06/04/2015, 00.00
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Philippines, Francis effect: tourist boom at papal visit sites

The Argentinian Pope’s apostolic has left more than just a "spiritual legacy". A growth in the number of visitors in the areas affected by the typhoon and visit by the pontiff. Among the places of greatest interest is Palo’s Virgin and Child. Filipino priest: a work that "illustrate the suffering of the people."

Manila (AsiaNews / CBCP) - Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to the Philippines has not only left a "spiritual heritage" for the faithful, particularly those affected by Typhoon Yolanda and other natural disasters.

The Argentinian Pope’s visit to Leyte and other areas of the province of the Eastern Visayas has in fact also determined a firm growth in the tourism sector. Fr. Chris Militante, spokesman of the Archdiocese of Palo, confirms the influence of the pope's visit to the region, which has already led to the increase of visitors - local and foreign - in conjunction with the start of the summer season.

One of the places that Francis visited and that is of particular interest to tourists is Palo, especially the cathedral.  A steady flow of tourists has been registered eager to see the statue of the Virgin and Child Jesus that was placed next to the Pope (pictured) in the solemn Eucharistic celebration at the airport in Tacloban.

The Filipino priest says that "people are going to the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary", which is "unique" because it "was created to illustrate the suffering of the people", the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. Before his final blessing at the Mass, adds Fr. Militant, Pope Francis prayed and touched the image sculpted by local artist Willy Yalug, made with material from the rubble of the cathedral also devastated by the typhoon.

Fr. Militant adds that, among sites that tourists are flocking to is the residence where Francis has had a meal with a group of victims of the typhoon. Others visit the Pope Francis Center, an area dedicated to the Pope which houses an orphanage, a clinic and a nursing home for the elderly.

During his apostolic journey to the Philippines – the only Catholic majority nation on the Asian continent - the Pope repeatedly reminded of the need to help the poor, children and victims of natural disasters that have rocked the country recently. The Church in the Philippines has already allocated about 9.7 million euro in recovery projects, assistance, rehabilitation in favor of more than two million people affected by Typhoon Yolanda.

Haiyan/Yolanda hit the Visayas Islands on 8 November 2013. About 11 million people were affected in 574 towns and cities. The price tag for getting back to normal was estimated to be around US$ 8 billion.

The final death toll has estimated at more than 5,000 with at least 1,700 people still missing. Initial estimates had put the number of the dead at above 10,000; however, Filipino President Aquino tried to downplay that figure by saying that it was the result of an emotional reaction. In his estimate, the death toll was no higher than 2,500.

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