When he visits the Philippines next week, Pope Francis will ride in history aboard the first jeepney to be converted into a “popemobile”; the nickname given to any vehicle used by the Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church.
The white popemobile is built on a new jeepney chassis, converted to a secure platform to give the crowd a good view of the Holy Father. Like any other ordinary Philippine jeepney, it has a long bumper with steel “bull bar” up front, stainless steel strips adorning the sides, and a checkered plate metal step at the rear.
Religious icons adorn the body from the papal coat of arms at the hood, roof and sides to the emblem of the Society of Jesus, an eight-pointed star symbolizing the Virgin Mary, and a spikenard representing St. Joseph. On each of the jeepney’s flanks is a glass cross sculpted by Filipino artist Ramon Orlina. Mounted on the left side is a collection of rosaries from the Vatican.
Like most commuters, entrance is at the rear, with a folding rear step covered in red carpet unfurling down to the pavement.
The passenger compartment includes three seats, with the papal seat front and center and two other chairs at both sides for Archbishops Luis Cardinal Tagle and Socrates Villegas.
But this jeepney popemobile also includes air-conditioning as an extra special feature. Cold air will be blown out of a pair of vents flanking the papal seats while electric fans will help cool down the cabin. The sides of the vehicle will remain open though.
A member of the Swiss Guards will most likely be the designated driver of the stick shift vehicle that uses a diesel engine, complete with authentic rumble.
The Pope has been known to avoid the use of luxury cars; even calling out priests and bishops who spend on such vehicles. In his recent trip to South Korea, he requested to use a simple compact car as his official ride. Even before being elected to the Papacy as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he has been known to take public transportation.
As part of preparations for the Papal Visit, one of the two popemobiles to be used by the Pope was given a test run around the streets of Metro Manila. Watch the video below: