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Welcome tarp for Pope Francis with Leyte solon’s name has church’s blessing


Not even Tacloban City was spared from the so-called "epal" materials in time for Pope Francis' upcoming visit to the Philippines.

On Monday, at least one billboard welcoming Pope Francis was seen with the name of a local politician in the city the pope is to visit on Saturday.
 
The billboard had an image of the pope alongside a schedule of activities—and the names of "Cong. Ferdinand Martin & Yedda Romualdez."

 
But the billboard appeared to be placed in private property.

However, no less than the archdiocese of Palo gave its blessing for the names of Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and his wife to be included in tarpaulins welcoming Pope Francis to the province, a member of the lawmaker’s staff said Monday.
 
“We had the tarpaulins approved by the Archdiocese of Palo before posting them because we were mindful of the possibility that some would brand the congressman as ‘epal,’” Rachel Santiago, a member of the lawmaker’s staff, said in a phone interview on Monday. “The clergy had no problem with it.”
 
More than serving as a welcome banner for Pope Francis’ arrival to Tacloban, Santiago said the tarpaulin aims to inform the public of the pontiff’s activities during his day-long visit to Leyte.
 
Printed on the right-most portion of the tarpaulin was the pontiff’s itinerary for his stay in the province.
 
“The tarpaulin is our way of welcoming Pope Francis, of informing the public of his activities, and thanking the Pope for choosing Leyte as part of his itinerary,” Santiago said.
 
Romualdez’s chief of staff noted that there are also other local politicians who have put their own welcome tarpaulins all over the province.

"Epal" is a Filipino word for officials who post their names and faces on tarpaulins used as signage of their projects, or in greeting people on special occasions.
 
It has now taken the meaning of candidates introducing themselves to voters for election purposes.
 
Romualdez part of welcoming party
 
Pope Francis will fly to Leyte on Jan. 17 to spend a day with survivors of typhoon Yolanda. He will hold a Mass at the Daniel Z. Romualdez airport in Tacloban City upon his arrival before proceeding to join 30 survivors of Yolanda for lunch at the Archbishop’s Residence in Palo town. This will be followed by the blessing of the Pope Francis Center for the Poor in the afternoon. 
 
The pontiff will wrap up his short visit to Leyte with a meeting with the priests, seminarians, members of the religious community, and families of Yolanda survivors at the Cathedral of Palo.
 
Santiago said Romualdez will not be joining Pope Francis’ lunch with the typhoon survivors but is among the five-member welcoming party who will greet the pontiff upon his arrival at the airport.
 
Joining the lawmaker are his cousin, Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, Leyte Gov. Leopoldo Dominico Petilla and his mother, Palo mayor Remedios Petilla, and Palo Archbishop John Du. 
 
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas has said that Pope Francis’ visit to Leyte will be the "centerpiece" of his five-day visit to the Philippines from Jan. 15 to 19, with his primary goal being "to console" with the survivors of super typhoon Yolanda and the Bohol earthquake.
 
"He's coming here to bring the blessings of God. In his own words, to visit Jesus in the Philippines," he said. —with Joel Locsin/KG, GMA News