OPINION: So cool Misa de Gallo then

By Cha Monforte

They say it’s officially Christmas starting today, with the first Misa de Gallo held just this dawn. This is one cherished Filipino custom that lasts for nine days, from today until the Christmas eve, December 24. It started during the Spanish colonial period, and accordingly was initially intended for farmers who wanted to attend Christmas Mass but could not leave their fields.

There’s this passing nostalgia to be with kababayans each dawn, and the longing to share victory in a cool, foggy Yuletide Season after a fight not to drowse off during each dawn mass. Well, that was so before in my youth in a backwoods of a countrysides. There was so much excitement to meet the dawn while serving as sakristan under the tutelage of a motherly Sister Cima of fma, like when we were made to believe then that Santa Claus is coming to town to give toys to good boys and girls.

It was also then that barangay farmers,  when the GKKs weren’t so strong, for which the dawn masses were first intended for them by the friars, had no luxury to rise up at dawn just to trek downhill for long walk to the church in the poblacion. But I saw a few of them possibly rising by 2:00 or 3:00 dawn to walk for 1 or 2 hours just to catch up dawn masses.

It was only last year (a poor churchgoer am I) that I learned that GKK chapels had then been holding dawn mass celebrations. The GKK, the harbinger of the purok, offers a most proximate and so closed affair for Misa de Gallo, with your own neighbors and other familiar faces attending. I must say that in towns, where there are no long-known vendors of the common puto maya and tsokolate, dawn mass goers have been savoring the shrunk pandesal they bring home after a drop in a town bakery. Though lacking in snack delicacies like the many that spring up abundantly and cherish in other places like in Luzon or in Cebu in church frontyards, the Yuletide cheer and wish for abundant life isn’t lacking for the Mindanaoan probinsyanos subsisting on pandesal after dawn masses.

It is also so for the forsaken farmers and poor to merry over what they could easily afford from what’s left from their bonuses, if ever there is still after going from London (loan dito, loan doon, the teachers’ lingo, you know), even while TV advertisements have always show the noche buena meal of the privileged after the December 24 night Misa de Aguinaldo: lechon, hamon, cheeses, a variety of salads, pasta, embotido and sweets.

Del Monte seasons these locally, while Davao del Norte and Comval bananas show the craving of the rich countries for desserts on the table during the Holiday. But otherwise, and sadly, beyond our preference for the basic staple rice, Compostela and Pagsabangan landowners now plow their fields for dollars’ sake, but understandably, out of economic necessities beyond what rice could offer for their children and future. Ultimately, it’s for Pete’s sake.

There’s also this nostalgia creeping in us for a so cool, so foggy dawn. Before it was always raining during the Yuletide Season. The thick fog and the rains are gone now. There was hot streak of sunlight yesterday. The cool and humid December before is gone now. After decades of unabated illegal logging activities in our provinces and illegal loggers have continued to have still their best laughs, while our environment and local government officials continue to see and hear no evil, this is what we have now: our weather has become so feckle, and for the other man-made destructions against our surrounding and environment, nature has been fighting back like what it struck in Masara and Diwalwal landslides, and in the flooding in the many lowlands in our provinces.

After today’s first Misa de Gallo, I can only reminisce on those good old dawns when so mountain-fresh and so thick fog envelop entirely my hometown Nabunturan in so cool embrace during the Yuletide Season. (For online edition, visit my blog at: https://cha4t.wordpress.com, for comments and reactions, e-mail: chamonforte@yahoo.com)

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