[PHOTO - At this morning’s first Misa de Gallo, the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral was overflowing with churchgoers, too, just like the Sto. Niño Pilgrim Center only a block away. Hundreds had to make do with hearing mass from outside. Crowds are always largest on the first first dawn mass and slowly dwindle as the novena, in the form of early morning masses, progresses.]

MANILA DECEMBER 18, 2011 (CEBU DAILY NEWS) THOUSANDS of Catholics flocked to various churches in Cebu in yesterday’s opening of the nine-day Misa de Gallo, an annual tradition in the runup to Christmas.

At the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City, parish priest Msgr. Adelito Abella said the celebration honors Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ. He urged the faithful to intensify their devotion to the rosary.

Abella said praying the rosary helps the Church address threats against the Catholic faith such as the proposed Reproductive Health bill.

The National Shrine of St. Joseph also houses the image of the pregnant Mary who is seated on a donkey.

St. Joseph is standing ahead of the donkey pulling it with a rope.

The manger is left vacant, surrounnded by animal figures.

The baby Jesus will be added on Christmas eve.

Misa de Gallo, which in Spanish means “Mass of the rooster,” consists of nine-day votive dawn Masses in preparation for Christmas.

The annual Filipino tradition begins on Dec. 16 and ends on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve.

The practice was introduced by Spanish friars so that farmers may hear Mass before going to the fields early in the morning. Reporter Ador Vincent Mayol


Simbang gabi - December 16, (John 5: 33-36) 2011 By Rev. FR. Benjamin SIM, S.J. (The Freeman) Updated December 18, 2011 12:00 AM

CEBU, Philippines - We began the beautiful tradition of Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo. It is a more intense period of preparation for the celebration of Christmas, the birth of Christ.

Liturgically, we are still in the season of Advent. But for all practical purposes Christmas celebration started with these nine days before Christmas Day. The Christmas Season (the 12 days of Christmas more or less) starts with December 25 and ends with the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

But during most of those days the schools are on holidays, the offices are closed, and many people are on vacation out of town. So, the Simbang Gabi serves as a kind of sneak preview into Christmas, or a transition from Advent to Christmas.

To me, the Simbang Gabi is especially beautiful because of its meaningful symbolism.

It is still a period of waiting and preparation. It entails the sacrifice of getting up early in the morning.

It is a sacrifice we offer in preparation for the coming of the Savior.

Time itself from the darkness of night to the light of dawn is symbolic of the world in the darkness of sin waiting for the coming of dawn, the coming of Jesus Christ the Light of the world.

That is why I would not favor anticipated Misa de Gallo. We would stand to lose the meaning and symbolism.

The singing of the “Gloria” is in joyful anticipation of Christmas. The custom of “painit” after the Mass brings us the spirit of festivity of the season and the joy of family gathering –often with friends.

As we get closer to Christmas Day, it may be good to ask ourselves, What is Christmas to me? It is just a time to put up those beautiful decorations if you have not yet done so – but why? It is a time to give gifts to our friends – but why?

For some, it is a time to ask for gifts – but why? Is it just a custom and tradition at this time of the year? Are we living a Christmas without Christ like many pagans do? The consumer society around us encourages us to non-stop parties and shopping. To spend more money.

And all these has nothing to do with Christ. Some countries call this time of the year Winter Holidays, not Christmas Season.

The Nativity scene is forbidden as Christmas decorations in public, - only non religious decorations such as Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the reindeer are allowed.There is no room for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in the inn.

Perhaps most of us celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus. That is good in itself.Except that we tend to anesthetize and sterilize the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem. We remove the dirt and stinking smell of animals. Mary and Joseph had been traveling for days.And they look as if they had just came from the beauty parlor.

The Christmas scene looks so beautiful on the Christmas cards.However, looking beyond the external is the greatest Gift of Love. Jesus is the Gift of God, Love in the flesh.The Father gave us what is most dear and precious to Him The Jewish celebration of the Passover is to make themselves present during the actual happening in history. To be present there at the time the event was happening.Can we make ourselves present during that first Christmas Eve as it was happening?

