Pope to travel in 'jeepney' during Philippines visit

Pope to travel in 'jeepney' during Philippines visit

MANILA - 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.

The iconic jeepney - originally made from converted US military jeeps left behind after World War II - has become a symbol of the Philippines and still serves as a mode of transportation throughout the country.

One of three vehicles to be used by Francis will be built like a jeepney, which is known in the country as the "king of the road" and transports anything from people to farm animals and produce.

While jeepneys are often painted with colourful religious scenes, the pontiff's vehicle will be plain white, 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.

Pope Francis, who has shunned the pomp of his predecessors, said earlier this year he prefers to use open-top cars rather than the Vatican's bulletproof "popemobile" used by previous pontiffs, which he called a "sardine can".

The jeepney-inspired popemobile is one of two built in the Philippines specifically for this week's papal visit. Organisers did not elaborate on the style of the second vehicle, while the third, the popemobile used in South Korea last year, will be flown into the country.

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 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.

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