Philippine Archbishop: Pope Francis “Might” Visit Typhoon-Damaged Areas

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Philippine Archbishop: Pope Francis “Might” Visit Typhoon-Damaged Areas

Also: Cheap Big Macs in Southeast Asia, street vendors reeling from Bangkok protests.

Some Thursday ASEAN links:

On Wednesday, a Philippine archbishop announced the possibility of a visit from Pope Francis – a gesture that would be well-received by the nation’s more than one million Catholics.

“The Holy Father might just come,” Archbishop John Du, who is based on the Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)-ravaged island of Leyte, told The Inquirer. “There is a plan but there is no calendar yet [for this possible visit]. But we are praying for it.”

The news comes during a visit from Cardinal Robert Sarah, the president of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council Cor Unum. He is responsible for overseeing the church’s involvement in charity and humanitarian aid.

Cardinal Sarah presided over mass at the damaged Saint Elizabeth of Hungary Church in Libertad, which lost its roof during the storm surge. He told the faithful in attendance that his visit to Leyte and Tacloban was “in the name of the Holy Father, Pope Francis.”

Archbishop Du told members of the press that visits from high-ranking members of the church, international politicians and celebrities were “blessings” that have helped to draw attention to the devastation and, in turn, speed up recovery efforts.

Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, fast food junkies have something entirely different to be thankful for. The Economist’s recently-published “Big Mac Index” – which tracks the price of McDonalds’ ubiquitous hamburger across the globe – listed Malaysia and Indonesia as having among the world’s most inexpensive Big Macs.

Though India offers the cheapest Big Mac on Earth at $1.54, Malaysia came in third cheapest at $2.23 and Indonesia captured fifth cheapest at $2.30.

The most expensive Big Mac can be bought in Norway for a whopping $7.80.

Over in Thailand, street vendors who set up shop near the Energy Ministry are pleading with the officials and anti-government protesters to end the deadlock, citing lower or entirely lost wages.

“I don’t understand this. Whoever is the prime minister, I still have to feed myself,” said Saeng-ngern Pongchuen, a 37-year-old smoothie vendor. “What’s going on has nothing to do with me, yet I’m affected by every protest.”

Saeng-ngern told The Bangkok Post that she hasn’t been able to sell a single item since the nearby Lat Phrao intersection was besieged by protesters. She recommended that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban “meet halfway” and make a speedy compromise.

A nearby noodle vendor said that her wages had been cut in half, while a chicken vendor admitted to borrowing money from a loan shark just to keep his business afloat.

A som tam vendor added that the government should provide financial assistance to help small businesses that have been hurt by the shutdown.