What would we say to Jesus, Mary, and Joseph? What would they say to us?

There is a big difference. Most of us look to the first coming of Our Lord at Christmas with nostalgia and nice feelings. But most of us look a the Final Coming of Our Lord with fear and trembling. It is the same Jesus, who is coming. The question is: How do we prepare for his coming? Do we prepare ourselves so that he will be comingas a friend, or will he be a stranger coming to sentence us? The difference is how we know Jesus. Who is Jesus to you?

There is a third way by which Jesus is coming. This is most important. Jesus describes the end of our lives and the end of the world with two images:

- It is like a thief in the night coming when we least expect him,

- or as a bridegroom coming to claim his bride.

If we don’t grow in our relationship with him in our daily life, he will be coming as a thief in the night. If we cultivate an intimate relationship with him, he will come as a bridegroom claiming his bride.

How do we cultivate that intimate relationship with him? One of the principal Advent Guides was John the Baptist. John was to prepare the way of the Lord

- by leveling the mountains and hills,

- filling up valleys and ravines,

- making the rough roads smooth.

What does this mean concretely? It means on the one hand to

• remove or overcome any thing that

• keeps us from opening ourselves to God more totally.

• Concretely, it may mean – to be moreunderstanding, patient, and compassionate towards others, especially our subordinates. It may mean to be more forgiving, and letting go of our favorite grudges.

Moreover, this Advent and Christmas Season bring us great opportunities for love and service towards our suffering brothers and sisters, who are victims of natural calamities like typhoons and floods, people who not only lost their homes and loved ones, but even their means of livelihood to rehabilitate. They still need our help.

Perhaps, during this Season of Advent and Christmas, we can pray for the grace to be more sensitive to the needs of others, and to be more generous in our response to their needs, and to be more responsible to the care of our environment.

There is also the opportunity for helping the Jesuit Missions to the poor and the indegenous marginalized Filipnos of Bukidnon.

Perhaps for every party and celebration you have during this Advent and Christmas Season, you can set aside a counterpart amount for our parish scholarship, or for the victims of calamities or the missions, or some gifts to a poor family around you.

I’m sure your Christmas will be doubly merry and happy for such an act of generosity. My sisters and brothers, do you want to really have a Merry Christmas? Try giving to the poor, to the Social Services – especially those who are really in need.

A Blessed Christmas to All of You! (FREEMAN)

'Simbang Gabi' officially starts Christmas season By Bebot Sison Jr. (The Philippine Star) Updated December 16, 2011 12:00 AM

[PHOTO - The historic Guadalupe Church in Makati is packed full with people spilling outside for the traditional Simbang Gabi]

MANILA, Philippines - The traditional Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo begins today, officially starting the Christmas season.

The nine-day dawn Masses are held at 4 a.m. to commemorate the actual birth of Christ.

In earlier days the schedule of the Mass was convenient for rural folk who had to wake up early to work in the fields or go out to sea.

Before heading for the farm or the shore, they would first hear Mass and ask for God’s blessing. It was said that the parish priest would even knock on the doors of villagers to gather them for the Mass.

Later, the Simbang Gabi incorporated the festivities of the Christmas season. Brass bands would make the round of communities, waking up people with the marching music.

Then huge Christmas lanterns also became fashionable, bringing color to the previously simple Christmas celebration.

Before Christmas lanterns were introduced, mass-goers lighted their way to the church with candles.

On Christmas Eve, mass-goers look forward to the traditional Noche Buena or Christmas feast. The holiday spread is likely to include native rice cakes such as bibingka, suman, and puto bumbong; as well as queso de bola. To keep warm during the cold weather, salabat or ginger tea is served.

The tradition dates back to 1587 in Mexico, when Fray Diego de Soria, prior of the convent of San Agustin Acolman, petitioned the Pope to hold Christmas Mass outdoors to accommodate the huge number of mass-goers. Upon arrival of the Spanish conquistadores in the Philippines in the 17th century, the Christmas Eucharist was introduced to native Filipinos and tradition hardly changed over the centuries. In modern times, the Simbang Gabi has also become an opportunity to keep in touch with relatives and friends.

