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Philippines: Hallowed Christmas Traditions Kept in Place

In the midst of the pandemic, Filipino Catholics have poured into churches for the famous Filipino Christmas tradition: the “Simbang Gabi” or “Misa del Gallo”, the mass celebrated at dawn for nine days, which begins on December 16th and ends on December 24th. At 4.00 in the morning the church bells began to ring, and thousands of faithful, while trying to respect the anti-Covid protocols, were already there to listen to the call to the entrance in the church, allowed to a limited number of people.

As Fides learned, a queue of at least 400 meters was recorded this morning, December 16, the first day of the Novena, around the Sacred Heart church, Kamuning, near Manila, before the start of mass at 4.30. Over 2,000 faithful gathered inside the church and on the surrounding grounds. Normally, the church can accommodate around 10,000 faithful. “But these are not normal times. However, we are here to pray. It is a joy to participate in these celebrations. In this difficult time, it is even more necessary”, Catherine Lalog, a nurse, told Fides.

“Throughout the predominantly Catholic archipelago, churches have begun to celebrate daily masses at dawn, in strict compliance with the precautions imposed by the pandemic. Health officials and experts note an increase in Covid-19 infections in the capital Manila, in recent weeks. We will pay the greatest attention and we will invoke God during this Novena so that He may grant us the end of the pandemic”, Father Reginald R. Malicdem, Rector of the Cathedral of Manila told Fides. “Simbang Gabi is one of the distinctive Christmas traditions in the Philippines that the virus has failed to eradicate. It is encouraging to see that people want to come to morning mass despite restrictions imposed by the Department of Health and local governments”.

From December 16 to 24, Filipino faithful from all walks of life take part in the Christmas novena masses. They pray to God for a healthy life, professional success, for family ties and for many other intentions, entrusting them to the Child Jesus, Emmanuel. “Whole families participate in mass: for Filipino Catholics it is a beloved family tradition that shows faith in God”, said Mark Seluda, a Catholic and father of four, who lives in Manila. “It is an opportunity to be closer to God”, he adds.

The Philippines is the most Catholic nation in Asia with more than 110 million inhabitants, 85% of whom are Catholics. In 2021 the nation will celebrate 500 years since the arrival of Christianity on the archipelago. (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 16/12/2020)

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