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Bacolod City, Philippines Saturday, June 16, 2018
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Cheding meets ‘Lolo Kiko’


Calling out to “Lolo Kiko” got an elated Deputy House Speaker Mercedes “Cheding” Alvarez (Neg. Occ., 6th District) a brief chat with Pope Francis at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Wednesday.

She had lined up for the weekly public audience with the Pope at St. Peter's Square, that started about 9:30 a.m. and ended at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, the congresswoman, who is on vacation with her husband, Maj. Dranreb Lansang, told the DAILY STAR yesterday.

Alvarez said when she saw the Pope approach them, she was memorizing the things she wanted to say in her head and told herself: “Cheding, make it simple, quick and fast.”

As the Pope inched closer and was talking to a Polish family they met, she told herself: “Cheding do not mess this up. You didn't expect this to happen this morning but this was meant to be. Make it good.”

But when she was about to hold the Pope’s hand, suddenly his security handed a baby between them for him to kiss.

“By then crickets were chirping in my head. Blanko. Then I opened my mouth, I broke down and simply said ‘Lolo Kiko, Lolo Kiko, Lolo Kiko!’,” she said.

And when she looked up the Pope, with a big smile, said: “When you say Lolo Kiko, only from the Philippines.”

“My heart was in my throat, and there was such a huge, huge ball caught up in it – every wave of emotion, happiness and gratitude flooding my senses, welling up as tears. Lolo Kiko, God’s Vicar, knew. In a courtyard filled with thousands of people from every nation, he knew us, and that knowing spoke of the love and joy he has for everyone, and for the Philippines,” Alvarez said.

“If my heart could burst with joy, it would have, at that moment: I took his hand, and in his beaming face I received every blessing for our country and family, our souls uplifted to the most High. Here was the Shepherd, and he knew his flock. Words failed me in that moment, but my faith and love did not, and Pope Francis knew it,” she added.

She said “Lolo Kiko will always have millions of apos of all ages kept close to his heart, and closer to God.”

“It happened so fast because there were thousands in attendance. He also asked for us to continue praying for him,” she said.

Alvarez said she is on vacation but it turned into a pilgrimage, “I unexpectedly visited Lisieux and Lourdes, too, for St. Therese and Lady of Lourdes. And this blessing from the Pope”.

“I went on this journey never realizing it will be a spiritual one, and it is a once-in-a-lifetime blessing,” she added.

“The joy and peace I carry in me will be something I can bring home with me, and there is a lesson in leadership from Pope Francis that I will keep aspiring to: I want to be that leader who connects to the people she serves, knowing who they are, and bringing peace and inspiration to them. A leader who uplifts and touches the souls of those whom she serves, and perhaps—just perhaps—inspire more to do the same,” Alvarez said.*CPG


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