The Christmas season in the Philippines began yesterday with the start of the 'Misa de Gallo'. Thousands of Catholics across the country attended the Dawn Mass, which started at 4am local time. 'Misa de Gallo' is the Spanish phrase for Midnight Mass, more literally translated as 'Rooster's Mass'. It is said that the Rooster's Mass owes its name in the idea that a rooster would have been among the first to witness the birth of Jesus, and thus be the one to announce it. In the Philippines, which is Asia's largest Catholic country, this custom lasts for nine days, starting on December 16 up to December 24, during which Filipinos attend dawn Masses. This practice started centuries ago during the Spanish colonial period when priests held early dawn masses for the farmers who wanted to attend Christmas Mass but could not leave their fields. These Masses were held before daybreak, hence the Filipino term 'Simbang Gabi' (Midnight Mass). Even today, Filipinos wake up very early in the morning to attend the 'Misa de Gallo' as an expression of devotion to God. It is also an expression of the devotion of the Filipino to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Star of the Morning who will bear and give birth to Jesus. Local governments are tasked to ensure Catholics' safety for the nine-day event. Police are coordinating with the respective parish security groups in their areas for the installation of assistance centres at the entrance of churches and random checkpoints are also be put up in different areas. The Cebu provincial police director Carmelo Valmoria said he wants to send a strong message to criminal elements that the police are closely watching their moves, especially during this Christmas season when unscrupulous persons would victimize church goers.
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