Dubai: For the more than 130,000 people who descended on Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, seeing Pope Francis officiate a Holy Mass in the Arabian Peninsula for the first time is something for the history books.
But for the thousands of Filipinos who were part of the crowd, the historic event did not end after the pontiff delivered his homily or the holy communion ended.
Those who stayed at the Zayed Sports City Stadium after Pope Francis said his parting words were in for a mega surprise.
Just as when the crowd began to disperse, The Philippines’ pop royalty Sarah Geronimo appeared on stage to perform a few songs.
Wearing couture outfits designed by UAE-based designer Amato, the multi-award-winning Filipino artist performed more than a couple of songs, including "The Prayer" and Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and “Heal the World.”
A lot of people in the crowd didn’t expect the box-office queen to show up, and they all broke out in excitement and disbelief. “I love you, Sarah,” shouted some of her fans. And when she sang more than one piece, some of them blurted out, "Oh my God, I thought she's gonna sing only one song."
Shortly before the performance, Geronimo quoted a few words from the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi: “Where there is hatred, let us sow love, where there is offence, kahit mahirap po [no matter how difficult] let us forgive. Let us do our part to heal the world.”
Sarah performed about eight to ten songs and donned two different designer creations at the mini-concert.
Pope Francis arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, marking the first-ever visit by a pontiff to the Arabian Peninsula.
The United Arab Emirates is one of the leading destinations of overseas workers from the predominantly Catholic Philippines. According to published data, there are more than 500,000 Filipino expatriates in the UAE.
But not everyone who travelled all the way to the UAE capital were able to enjoy the surprise performance. Carah, a Filipino expatriate based in Dubai, said she had already left when the artist started singing.
"I didn't know she was going to perform. It would have been a real treat, especially after what we've been through just to be there. We haven't had any sleep, but seeing the Pope in person was still all worth it. I nearly cried after seeing him," she said.
Filipino designer Furne One, the co-founder and creative director of Amato Couture, confirmed that he was commissioned to produce at least two gowns for Sarah’s appearance during Pope Francis’ visit in the UAE.
“For this particular event, I have prepared two statement pieces for her; the look for the opening number is immaculate white jumpsuit in Chinese collar embellished with crystals and flower patterns finishing with a dramatic cape with aviary accents,” said Furne One.
“It is simple yet sophisticated. The second look is a divine powder blue couture gown with intricate details and signature Amato patterns. Both white and blue colours symbolise peace and unity, a perfect statement for this momentous event in our history.”
Amato had dressed Sarah in all her past concerts and appearances in Dubai in 2011, 2013 and 2018.