Kristel Padasas. Photo courtesy of Catholic Relief Services
MANILA (UPDATED) – A volunteer worker and an only daughter was how Pope Francis described Kristel Padasas, the young woman killed in a tragic scaffolding accident in Tacloban.
Pope Francis relayed the sad news before thousands of young people who attended the "Encounter with the Youth" held on Sunday morning at the University of Sto. Tomas in Manila.
"Her name is Kristel. She worked for the organization and preparation for that very Mass. She was 27 years old. Young, like yourselves," the pope said as translated by his interpreter Msgr. Mark Gerald Milles.
Pope Francis also took time to meet with Paulino Padasas, Kristel's father, who lives in Taguig.
The meeting was held in the Apostolic Nunciature in Manila, where Pope Francis is staying during his five-day apostolic visit to the Philippines.
"The Holy Father was searching for words. How do you console, with words, a father who just lost an only child? So the Holy Father did not apologize for his lack of words, he was there," Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said during the press briefing at Diamond Hotel Saturday night.
Tagle, who was invited by Pope Francis to join him in meeting Padasas, said the pontiff was surprised by what Padasas said.
"But then it surprised the Holy Father that this grieving father said, 'I have accepted this. I have resigned to the fact that my daughter is no longer with me. I rejoice that she died serving other people. It's a meaningful death, it's not just a loss of life. So I'm happy now'," Tagle added.
According to Padasas, he was able to talk with the Pope for five minutes, which was enough to lessen the grief he is feeling.
"Sabi niya, kinilabutan talaga ako, sabi niya, 'Ipagdadasal ko si Kristel. Nasa heaven na siya with God, namatay siya na tumutulong'," he said.
Pope Francis also gave him three rosaries and two medallions with the image of Sto. Nino.
Padasas remembered the last time he talked to his daughter.
"Sabi niya, 'tay, sasalubong kami kay Pope Francis.' Sabi ko bili ako ng memorabilia ni Pope.' Sabi niya, 'Try ko po.' Sabi ko, 'Bakit kaya try ko po sagot niya," he added.
Padasas will fly to Cebu Monday morning, where he will go to Tacloban to claim his daughter's remains. His wife, who is an overseas Filipino worker in Hong Kong, is expected to arrive in Manila Monday evening.
Padasas' relatives from her mother's side in Barangay Tambo, Buhi, Camarines Sur are also grieving for the loss of the very first grandchild in the family.
"Tatanggapin ko na lang kasi wala na akong magagawa dyan. Nung December sabi niya mag-aabay siya sa kasal ng kaklase sa April," said her grandmother Corazon Cleofe.
Kristel, or fondly called "Mhai-mhai", grew up in the home of her grandmother and grandfather Salvador in Buhi.
She finished her elementary and high school there.
She is the only child of Judy Cleofe and Paulino Padasas. Her mother works in Hongkong, and her father works in Manila.
Padasas moved to Manila to pursue college where she finished a degree in Psychology.
Her grandfather said he last saw her in December in Manila. He described Padasas as a sweet granddaughter.
Her aunt Magie Perez said she last talked to Padasas on Friday who told her about her trip to Tacloban from Eastern Samar to volunteer for the Papal mass.
Padasas worked as a volunteer of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
The Pope was informed about her death immediately after returning to the Nunciature in Manila.
Fr. Federico Lombardi of the Vatican Press Office said the Pope had asked for information about her and her family to offer his sympathy.
The Pope on Sunday also called for a minute of silence to pray for Padasas.
"Let us also pray for her parents. She was the only daughter. Her mother is coming from Hong Kong. Her father has come to Manila to wait," the Pope said.
For the Cleofe family, although they are in mourning, they believe that God has a plan.
CRS on Saturday also released an official statement on the death of Padasas, wherein they express their deepest condolences to the victim's family and friends.
The group also shouldered all the expenses for Padasas' wake, while they are waiting for her family, who will be arriving in Tacloban on Monday. -- with reports from Rona Nunez, ABS-CBN News Bicol; Doland Castro, ABS-CBN News; Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBNnews.com