Misa de Gallo
The dawn of December 16 is different from any other morning in the Philippines. When the day’s first cockcrow is heard, exultation rings throughout the nation as church bell toll loudly to signal the official start of Christmastide.
The dawn mass is aptly called Misa de Gallo or Mass of the Rooster. While Christmas has been in the air for weeks, or even months, and people have been busy with Pasko activities--- today, Christmas really begins.
The sounds of this morning are unique, memorable and much awaited especially in towns and barrios. In the dawn darkness still enveloping everyone, no one notices that some are still in pajamas or nightclothes due to their excitement. Some of them are groups of children walking while singing their lovely carols. People with lit parols, scurry by, not wnnting to be late for mass which is usually begins at four o’clock. Food carts are wheeled noisily into the churchyard--- coals burning, ready to cook the wonderful rice cakes of the season which is commonly called as “bibingka at puto-bumbong”.
Every morning for nine consecutive days, this joyful exaltation is part of the Misa de Gallo. The two-centuries-old tradition is commonly called as Simbang Gabi. No country other than the Philippines have this kind of tradition. The practice of dawn masses began sometime in the 1700’s when a Spanish friar gathered his flock of farmers, at the time of harvest ( which coincides with Christmas). He told them that it was a sign of thanksgiving to God will continue to bless them with more bountiful harvest. As of today, there is still a belief that whoever completes the nine-consecutive dawn masses will be granted for his/her wishes.
Today, it is the Misa de Gallo, with its romantic fusion of folk rites and religious enchantment, that makes the coming of Christmas so deeply significant to Filipinos.
The parol is perhaps the paramount Filipino Christmas symbol. The word...