Just a short walk from Manila Cathedral is another church where people flock for the Misa de Gallo. Inside the walls of intramuros stands the oldest church in the Philippines – The San Agustin Church, one of the Baroque Churches classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This church built in 1607 now sports a new paletada and is aglow with simple drop line of lights on its facade. Honestly, this church need not to be extremely adorned for it sports one of the most beautiful church interiors I’ve seen.
Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi is one of the treasured Filipino Christmas Tradition. Even all over the world, Filipinos Communities stll practice this traditions. Misa de Gallo is a Spanish word call Midnight Mass or Rooster’s Mass and is typically practiced in Spanish Speaking countries as a Midnight Mass at the eve of Christmas. But for us Filipinos, Simbang Gabi starts 9 days before Christmas.
I was digging through my archives on some photos I could find in relation to Halloween. I found some old 2005 photos that I still haven’t posted here. It would seem I’ve been posting Sagada every All Saint’s Day on this site. Perhaps because I find their traditional practice still interesting at this time when I find Filipino Halloween practices being more modern and commercial with lots of western influences coming in.
After setting our stuff at Nanbin Youth Hostel in Chongqing Municipality, we didn’t want to waste time that afternoon so we headed to Caiyuan Ba bus station to get tickets to Dazu County 大足县 and visit one of the most important Cultural Heritage Sites in China, the Dazu Rock Carvings 大足石刻, which is also included in China’s numerous list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Before going any further about my trip in mainland China, I first have to tell you something about their culture. Unlike the coastal cities in China, almost NO ONE can speak in English there which can be quite a challenge. So unless you have a friend who can read and speak “passable” Chinese, a guide book with Chinese characters or hire a professional guide, it can be hard to survive there. Aside from that, they have behaviors that can be “Culturally Shocking” to us Filipinos or other Foreign nationals as well. If any people from the Mainland China is reading this, I meant no disrespect but only give my honest observation that can lessen the initial “shock” first timers may get. In fact other Chinese also detest some of their boorish behavior. It’s a reality we can’t change, since these may have rooted since ancient times. So what I advise is to keep an open mind. Once you get past these you’ll be able to adapt and enjoy your stay there.
A unique light show in Sagada’s Cemetary
No, this is not a scene from “Constantine” movie’s hell dimension. This is what the people of Sagada calls the “Festival of lights“. It’s so refreshing to see a different cultural practice being observed up here in the Cordilleras. A fellow traveler akin the practice to those of Mexico’s. So why is it like this? Not candles?
Actually some graves have candles for those who no longer practice the pine wood burning, but majority still follow the tradition. This tradition started when long ago there were no candles available at the province so they have to improvise with pine wood. Before that they have this early afternoon mass which they do a “Roll call” of all the names of the dead since the beginning of recorded history until to the most recent ones who have died. (So imagine the list growing every year and the ceremony grows longer) Then the priest blesses the pine woods which they will be using to burn as pyre at their loved one’s grave. By sundown all of them lights up their pine woods, thus the festival of lights start. From afar it would seem that the forest is on fire.
Sagada is a perfect place to go to during the holloweens, not only from it’s natural hanging coffins and human remains scattered on its vicinity but also in experiencing this “Festival of Lights”. Happy holloween!