It’s the most wonderful time of the year indeed, and it’s that time where church-goers offer nine days of waking up at wee hours to warmly welcome the birth of our Emmanuel.
Before starting this blog, let me briefly introduce first the meaning behind the term, Misa de Gallo.
According to a traditional tale, Jesus was born at the stroke of midnight. The task of announcing this miraculous event fell to the roosters. The first rooster fluttered to the roof of the stable and proclaimed in a human voice, “Christ is born!” The second followed, crying out, “In Bethlehem!” Since the rooster was the first creature to call humankind to worship on the eve of Jesus’ birth, people throughout the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking worlds honor the animal by referring to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve as the “rooster’s mass.”
In the Philippines, the rooster’s masses begin on December 16 and usher in the Christmas season. A festive rather than solemn mood pervades these observances, in spite of the fact that the masses begin at four in the morning. Although the last of these nine masses occur in the early morning hours of December 24, Roman Catholic churches in the Philippines still offer Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
—(Encyclopedia – Misa de Gallo)
You Might Also Want To Read: Here’s What You Need To Know About Simbang Gabi
Growing up, completing the nine mass has always been a struggle for me. Usually, I start strong—but having to embody the ningas cogon trait, I always end up missing 2-3 masses per year. At some point, I gave up following it, and for many years since then, I haven’t attended a single Simbang Gabi.
One day, as I went through my usual research at work, I happened to stumble upon the idea of completing the Simbang Gabi—but with a twist!
With all the blessings I’ve received this year, I think it’s just right to do this, and it’s not just a simple “wake up at 4 AM in 9 days” thing. But rather, it’s “wake up at a much earlier time to attend the nine mass in different churches in CDO.”
Yes, you heard it right. For the next nine days, I’ll be hopping around different churches in the City of Golden Friendship to visit and attend the nine mornings of Misa de Gallo.
Disclaimer: Photos were taken before or after the sacred celebration.
(Day 1 of 9) San Guillermo Parish in Centro Iponan, Cagayan de Oro City
Off To A Good Start. I think it would be fitting to start this journey in a place where I spent most of my childhood-to-teen years. Besides, the familiarity of the place enables me to reflect, at the same time, reminisce my younger years (though, I’m still in my early twenties).
The holy sermon is just right. It’s a friendly-reminder, not just to me, but also to my fellow Kagay-anons who are also on a mission to complete the nine Masses.
Drop the ningas cogon attitude, and start practicing a good habit of finishing what you’ve started.
(Day 2 of 9) Immaculate Conception Parish Church in Bulua, Cagayan de Oro City
A Little Too Crowded. It’s not surprising how the locals continue to flock the nearest church in quest of accomplishing the nine rooster’s mass. So far, this parish has accommodated a little too many for its capacity. With its enclosed structure due to its installed air-conditioning, every nook and cranny of the church were almost occupied. Some even stayed chose to stay outside, despite the drizzle and cold morning breeze.
While my first day attending the Simbang Gabi was a success, my second day of church hopping was quite challenging—in a sense, making myself awake and attentive. Moreover, I was a bit disappointed with the deliverance of the sermon. But nevertheless, seeing how many people continued their commitment and dedication motivated me to keep on pushing forward.
(Day 3 of 9) Our Lady of Fatima in Camaman-an, Cagayan de Oro City
The Most Interactive Homily. Glory to God, I made it to Day Three! My next church visit was in Camaman-an, roughly 30-35 minutes away from our residence. To be punctual, I got up a little bit earlier than usual. By the way, at this point, my parents were already tagging along with my Simbang Gabi adventure.
What piqued my attention was when the priest delivered his sermon in an unconventional way—something I haven’t seen in any church, by far. He was able to wake up the sleepy churchgoers with his storytelling. Despite my initial surprise, I was impressed with how he was able to reel in the ears and eyes of everybody.
I was also able to take note of a lot of young churchgoers.
(Day 4 of 9) Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City
The Most Festive Church. This church, by far, is the most festive with regards to Christmas decorations. Upon entering, I was immediately greeted by the different versions of the nativity of Jesus, crafted and designed by each ward member of the parish.
On Day Four, I was stirred and called upon to reflect on my faith in lieu of how strong it is.
In the passage, it talked about an old married couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who are both dutiful servants of God. For many years, the couple has been praying to have a child, and yet they still had none. Until one day, while Zechariah was praying, the Angel Gabriel appeared before him. But instead of receiving the good news with joy, the old man was in doubt. In short, Zechariah was already losing his faith in God.
The parish priest then discussed in his sermon that when faith is inadequate, any obstacles and delays in whatever prayers you’ve been asking for—doubt and yielding would always be an option. But when faith is strong, you’ll wait with patience—no matter how long you wait; because you believe in your heart that God will grant it in his time. And as you may know, God’s time is always the best.
