Despite strong winds and incessant rains brought by a storm that seemed to follow his trail during his five-day stay in the southeast Asian country, at least six million people attended the concluding mass of Pope Francis in the Philippines, in the same area where St John Paul held the 1995 World Youth Day.

Wearing plastic ponchos, Filipino Roman Catholics from all walks of like turned out at the Quirino Grandstand in the heart of Manila on Sunday to attend the pontiff's last mass in the country before he flies back to Rome on Monday. People came in droves, unmindful of the chilly weather and the rainwater that trickled down their faces. Manila was under Signal No. 1 because of Tropical Storm Mekkhala.

"We are devotees of the Pope," Bernie Nacario, 53, told AFP. He was with his wife and two young children. "The pope is an instrument of the Lord and if you are able to communicate with him, it is just like talking to God himself."

The five-day papal visit had been dubbed a "security nightmare" by local officials. Government had asked local telecom operators to suspend operations in areas where Pope Francis will visit to avert any untoward terroristic attempts on the pontiff that will involve the use of a telecom-equipped gadget. On the Sunday outdoor mass alone at the Luneta Park, the sight where Filipino heroes were shot and new Filipino presidents take their oath of office, nearly 40,000 soldiers and police were deployed to ensure the security of the pope as well as the people who attended it.

The first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years experienced a welcome akin to a rockstar visiting the Catholic Church's Asian heartland. It was his first visit to the storm-riddled country, which encounters 20-22 storms on the average per year. Pope Francis got to taste a tropical storm in the Philippines, when he held mass on Saturday in Tacloban, one of the areas worst-hit by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, "donning a raincoat and all the people in the congregation also were in their raincoats," Fr Karel San Juan SJ, president of Ateneo de Zamboanga University, told ANC on Friday. Super Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm ever recorded on land, claimed over 7,350 lives when it struck the central Philippines on November 2013.

Pope Francis, who rode in a "popemobile" created on the design of the nation's iconic local minibuses, known as jeepneys, stopped at various points at the Luneta Park on Sunday to greet worshippers and kiss babies and small children. The Philippines is believed to have as much as 80 million Roman Catholics. But Pope Francis was not the first pontiff to have made use of a jeepney-inspired popemobile, it was St John Paul II.

Pope Francis' visit marks the fourth time the country was visited by the Roman Catholic's spiritual pontiff. Pope Paul VI visited in 1970, and St John Paul II did it twice in 1981 and 1995. It was in the latter that the biggest World Youth Day festivities had its largest audience, recorded at five million people. Pope Francis' predecessor, Benedict XVI, turned down three invitations to go the Philippines in 2010.

See the aerial shots of Pope Francis' mass at Luneta.

The outdoor mass below.

Credit: YouTube/ Rappler