Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmases Past

Scouring through my past posts, I rediscovered some old entries about the venerable Misa de Gallo tradition. Rather than write something new this year, I thought I'd highlight some of my past pieces.

This is from 2006:
It never ceases to amaze me how, year after year, the churches are always full for the Misa de Gallo.

It's not an easy tradition to carry out, mind you. The Masses typically start at half past four in the morning. The sky is still deep velvety black and the air still retains its nippy bite. And yet never have I gone to a church or chapel that was not packed to the rafters and overflowing with devotees. Not in Manila, not in Cebu, not in Davao, and certainly not in Dumaguete.

Oh, to be sure, not everyone has pure and high motives of worship for going to the pre-dawn Masses. For some, it's the superstition of a sought-after wish. For others, it's the pull of their peers. And still for others, because that's the way it's always been. My own reasons incorporate a little of each.

From 2005:
As I write this, I've completed seven of the nine Christmas Dawn Masses for this year. It's a habit that I picked up a little late in life, but it's something that's grown on me year after year. It's not such a challenge to get myself out of bed at 4:00am anymore; in fact, I look forward to starting the day early with the Misa de Gallo.

Owing to a somewhat erratic schedule, I usually end up fulfilling the cycle at different churches. This year was no exception. My first Mass was in the chapel of the Perpetual Succor Hospital Cebu, followed by five Masses in our own Mary Immaculate Parish, and the last three Masses (I hope) in the Sto. Nino Peace Chapel in the heart of Greenbelt, Makati.

One thing can be said for all these Dawn Masses: they are packed to the rafters with devotees. This holds true for the churches I've been to in Cebu, Dumaguete, and Makati. I suppose it holds true for churches throughout the rest of the country as well.

From 2005 yet again:
It's been a few years since I've been doing the Christmas Dawn Masses and I have the Fortunatos to thank for that. Sometime during my third extended stay with them, Mrs. Fortunato invited me one morning and I've been at it ever since.

That got me thinking: I'm very lucky to have found a wonderful foster family. Because there's no other way to describe my relationship with them: leisurely breakfast conversations, wrangling Chammy, anecdotes, quotations, historical reminiscing, and so on and so forth. I've really known them for a very long time.

From 2004:
As I write this, it is the second day of the Misa de Gallo. I sigh with relief because finally, Christmas is really here. The carols no longer sound grating, the ornaments no longer seem out of place.

You can't being to imagine what a wait it's been. They say that if times are bad, Christmas comes earlier. I don't know if this statement is universally true, but my experience says that it generally holds for the Philippines. This year was no exception: I first heard the strains of Christmas carols in Manila as early as October.

My, my, I've become self-referential all of a sudden. Does this mean I'm getting old?