continue what Mae started as much as we can,” she shared.

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