Posted by: junjeesj | January 4, 2009

Misa de Gallo

Misa de gallo sa simbahan (Misa de gallo at church)
At nagtilaok na ang tandang (And the rooster crows)
Tanda ng pagdiriwang at pagmisa (Symbol of celebration and mass)
Paskong dakilang araw (Christmas, the great day)

I was four years old when I first experienced Misa de Gallo. I was fascinated walking the streets with so many people at 3:30 dawn. All were headed to the Church. This fascination remains with me until now. Thus, every year, I look forward to not missing a single Misa de Gallo.

The Misa de Gallo is one of the most impressive expressions of faith of the Filipino Catholics. It is literally translated in English as the “rooster’s mass or dawn mass.” In other Spanish speaking countries, they call the Christmas eve mass, Misa de Gallo. But, here in the Philippines, when we say Misa de Gallo, it refers to the nine dawn masses from December 16 to December 24.

Once my teacher in Values Education subject in second year high school required us to write about the Misa de Gallo in the Philippines. The title of my essay then was Pista (Feast). I felt a sense of pride that in my country Christmas is very lively and lovely. There seems to have no poverty at all. Everything seems to be abundant and prosperous. Everyone wears colorful clothes.

The streets are shining with colorful parol. One can see lots of stars, different boxes decorated as gifts, many statues of Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the reindeer. People decorate their front gardens with Christmas lights. Rich people’s houses have huge, multicolored glimmering Christmas trees. In some streets, one can see a showcase of belen from the very simple to the most intricate. My mother always turns on the lights of our lanterns outside the house when we leave for Misa de Gallo.

Also, on the streets you can see vendors selling lighted Christmas lanterns, wind horns and fire crackers. Outside the Church, make shifts stalls are selling traditional Pinoy food. More popular are the puto bumbong and bibingka.

Filipino Misa de Gallo is a communal activity. This is a magical event for families, community and friends. I never expected to see many friends and families. The reasons for attending Misa de Gallo vary. Some people are there for the fun and the excitement. They take this opportunity to be with friends, special friends or even crushes. Many consider this as a family bonding activity. Some are there because they are forced by their parents. My parents, when I was a kid, often bribed me with sumptuous pampainit after the mass.

But there are others who attend the Misa de Gallo as an expression of their devotion to God and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Those who do not usually go to mass, like many of the nominal Catholics, are enticed to go to mass. Many people strive to complete the nine dawn masses. Even my uncles, whom I never saw attending mass, are also trying to complete the nine dawn masses. Some of their motivations may be superstitious. I was once told by one of my uncles that if I can complete the nine dawn masses I can make a wish and it will be granted.

Ang awit na handog sa Mesiyas (The songs that are offered to the Messiah)
Mayroon pang kastanyeta
(Have castanets playing)
At ang koro tuloy ang kanta
(And a choir that continues to sing)
May saliw din ng pandereta (Also accompanied by tambourines)

Nine dawns of festivities. Nine dawns of jubilant celebration of God’s love to all.

I am never bored walking on the streets during Misa de Gallo. From our house, I can already hear the loud speakers that are set up at Churches to amplify lively Christmas carols. The spirit of the people is awake. You may no longer see people carrying castanets and tambourines, but you can hear them singing along with the songs played on the amplifiers; Pinoy Christmas songs like, Ang Pasko ay Sumapit and Pasko na Naman, are the hit songs heard on the streets.

Even if it is the fourth watch of the night, the choir are not sleeping. One can see many choir members at the choir loft. The orchestra are accompanied by keyboards, guitars, tambourines, maracas, castanets and even drums. I remember those times that I was a choir member of our church. It was always easy to sing during Misa de Gallo. The instrumentalists were high spirited. It was fun singing with the congregation who were actively singing too. The most beautiful scence in the Church for me are children happily and loudly singing even if they have the wrong lyrics. I always said to myself that I was once like those children.

I came across Fr. Horacio dela Costa’s “Jewels of the Pauper.” He said that Filipinos have two jewels, our religion and our music. According to him, we are one people when we sing and when we pray. This is what I feel on Misa de Gallo. During the masses, when the congregation sings, the music sounds from every heart, the young and old, men and women, rich and poor, united in prayer and worship.

Misa de Gallo sa tuwing Pasko (Misa de Gallo every Christmas)
Nagdarasal ang bawa’t tao
(Every person is praying)
At nagpapasalamat sa pagsilang
(And giving thanks for the birth)
Ng Diyos na Hari ng mundo
(Of God, the King of the world)

The Misa de Gallo is a gift to all Filipinos. This celebration is shared in the rural and in the urban areas alike. It is celebrated everywhere in the country. This is one of the things that unite us. The rich and the poor share the same excitement and happiness while experiencing the Misa de Gallo with families and friends. Even other faiths celebrate Misa de Gallo with the Catholics. You can see Protestant churches having dawn worship and services. Even the Muslims celebrate Christmas. All are one in longing and praying for something better for the self, for others, for our country and for the world. More significantly, the Misa de Gallo has become a venue for forgiveness and the healing of relationships.

Indeed, it is a joyfully waiting.

The Misa de Gallo reflects the positive attitude of Filipinos as a happy and a resilient people. Amidst poverty, Filipinos can still find such joy in celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yet, Filipino Misa de Gallo is not just celebrated here in the Philippines. Wherever there is a big community of Catholic Filipinos abroad, one may expect a celebration of Misa de Gallo. When I went to Brunei Darusalam, I was so amazed to experience the Misa de Gallo there. It is now in other countries, even in predominantly Muslim country.

The Misa de Gallo is not just a gift to the Filipinos, but it is becoming a gift of the Filipinos to the world.

– Jun-G Bargayo, SJ –

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