The beat, rhythm and colors in the run up to the Night Mass—known as Simbang Gabi in the National Capital Region and Miatinis in the Ilocos —are getting their notes on the higher octave in the metropolis as well as north and south of it.
On the fifth night from tonight will begin the series of nine Masses traditionally celebrated in the pre-dawn hours each day from December 16 to December 24, the custom which began as a way of accompanying Mary symbolically in prayer through the nine months of her pregnancy.
At the Plaza Independencia of Lipa City, 82 kms southeast of the capital, Jane Recede told the Manila Standard there is a nearly 20-meter high Christmas tree, courtesy of the Sangguniang Panglungsod, lighted for 12 hours until 5am as from November.
There is another giant Christmas tree at the Lipa Cathedral, where the nine pre-dawn masses start on Friday at 4 am, with those attending Masses overwhelmed on their way out with the native puto bumbong, the Filipino purple rice cake steamed in bamboo tubes – a sight seen in many other areas of this country like Samar, Quezon, Rizal and Albay as well as Tarlac, Pampanga and Pangasinan which received the Christian Cross in the 16th century.
There is also the native bibingka, the fluffy cake made of glutinous galapong or rice dough, which is as well relished in the Ilocos Region and Cagayan Valley.
In Minglanilla, Cebu, Marivic Rosal talks of praying the Rosary followed by the 4 am Mass, with vendors of puto maya, a sticky rice cake made of steamed glutinous rice, fresh ginger juice and sweetened coconut milk, ready with their accompanying sikwate, the Cebuano version of hot chocolate or the tsokolate de batirol prepared by adding cocoa tablets.
In Paoay, Ilocos Norte, where the UN Heritage Lister Roman Catholic Church is, known for its colonial earthquake baroque architecture, Dr. Wilma Natividad talks of dancing lights that accompany a wave of rhythmic music and a giant Christmas tree in front of the town hall near the church.
In Cagayan, known for its breathtaking rolling hills, the Sierra Madre mountain, great beaches, and amazing caves, the first class town of Gonzaga is also setting up a Christmas tree.
But the town of Pamplona, according to Zena Gail, has a Christmas village called Disneyland, where the young and old prepare for the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.
This tradition of Midnight Mass was chronicled initially by Egeria, a Galician woman who went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land between 381-384. Egeria had observed how, in Bethlehem, the early Catholics of Jerusalem celebrated the Christmas mystery with a vigil during midnight.
The tradition reached the Western world in the year 430 under Pope Sixtus III in the Basilica of St Mary Major.
This special Mass is known as Missa do Gallo in Portuguese, which means “Rooster’s Mass” or Misa de los Pastores in Spain or Shepherds’ Mass, and continues to be celebrated in many former Spanish colonies on Christmas Eve and in other areas as from December 16 for the nine-day Masses.
Following the liturgical celebration, many friends and families join together to exchange gifts in many Christian homes of this land of 114 million, where nearly 87 percent are Catholics.
Theologians say, as a result, one of the main themes of the series of Masses is religion—specifically the tenets of the Roman Catholic faith—with episodes full of references to passages and verses in the Bible; some more well-known than others.
During Midnight Mass, many Christians will take sacrament or the Holy Supper, pray and sing religious carols and hymns.
Candles are often lit to represent Jesus, often referred to as being the Light of the World, being born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.
The book of Revelation, from which Midnight Mass’ final episode takes its name, foretells not just about the Apocalypse and Final Judgment, but about the events that ultimately will lead to it.
That includes, according to theologians, the story from Revelation , when the angel Lucifer waged war against God and lost.