For Filipinos across the country, the Christmas season is officially ushered in by “Simbang Gabi”, the traditional series of nine dawn Masses which begins tomorrow.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, who is arriving from Vietnam, won’t be able to start the series but will celebrate the Mass with Carbon market vendors and Cebu city jail inmates in separate dates next week.
At 4 a.m. tomorrow, Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu Ricardo Cardinal Vidal will preside over the Sunday dawn mass also called Misa de Gallo at the Cebu Catholic Television Network (CCTN) station on Cardinal Rosales Avenue in Cebu City.
Archbishop Palma, who is in Vietnam for the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, will be returning to Cebu next week and catch up with the Misa de Gallo which he will celebarte at the Archbishop’s Residence compound at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 19, according to his secretary Fr. Mahr Balili.
The next day, on Dec. 20, Palma will say Mass at Carbon Public Market at 4:30 a.m.
Palma, who is on his second year as archbishop of Cebu, will visit the Cebu City Jail in barangay Kalunasan, Cebu City to celebrate Mass with inmates at on Dec. 21.
On Dec. 22, he will offer dawn Mass at the Maomaowan Chapel which is part of the mission area of Pardo, then at the Chinese Cemetery in Cebu City on Dec. 23 and the last dawn mass on Dec. 24 at CCTN.
At 9 p.m. of Christmas eve, Palma will celebrate Mass at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.
For Catholics, the dawn masses are dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is a way to spiritually prepare the faithful for the birth of Christ, said Fr. Brian Brigoli, parochial vicar of the Metropolitan Cathedral.
“It’s a form of sacrifice,” Brigoli said.
The annual Filipino tradition, which falls in the season of Advent, starts on Dec. 16 and ends on Dec. 24.
Also called Misa de Gallo or “mass of the rooster”, the activity is associated with cold mornings, post-Mass snacks of hot tsokolate and local delicacies, and special spiritual favors.
The practice originated in Mexico and was attuned to the needs of rural families who needed to celebrate Mass and return to their farms to work. The custom was brought to the Philippines as one of the Spanish influences.