Young men take advantage of the early masses to court girls; lovers also tend to spend more time in the churchyard rather than inside, to the annoyance of bishops.

Bishop Joel Baylon, in fact, proposed the installation of speakers and wide screens outside the Church to force young people to pay attention to the sermon.

He said half of the population of mass-goers are young men who want to see the girl they are courting, or young couples using the mass as an excuse to meet.

Despite the changing social mores, people continue to attend the dawn masses, giving the Church an opportunity to renew its efforts at evangelization.

Some people still challenge each other to complete all nine masses.

The tradition is alive even in the metropolis.

Security situation

As Simbang Gabi starts today, the National Capital Region Police (NCRPO) has increased vigilance against crimes that usually proliferate during the season.

NCRPO chief Alan Purisima met yesterday with his five district directors and 38 station commanders to map out security preparations for the Simbang Gabi activities.

“There’s no need for us to raise our alert level as we received no terrorist and other threats during the occasion,” he said.

Quezon City Police District (QCPD) director Chief Superintendent George Regis ordered his officers to watch out for petty thievery in churches.

Manila Police District (MPD) spokesman Chief Inspector Erwin Margarejo said they would look out for youth gangs causing trouble during Simbang Gabi.

Manila police would pay special attention to the Manila Cathedral, Quiapo Church, San Agustin Church, Santo Nio Church in Tondo, and churches in Malate and Sta. Ana. – With Non Alquitran, Evelyn Macairan

Pinoys in NY join 'Simbang Gabi sa Katedral' by Don Tagala, ABC-CBN North America Bureau

NEW YORK – Hundreds of Filipinos trooped to the historic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York for a one-night only “Simbang Gabi sa Katedral”.

“For the last five years that we have been doing this, it’s overwhelming joy. It’s an honor to be here at the St Patrick’s Cathedral, united as one people, spiritually,” said organizer Linda Bolano.

Now on its 5th year, “Simbang Gabi sa Katedral” has deep roots in both the faith and culture of Filipino Catholic immigrants in New York.

While the main goal is to evangelize and bring more Filipinos closer to the Catholic faith, organizers said the uniquely Filipino Simbang Gabi tradition prepares Pinoys for the annual remembrance of the birth of Jesus Christ on December 25.

“Talagang ang diwa ng Pasko ay buhay na buhay sa ating lahat na Pilipino. Ang St. Patrick’s po ay icon na rin natin, parang Manila Cathedral, parang Baclaran, parang Quiapo,” said Francisco Cacho, who was the Hermano Mayor for the event.

“It is very important that we're able to keep our Filipino tradition and continue on in keeping the spirit of Christmas in our hearts even if we are far away from home," said Hermana Mayor Irene Lacson Yupangco.

The Simbang Gabi sa Katedral was celebrated by the Reverend Bishop Dennis Sullivan, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of New York and co-celebrated by Filipino priest Fr. Joseph Marabe.

Simbang Gabi mass traditionally starts on December 16. It’s considered as one of the longest and biggest religious Christmas celebrations in the Philippines.

‘Pasko sa Consulado’

Meanwhile, to avoid violating the Archbishop’s order and Canon Law that prohibits mass in non-consecrated areas, the traditional Simbang Gabi at the New York Philippine Consulate has been converted into 9 days of prayer service, now called “Pasko Sa Consulado”.

Prayers and liturgical readings will take place of the actual Catholic mass.

“At least the community is cognizant of the words of Archbishop Dolan and at the same time, that they are also aware that the Filipino Community wants to continue the Christmas tradition here at the Consulate,” said Consul General Mario de Leon.

One of the organizers, Tess Canlas Mojirca, said: “It is very disappointing, because this tradition has been started many years ago. If it’s a sin now, it should have been a sin then. Regardless we will still prevail, and Christmas will still be Christmas with us.”

Those who opposed holding Simbang Gabi masses at the Consulate explained they are only trying to preserve and promote genuine Catholic practices. Don Tagala, ABC-CBN North America Bureau

Filipino Christmas celebrations are being held across the United States.

