In the year 1970, on the month of November, Pope Paul VI visits the Philippines. Out of all the countries, he chose to visit our country first in his first ever global expedition away from Europe.
Alex Allan, a former reporter at the Manila Chronicle, tried his best to get a pass in order to cover the visit but it was all in vain.
“They were only allowing two reporters per paper and one photographer. So naturally the Malacañang reporter grabbed the first accreditation. In our case, in the Chronicle, the second one went to the senate reporter. I felt so bad, I mean, the head of security, I’m the one covering the defense department and the head of security is General Ordoñez. I’m not even allowed there. So I told General Ordoñez and he said, ‘Punta ka rito bukas,’” narrated Allan.
Things got more interesting, afterwards.
The next day, Allan was given a police uniform. Ordoñez let go of his aide and put Allan in that position instead. Their group also included Sergeant Balaqua, his security bodyguard.
Unbeknownst to Allan, he would be standing two feet away from the pontiff’s would-be assassin, Benjamin Mendoza, who was dressed up as a priest at that time.
There was chaos as Mendoza lunges at the Pope with a kris, a dagger with a wavy blade, upon his arrival at the airport.
The pope’s secretary, Monsignor Pascale Macci, pushed Mendoza to the ground. Then after, he received a karate chop from Korea’s Stephen Cardinal Kim.
“It was a very fast thing, somebody shouted ‘Pare! Pare!’ What they meant pala was, it was a priest. He was struggling. He was kicking. But Balaqua was a big guy. Ordonez was a fairly strong guy. First thing I saw was the leg, so I grabbed it. We brought him to the van and to the safe house.”
As he was recounting the incident, Allan said, “I was surprised to find out he wasn’t a priest. He didn’t look right. I couldn’t say that he was crazy or out of his mind because he was answering me. He was on a mission, that’s all he was saying. He kept repeating it.”
Before Allan could write his story, however, he narrates: “By the afternoon, I was getting ready by four, to go to the office. I thought I had everything. And here comes Ordonez, and says, ’Alex, hindi tayo nag-save kay Pope, ha,’ very calmly, ‘It was Marcos who blocked him and karate chopped him. And it was Imelda who picked up the knife.’”
Despite being told this, Allan said he couldn’t fool the nation.
“I know what happened. He knows what happened. I couldn’t in my [gestures to heart], say that Marcos did it, because he didn’t do it,” he said.
The following day, November 28, 1970, a photo of three men carrying Mendoza to a van was on the front page of “The Manila Chronicle.”