“Simbang Gabi” – it can tell us a lot about who we are

Old Pic Celebration_Courtesy Trota Jose

From Dr. Regalado Trota Jose’s book “Simbahan” (1991)

Missa de Gallo. Before the Spanish clergy in the Philippines could celebrate mass at dawn, they had to seek an official permission from Rome. That was in 16th Century. Pope Sixtus V signed a document around 1587 allowing the Philippine Church to say masses at dawn. Thus Missa de Gallo became part of our tradition sixty six years after Magellan arrived in the Philippines – that’s a quick action on the part of the Spaniards. By having dawn masses the farmers were able to work in the fields the whole day but at the same time were made aware that Christmas is just a couple of days away. The missionary spirit among the Spaniards might still have the upper hand during this period, which was soon to be taken over by the more practical entrepreneurial and political mood in the succeeding centuries.

Our professor in Aesthetics emphasizes a point by preceding it with “Don’t you see?” “Don’t you see that……” he’d often remark. So, let me use such a device. Now, don’t you see that such a move among Spanish missionaries speaks of how zealous they were about evangelizing Filipinos (like they had to make pahirap their gising for themselves too)? Don’t you see that, on the other side, Filipinos were naturally industrious? In short, Missa de Gallo arouse from a keen observation of the routines of our ancestors. We were early risers.

Missa de Gallo speaks of Filipinos to Filipinos in more ways than we could think of. Tradition is also a source of revelation; it tells us who we are. As we go to dawn mass tomorrow (December 16, 2013), we don’t just say our prayers and feel the Christmas chill, but also remember that we wake at the hour our ancestors woke to hear mass and went to fields. And it was not a burden for them.

Missa de Gallo shaped us as a people. We are dawn risers. Don’t you see?


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