Aside from that, he tackled the impacts of broken promises, especially for children. He stated that when someone makes a promise to you and fails to keep it, over and over again, the trust you gave them would eventually disappear.
Don’t over-promise, and when you do promise, do your best in keeping it.
(Day 5 of 9) St. Francis Xavier Parish Church in Pueblo de Oro, Cagayan de Oro City
Right on time. Can you believe it, I made it to Day Five!
Despite the incomplete structure, a lot from the Uptown residents still came and attended the rooster’s Mass in this parish. It is by far the most punctual, starting right on time. Moreover, the homily was straightforward—talking about the gospel of Luke on the power of God and the purity of Mary’s heart.
I also want to note its charitable initiative of calling for good donations for the City Jail Inmates—which is just right for the gift-giving season.
(Day 6 of 9) Sanctuario Eucaristico – Sacred Heart Parish in R.N. Pelaez Blvd., Kauswagan, Cagayan de Oro City
The Most Dynamic Choir. It’s Day Six, and today was probably my earliest.
It’s my first time attending Mass here, and I love how bright the color and lights are, making the ambiance lively and vibrant. And I also want to commend how amazing the choir sounds. I used to serve as part of the youth choir way back, and singing this early is quite challenging (well, at least for me). The dynamic and harmony in their voice did not only bring me back to those good old choir days, but it also made me feel the upcoming Yuletide season.
During the sermon, the celebrating priest also reminded us of the importance of being able to confess our sins days before the birth of Christ.
(Day 7 of 9) Xavier University Church of The Immaculate Conception of The Blessed Virgin Mary in Corrales Ave., Cagayan de Oro City
The One Where I Felt Most At Peace. I visited my alma mater for my 7th day of Misa de Gallo. And just like coming home, attending the Mass here feels more light and serene.
(Day 8 of 9) Archdiocesan Shrine of the Black Nazarene in C.M. Recto Ave., Cagayan de Oro City
The One Where The Sermon Was On Point. Although the Mass started a few minutes later than its scheduled time, it concluded early. The priest delivered his sermon on point.
(Day 9 of 9) St. Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral, Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro
The One Where I Finally Did It. Yes, I did it. I made it to the last and final Simbang Gabi!
Of course, it’s just right to finish this church-hopping mission at the Metropolitan Cathedral of the city. Although I woke up and traveled earlier than the previous mornings, I still wasn’t able to save myself a seat because of the large number of churchgoers—early, early birds. But despite standing at the side, enduring the cold breeze of Christmas morning and sleepiness, I was able to accomplish my mission of attending the nine days.
Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma celebrated the Mass, and in his homily, he discussed the three words Zecharias used in praising God: light, mercy, and peace.
But did I really accomplish it? Was my whole presence able to stay throughout the Holy Mass, or was I merely doing it for the sake of completing it?
These questions have been lingering inside my head since day one. With the awareness in me, I was then able to push through my hesitation and away from the temptation of just dropping this and giving in to sleep. These questions motivated me in a way because I wanted my answer to be: “I did it because I want to prepare myself for the coming of Christ; I did it because I want to thank God for the blessings He has given me for the past months.”
And I hope everyone who has completed Misa de Gallo would feel the same. If not, at least not only for the sake of perfect attendance and making a wish.
Altogether, the experience was amazing. Having to travel and go to different churches every night made it more challenging yet fun. I was also able to see how each parish celebrated Misa de Gallo and its creative and festive Christmas decors.
Among the nine churches, the Sanctuario Eucaristico – Sacred Heart Parish took me in awe. The ambiance of the church felt comfortable, peaceful, and vivid. Plus, the harmonious choir kept me awake.
For those who want to try attending nine days of Simbang Gabi in nine different churches, here are my five tips:
Planning. Days before Misa de Gallo, make sure you have gathered all the essential information you’ll be needing along with details such as what church to visit, its location, and the time of Mass. Through this, you’ll be able to plot your route, know when to wake up, and adjust your travel time. Moreover, it will save you from waiting too long or having to stand up throughout the Mass.
Sleep early. I know this seems impossible to do nowadays. I mean, I myself have had difficulties in doing so. Nevertheless, getting enough sleep would help maintain alertness and drive away the temptation of closing your eyes.
Transportation. Just in case you want to visit a church that is a bit far.
Have a companion. This journey could be more personal and fulfilling if you can attend it by yourself. But having a companion is not that bad.
Don’t just think about completing it. Make sure to pay attention and understand the Gospels and sermons. Through immersing yourself into the Holy Mass and doing some reflection, you’ll be able to push through sleepiness and make your nine days more worth it.
Merry Christmas everyone, and have a prosperous New Year!
Misa de Gallo. (n.d.) Encyclopedia of Christmas and New Year\’s Celebrations, 2nd ed.. (2003). Retrieved December 16 2019 from https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Misa+de+Gallo
Misa de Gallo. (n.d.) Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. (2010). Retrieved December 16 2019 from https://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Misa+de+Gallo