Manila (AFP) – Pope Francis will travel in a different kind of “popemobile” during his visit to the Philippines later this week – an open “jeepney”, organisers said Monday.
One of the three vehicles Francis will use for his five-day tour has been built like a jeepney – which are known in the country as the “kings of the road” and transport anything from people to farm animals and produce.
The iconic jeepney – originally made from converted US military jeeps left behind after World War II – is a major a mode of transportation throughout the Philippines.
While jeepneys are often painted with colourful religious scenes, the pontiff’s vehicle is white and has an elevated rear deck and seats, a photograph from the organising committee showed.
“We will do everything for his safety,” Bishop Ruperto Santos from the organising committee told reporters, when asked if the open vehicle could render the pontiff vulnerable.
Francis has shunned the pomp of his predecessors and said last year he prefers to use open-top cars rather than the Vatican’s bulletproof “popemobile”, which he described as a “sardine can”.
The jeepney-inspired popemobile is one of two vehicles built in the Philippines specifically for this week’s papal visit. Organisers did not elaborate on the style of the second one, while the third is the same vehicle the pontiff used in South Korea last year and is being flown over.
Francis will arrive in Manila on Thursday from Sri Lanka, marking his first visit to Catholicism’s Asian bastion.
During the visit, which has the theme “mercy and compassion”, the pope will meet with President Benigno Aquino in Manila and say mass before millions in the capital’s main outdoor park.
Security will be tight at the Manila mass as organisers said they were considering jamming mobile phone signals and advised the public to bring transparent bags instead of backpacks to ease security checks.
During Pope John Paul’s visit to the Philippines in 1995, authorities said they foiled a plot to assassinate him.
Francis will also meet Super Typhoon Haiyan survivors on the island of Leyte.
Haiyan, the strongest typhoon to hit land with 230-kilometre (143-mile) per hour winds, brought tsunami-like waves to the central Philippines, wiping out entire towns and leaving more than 7,350 people dead or missing in November 2013.