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Sunday, December 16, 2012

"Misa de Gallo" or "Simbang Gabi" and "Noche Buena" in the Philippines and Elsewhere

Good Sunday, everyone! Rejoice and be glad, amidst the trials and tribulations we have in life. (I know, it seems unbelievable and is just a wishful thinking, maybe. But, life has to go on...Hang in there and have faith, my dear folks and friends. Let's pray...) All we wish for, at this time, is that elusive "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All Men!" We'll surely have it when the Son of God will, once again, dwell among us soon! Hence, let's pave the way for His coming! Sooner, we'll be singing, "Joy to the World, the Lord has come!" (Actually, while I'm writing this blog post, I'm already listening to my favorite Christmas carols.)

I'd like to take this opportunity to discuss or talk/write about this tradition in the Philippines where I originally came from prior to emigrating to the United States of America in early 1980s. Heard of "Simbang Gabi" or "Misa de Gallo" before?  Yes? No? Well, let me tell you something about it then.

In preparation for (commemoration of) Christ's birth, folks in the Philippines, and elsewhere now, attend the so-called "Simbang Gabi." This is a series of dawn Masses that start today, December 16, each year. It's basically a nine-day novena of Masses that will culminate in the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

(I feel the nostalgia now because each time December 16 arrives, I remember my childhood days with my family and friends and neighbors back then when we start attending the dawn masses. So devoted we were that we have had that devotion, passion, enthusiasm, and perseverance to complete the nine day masses. Mind you, how long the distances we, as a community or a big group, have to walk from our barrio or barangay to St. Paul's Metropolitan Cathedral in Vigan City (Ilocos Sur) and back home afterwards. Five to ten miles? Young as we were, we never felt so tired of walking to and from the church. With that innocent faith that has been ingrained in us, we were so full of vitality and strength, and stamina! On the way home, by barangay Cuta, we always bought freshly-baked, buttery rice cakes. They're so good and yummy! And, by the time we reach home, we're so full and ready for the day's work, whatever chores or activities we have had in store for us! What a wonderful feeling to reminisce those moments with family members, folks, and friends, and neighbors sharing the same faith and tradition!)

As we know from history, the Philippines was colonized by Spain for over three centuries. Yes, over three hundred years! What an influence they've had, notably the Christian religion or Christianity, specifically Catholicism! Thus, in the 16th century, Christmas was introduced to the Filipinos. Eventually they began celebrating the novena with morning Mass to "give thanks for the harvest and hope for a good year to come." Now, a compromise was made to accommodate the farmers who have wanted to participate in the church worship. Masses, therefore , were held earlier in the morning. That's why we have what we call dawn masses, or Misa de Gallo (the Mass of the Rooster).

Traditionally, ringing of church bells start at three in the morning to wake up the devoted churchgoers. Other places in the Philippines, you see or hear musical band playing Christmas songs and carols for the townsfolk. While mass is going on, there are those local bakers-vendors having stalls near the church, getting ready with their various sweet, glutinous delicacies, newly-baked, buttery/sugary rice cakes or "bibingka" and "puto bumbong"  with grated coconut and/or brown sugar, for those churchgoers. And, as always, after the Mass, there's this cordial exchanges of greetings of folks, friends and relatives, neighbors as they walk out of the church feeling holy and contented.

There's this "panuluyan" which is observed on the ninth day of this novena Mass, on Christmas Eve, to commemorate Mary and Joseph's search for a place where the former would give birth to baby Jesus.

Now, comes the climax of the nine nights of dawn Masses which is the post-Mass celebration of Christmas Eve and the traditional "Noche Buena." It's the gathering of whole family around a dinner table full of food, desserts, including wine and beverages, etc. This festive occasion is an opportune time for family members and friends and other relatives to celebrate Christmas with fun, exchanging of gifts or gift-giving, Christmas caroling, singing and dancing.

Groups of young ones or old or members of an organization with a prospective community project do go out caroling from one house to another wishing every household a "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!"

On Christmas Day, church is full in attendance with parishioners, visitors and guests attending Christmas Mass. Afterwards, relatives and friends, grandchildren, and/or neighbors pay a visit to each others' house then ask for their "pamasko" (Christmas gifts). Other families have parties. Younger generations go to malls or movies with their friends or just hang out in their houses.

BTW, today is the third Sunday of Advent. I woke up so early because my mind was focused on this Misa de Gallo. While my wife Freny was still asleep, I did pray the holy rosary along with a video on YouTube. I meditated on the Glorious Mysteries which are said on Wednesdays (Except during Lent), and the Sundays from Easter to Advent. The 5 Glorious Mysteries show us the great things in the lives of Mary and Jesus because they followed God's word. Here are the 5 Glorious Mysteries, with simple explanation:

1. The Resurrection of Jesus (for the virtue of faith)---
After Jesus died, He was placed in a tomb. Mary Magdalene came for Him and saw that He was not there. An angel told her that He had risen from the dead, just as He had promised.
2. The Ascension of Jesus to Heaven (For the virtue of hope)---
Jesus went to a place near a city called Bethany with His Mother and His friends. He held His hands out and blessed them. Then God, His Father, took Him up to Heaven as they all watched.
3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles (For love of God)---
Jesus promised His friends that He would always be with them. On Pentecost, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to them. They were filled with God's peace and knew that they would never be alone.
4. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (For devotion to Mary)---
Jesus had a special love for Mary. When she died, Jesus took Mary's body and spirit to heaven to be with Him. From Heaven, Mary look down on all of us and cares for us.
5. The Coronation or Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary (For eternal happiness)---
When Mary entered heaven, she was welcomed by Jesus and the angels. Mary was crowned the Queen of Heaven and the Universe. In Heaven, she appears with a robe made of the sun, the moon under her feet, and a crown of 12 stars on her head.

As usual, we attended the Sunday Mass in our parish, with Rev. Fr. David, our pastor, as our celebrant and homilist. He did mention about the Connecticut school tragedy, and we all prayed for the victims and their families. Mother Mary, pray for us all! We also attended another church in a neighboring city where our daughter Tintin plays piano for the church service there. (As you may know, Tintin, comes home every other Sunday because of her commitment to another Christian church in a neighboring city.) Then, we had lunch before Tintin drove back to D-ville where she works.

Well, my dear folks and friends, near or far, far and wide, this is all for now. I do hope you have a wonderful day. Until next time around. Take care. As always, I pray, "May God bless us all!"-chris a. quilpa, 16Dec2012

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