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For Always: Dec.

14-20, 2008 issue

Misa de Gallo
Erwin Joey E. Cabilan

From December 16 to 24, Filipino Catholics, especially in the Mindanao region, wake up as
early as 3 a.m. for the Misa de Gallo. The Spanish word “gallo” literally means “a rooster”. It is our
anticipation of Christmas. Through this, we welcome, in eager anticipation, the Lord Jesus in the Word
and in the Eucharist. But as an alternative to the rooster, sound systems play loudly a series of
Christmas songs to awaken the parishioners who can hardly leave their bed because of the cool breeze.
On the way to the parish church or to the BEC chapel, mass goers can smell the delicious Filipino
delicacies that vendors are selling. Young people feel the excitement for, who knows, they can meet
Mister Right or Miss Beautiful, who is also searching for the one who can fulfill their wish.

But what is Misa de Gallo? We have many perspectives on what this is all about. For those
who are between 50 years old and above, it is a traditional custom for we keep on repeating this
practice again and again each year. Take note, Misa de Gallo is only in the Philippines! For those who
are 30 to 49 years old, it is a devotion for we have to sacrifice in order to please God who will surely
grant our prayers of supplication in this best season of the year. For youngsters, it is the best time to
make a wish.

While we are so proud of this Pinoy practice, our lack of proper understanding hinders us to
venture into the Spirit of Misa de Gallo. This popular religiosity is not a tradition because we keep on
doing it each year. This is not a devotion that forces God to grant our prayers of supplication. We
don’t do Misa de Gallo in order to situate ourselves in the world of dreams and fantasy and let
children’s innocence be spoiled by wishful thinking. Misa de Gallo is Tradition (with capital “T”), it
is full and active participation and lastly, it is prayer. Let me highlight three salient reasons why we
need an authentic understanding on this beautiful Pinoy popular religiosity.

From “tradition” to “Tradition”. Treating Misa de Gallo merely as a tradition, a thing that we do as
customary a practice, can never guarantee maturity in the Faith among the Filipino Catholics.
Tradition, with capital “T” is defined as the “handing on” of the Faith. When we celebrate Misa de
Gallo for nine days, Filipino Catholics are actually learning, living and celebrating the Faith
together. It is a form of catechesis that allows the faithful to experience what we have received as a
gift and, at the same time, we also share the gift that we received to others. If we find meaning in
celebrating Misa de Gallo each year, it is and it must be because of this reality: the significance of
receiving and sharing God’s presence in a special way that the whole Filipino people can. This is the
gift that we, as Filipino Catholics, can give to the whole Christendom and to all people of goodwill.

From devotion to full and active participation. Completing the nine-day Misa de Gallo is not a
guarantee that everything will be well between you and God. Religion and Christian Faith are not
private matters. If it is not “personalized”, it is because relationship with God can never be removed
from our day to day experiences with others and with the entire creation. There are some who can
complete the 9 days of Dawn Masses sleeping, talking, and doing nothing. They are physically present
but their minds and hearts are absent. Our being there at the pew is not enough. Our sacrifices must
be in union with those who are suffering. By being active and participative, “we lift up our hearts to
the Lord” including those who are not present with us in the celebration: the poor, the hungry,
those who are victims of war and injustices, those who cannot pray and worship with us because
they are forbidden by their authorities, the sick, the dying, the lonely and the broken-hearted. They
are the last, the least and the lost. Our presence in the Misa de Gallo is our way of being one with those
whose lives are shattered by fear and misery. Misa de Gallo is not only ours, it is also theirs.

From “making a wish” to “offering a prayer”. When we wish, it might never come true. Thus, we
might be suffering from frustration and even depression. But when we pray, even if what we prayed
for are never granted, we have confidence and trust in God that He will give us what is the best.
During Misa de Gallo, we should never insult God by asking from Him the things, which He thinks,
are not really meant for us. Ask God what He thinks that is best for you, for your loved ones, for
your family, for your work and even for your enemies. Misa de Gallo reminds us that the Eucharist is
not our own making; it is God’s greatest gift for us. Every Misa de Gallo, and even every Eucharist,
God has already answered what we have fervently been asking from Him: His Gift of Self! This is
what we pray and this is what we believe! Lex orandi, lex credendi!

Let us not only enjoy our very own Misa de Gallo. Let us relish the goodness that gives
meaning into our very personal and communal lives! Have a good and meaningful Misa de Gallo!