Many people have asked me how I felt being up close to the Vicar of Christ. Yes, it's true his presence and endearing smile take you to a place where all is peaceful and beautiful. It was a very touching moment. The connection I felt was intangible, it was more than just physical for it was not just one encounter with Pope Francis but a whole journey I call the Pope Mobile story.
The journey started August 2014, when our family business, Almazora Motors Corp. was approached by Isuzu Gen Cars to make a Pope Mobile.
My husband, Jojo, has been known for his enthusiasm and integrity towards his work, which is our business of manufacturing buses and other vehicles for the past 50 years. I believe God has chosen only the best makers for Pope Francis' Pope Mobile. "This is a gift from God." I thought to myself.
A Brief Time Line
August 2014 - We partnered with Isuzu to build a Pope Mobile. To say we were all excited is an understatement. Gearing up for the coming Philippine visit of Pope Francis in January 2015, our family was thus given the opportunity to be a part of the occasion and, more importantly, to be of service to the church.
October 2014 - An Isuzu D max was sent to the factory. This was the best choice since this had the biggest area or space for Pope Francis' comfort and safety. We were given 10 weeks to complete the project, broken down to two weeks for designs and drawings, and eight weeks for manufacturing the Pope Mobile.
This schedule seemed tough, but to my surprise, there were very few obstacles along the way; perhaps it was because of the prayer cards of Blessed Bishop Alvaro I had given to every worker in the factory.
December 2014 – A completed Pope Mobile was ready for inspection.
This was a critical time. The Vatican entrusted every detail to us, only specifying that Pope Francis did not want it bullet proof. After inspection Vatican security was pleased and assigned our Pope Mobile as the official one for Manila instead of Tacloban, which it was originally made for.
January 2015 - Nearing the visit, there was talk of another Pope Mobile to be used in Manila -- a "jeepney styled” one. My heart dropped in dismay.
The days passed before Pope Francis' visit and there was still no news as to which Pope Mobile he would be using. I was puzzled and anxious and didn't know what was going on.
On the day of Pope Francis’ arrival at Villamor Air Base, I watched amongst the cheering crowd. There I saw him in the Pope Mobile that we so lovingly made. I felt my spirits lifting, my heart was bursting with pride. The Pope Mobile came to Life. I felt God’s presence in our midst.
"Allow God to surprise us." - Pope Francis message during his papal visit 2015
I watched Pope Francis’ motorcade pass by from a far distance. I whispered to myself “We made that!" I wanted it to be known by the whole world but my voice was too little to be heard in the crowd of thousands. I kept silent but my heart was screaming inside "We made that, we made that!" Not many knew about the makers and the stories behind its making.
But one man did -- Pope Francis.
He called to meet us and to say “Thank you!" He liked the Pope Mobile that we so lovingly made. For it is simple people doing the simplest things with dedication, commitment, faithfulness and love for Our Lord Jesus that will bring forth extraordinary results.
Now who was going to do the job? My two sons, Conrad and Cess, all have their designated jobs in the factory. My daughter, Maru, on the other hand runs a small business at home not related to Almazora Motors. Her father and brothers entrusted the design to Maru, who has a background in interior design, with the help of professional engineers, designers and lots of prayers.
She did two weeks of research by reading many articles about Pope Francis, watching videos of him, particularly his movements inside the Pope Mobile, making comparisons of different mobiles around the world. She loved every bit of the design process--having high tech machines, no budget restrictions, people and workers at her beck and call. She had a free hand to do whatever she wanted with very few limitations from the Vatican. And it was a labor of love.
The Pope Mobile as seen on TV looked very modest. Maru’s inspiration was based on Pope Francis’ "simplicity” and she incorporated Filipino touches. The interior has woven abaca, white wash finish in ash wood, virgin wool carpet and imported Italian leather. The natural elements of abaca gave it a warm feel, like home. It was also the only Pope Mobile with Mother Mary’s picture. It has since become the standard design worldwide. The brass Papal seal seen in all Pope Mobiles is made in Philippines.
After the Papal Visit
Much has happened since the papal visit. Our small voices were heard and our stories about the Pope Mobile went from the Philippine nunciature to the Vatican.
Pope Francis had one more thing to say before he left the Philippines. He said he wanted to take home the Pope Mobile. So there we were in Rome gifting him with God’s gift to us--the Pope Mobile we so lovingly made. Our journey on the Pope Mobile ends, and the glory belongs to God Our Heavenly Father always.
Nitz Almazora is a fulltime housewife, mother and grandmother.