In Washington D.C., a Philippine-themed Christmas celebration was held at the Edward J. Pryzbyla Center of the Catholic University of America last Dec. 3.

Choral groups and instrumentalists performed Filipino and English Christmas carols before more than 400 guests, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

"With the theme 'Kulturang Pamana, Alaala ng Bayan' (Cultural Heritage, Gift from Home), this year's Paskong Pinoy celebrated the Filipino American community and its many contributions to the Philippines and the United States," the DFA said.


In Chicago, Filipino-Americans joined the annual “Christmas Around the World & Holidays of Lights” at the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) in Chicago last November 20 and 27.

The Filipino community rendered cultural presentations dubbed “Paskong Pinoy,” with cultural groups incorporating a medley of Filipino Christmas carols and folk dances.

“The Philippine Consulate and the Filipino-American Community also decorated a Filipiniana-inspired Christmas tree on display with other trees around the world at the Museum of Science and Industry and Navy Pier,” the DFA said.

A similar festivity was also held during the Winter WonderFest at Navy Pier’s Festival Hall on December 3, the DFA said.

San Francisco

In San Francisco, Filipino Americans welcomed the Christmas season with a celebration of the Holy Mass and the lighting of parol (Christmas lantern) last December 3, the Philippine Consulate General there said Monday.

The concelebrated Mass was held at St. Anne of the Sunset Church in San Francisco, with Robert McElroy, Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco, as the main celebrant.

"With the (Annual Simbang Gabi Commissioning and Parol-Lighting) ceremony, the Archdiocese affirmed its recognition of the significant spiritual impact of Simbang Gabi, and sent the Filipino community members in a mission to be the light in spreading the message of the Christmas season to their respective parishes," the DFA said.

The ceremony ushered the Simbang Gabi Masses starting December 15 in the various parishes in the Bay area.

In his remarks during the commissioning Mass and ceremony, McElroy lauded the Filipino tradition of Simbang Gabi in celebrating Christmas.

Attending the "Philippine-inspired" Mass and ceremony were Filipino community members in Filipiniana attire.

Highlighting the Mass were a rendition of songs by the St. Thomas Moore Choir, the reading of the prayers of the faithful in various Philippine languages and dialects, and a parade of colorful and parols representing each parish commissioned for the Simbang Gabi.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, the Simbang Gabi will also be held at the Parish of the Resurrection December 15 to 23, 7:15 p.m. and on Sundays at 7:00 p.m. VVP, GMA News


Simbang Gabi sa St. Barnabas, Scarborough, CanadaEmailed for posting by Romeo Ayson Zetazate

St. Barnabas Parish celebrated the Novena for the Holy Infant Jesus (Simbang Gabi) in Scarborough, Canada, from Dec. 16-24, 2010. Parishioners and their friends thronged to the Church every morning at5:30 AM, to attend the celebration of the Nine days Novena Mass, a Filipino tradition, regularly observed in the Philippines.

What is unusual in this parish is that, the Pastor, Priests and Deacon who celebrated the early morning Novena Masses in St. Barnabas are non-Filipinos. (Indian Pastor, Lebanese & Slovakian priests and Indonesian deacon), The Parishioners were Blessed to have these clergies celebrate the Novena Masses every morning to continue their tradition in Canada. (These busy clergies also celebrate 2 other daily masses and 7 other weekend Masses in the Parish. This Simbang Gabi was started by Filipino Pastor Fr. Ben Ebcas in St. Barnabas, six years ago.)

Some 300 Parishioners of St. Barnabas and their friends (mostly Filipinos) come daily early in the morning, braving the winter weather (which we do not encounter in the Philippines). The Host groups and families assisted in the Mass service. The Filipino Choir, led by Music Director Joshua Tamayo, who sang Mass and Christmas songs. Another good tradition is the placing of the offerings in several baskets in front of the altar (Generous donations collected were distributed to the poor families in the Parish.) At the end of the Mass, the Pastor invited all the devotees for a traditional Filipino breakfast (hot sopas, bibingka, puto bongbong, kalamay, ensemada, pan de sal) served daily by the Host group.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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