“He wants to get closer to the people and know all the parishes in Cebu. He will start with the farthest area and eventually go to the closer parishes,” said Msgr. Ildebrando Leyson, the archbishop’s secretary.
The series of nine dawn Masses that lead up to Christmas Eve starts today.
For many Filipinos, “Simbang Gabi” or “Misa de Gallo,” which falls in the liturgical season of Advent, is a countdown to Christmas associated with chilly mornings, post-Mass snacks of hot tsokolate and puto, and for some, special spiritual favors.
The Misa de Gallo or “Mass of the rooster” is traditionally held at the crack of dawn. When the practice originated in Mexico, it was attuned to the needs of rural families who needed to celebrate Mass and still have time to return to their farms to work. The custom was carried to the Philippines as one of the Spanish influences.
In modern times, attending all nine-day Masses before 6 a.m. is a sacrifice for urban dwellers. Devout churchgoers believe that one who completes the series of Masses with a special intention or need will have his or her prayer answered.
Palma is in Manila to attend the first Misa de Gallo in the Edsa Shrine then will return to Cebu later today.
He will celebrate dawn Mass in the Blessed Pedro Calungsod Shrine in the Archbishop’s Compound in Cebu City on Saturday, Dec. 17.
He will also deliver his Christmas message that day at the Archbishop’s residence.
From December 18 to 23, Palma will be in Bantayan Island, northwest Cebu, to preside over the Misa de Gallo in various parishes.
Bantayan is the site of the oldest parish of Cebu.
“Misa de Gallo is a way to further and strengthen our devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus,” said Msgr. Esteban Binghay, epsicopal vicar of the the Archdiocese of Cebu.
He said the Masses prepare the people for the birth of Jesus Christ.
Sacrifice is a key element, he said.
For his first Christmas in Cebu, Archbishop Palma, who describes himself as a “barangay bishop,” wants to reach out to parishioners and “know his people,” said his secretary.
“He wants to continue the traditions started by Cardinal Vidal,” said Leyson, referring to the practice of Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Cardinal Vidal who would go out-of-town to visiting remote parishes for the annual Misa de Gallo.
On Christmas morning, Dec. 25, Palma will receive well-wishers then spend the afternoon visiting contemplative religious communities in the afternoon. /By Candeze R. Mongaya, Reporter