The Philippines, one of two mainly Catholic countries in Asia, ended today its nine-day Christmas misa de gallo (Mass of the Rooster) or novena, a centuries-old practice the Filipinos had inherited from colonial Spain.
The novena, which falls on the ecclesiastical season of Advent, starts with a dawn or early morning Mass on December 16 and ends on the 24th day of December, the eve of Christmas.
Although Mass attendance has been dwindling in recent decades in part due to commercialism, many Filipinos still attend the novena as a matter of ‘panata’ (pledge) or a manifest display of religious devotion in deeply-ingrained Catholic traditions.
At the Redemptorist Church, which is situated within a stone’s throw from the city’s two largest malls, has continued to draw mass-goers to its dawn worship, and few of the reasons for its good attendance are its large parking lot, location, and densely populated neighborhood.
Asked about the significance of the misa de gallo, Heidi Ivy Fabelico, a local college professor, explained that “the novena is not just a reflection of Filipino-ness, but also a reminder of our history and culture.”
“It reflects also our deeper religious connection with God, makina g the Mass a way of closing the year with gratitude for the graces received,” she added.
Allan Caceres, a former juniorist at the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, defined the annual novena “as a moment of renewal and a reminder to Catholics that like us, Jesus Christ was born in human flesh to prepare Himself for the mission His Father had assigned.”
Elsewhere in the city, the Mana Christmas display was opened to the public to coincide with the first novena.
The iconic exhibit was named after the antique dealer shop which has sponsored it annually since 2000. In Filipino language, ‘mana’ means ‘inheritance,’
This year’s project theme is ‘Sonata’, which presents a visual depiction of Christmas carols in millions of lights costing roughly P2.5 million (US$60,000). The display is the brainchild of Henry Babiera, owner of Mana Davao.
Considered as the ‘world’s longest,’ Christmas in the archipelago commences, although unofficially, on September 1, when radio stations start airing Christmas songs, mall sales become weekend features, and signs of star decorations start to show up in corners.