A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: My Nine Christmas Prayers

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/25 December) — Despite having to wake up early in the morning, millions of Filipinos wake up at dawn beginning on 16 December to attend the Misa de Gallo, a remnant of the Spanish colonization-evangelization of this country.

One reason is that they offer the attendance at the dawn Masses as a novena prayer for all kinds of intentions, hoping to bring the Almighty’s attention to their urgent needs.

I’ve done it myself since childhood in our parish in Digos when it was still a bucolic small town.  Last year, most of the dawn Masses I attended were in the Redemptorist church along Real St. in Tacloban City, ground zero of Yolanda.  Then I had just one prayer for all nine Masses – for the healing and recovery of Yolanda survivors.

We are luckier this year than in the past few years with the arrival of Sendong, Pablo and Yolanda.  In our church along J.P. Laurel St., Bajada, Davao City, I had the following prayers for the Misa de Gallo.

First Misa De Gallo 16 December: For all the Yolanda survivors across Samar-Leyte-Cebu-Panay-Palawan whose 2014 Christmas was miserable. That Christmas this year will afford them a time to celebrate its joy as they are able to sustain their recovery and healing efforts with the help of kind-hearted people.

Second  – 17 December. For the Manobo, B’laan and Sangil peoples of Nuing, Jose Abad Santos, Davao Occidental (where the Davao Redemptorist community has an ongoing mission) who struggle to keep the little of their ancestral domain owing to the continuing incursions from the lowlands; may they be empowered in their struggle to hold on to their remaining territories and perhaps even reclaim what have been lost.

Third   – 18 December. For all those – who have for so long advocated for the protection of Mother Earth (the people of San Fernando, Bukidnon to all the NGOs like IDIS in Davao and friends like Arnold and Norma who are protecting the Shrine Hills from being destroyed by real estate developers) that they will sustain their efforts despite setbacks and disappointments. For the work to alleviate climate change is just so daunting and it takes saints and mystics, artists and poets, prophets and aggressive advocates to lead the fight to protect the only planet we have… EARTH, so precious that the little child would be born to bear witness to its majesty!

Fourth  – 19 December. For the poor peasants of our native land who feed the hundred million Pinoys, for genuine land reform, for the good people of DAR who are doing their best go get land distribution  and the end of landlessness everywhere that will bring good tidings to farmers!

Fifth  – 20 December: For all children especially in Mindanao who are in situations of conflict, poverty and deprivation. May they be protected by angels, abyans, Mebuyan and whoever can provide them care, security and protection (including children and children rights’ advocates, including friends who are Keepers of Childrens’ Dreams. And the children who are dear to us.

Sixth  – 21 December. That all indigenous peoples around the world – especially the Mindanao Lumad :Peoples – be emancipated from disenfranchisement of their ancestral domains, poverty and bondage through their communal efforts along with the support of those who are genuinely supportive of the IPs’ just demands – including civil society agents in church, NGOs, media, cultural artists’ groups circles, even those in government (although one needs to shake the NCIP very hard so they can do what IPRA tells them to accomplish). Specifically to pressure those who will decide on the fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law – to make sure the demands of the Lumads of Central Mindanao for the full implementation of IPRA witnin the Bangsamoro Territory will come to pass. Maranatha!

Seventh  – 22 December. For all the peacemakers – the community builders, the activists who work towards social-ecological transformation, the educators who teach another way, the reconcilers who seek to heal a wounded community. the artists who imbue a community with dignity, the academics who unearth buried truth, the theologians who remind us of a God of liberation, and all those who seek to build a future by removing walls of division – that they be blessed with good health, boundless energy, sharpness of vision, unlimited creativity and support of family and friends through the years. What a privilege it has been that throughout my life, I’ve met hundreds of them in Mindanao and have been blessed myself for such encounters.

Eight – 23 December. An end to war, big and small across the world. And the reign of peace in various troubled spots across the Middle East (especially Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Israel), Africa, parts of Latin America and in Mindanao. No more killings, bombings, land mines, gun-running, production of war weapons and child soldiers. Add – may the BBL be passed by Congress but they should also listen to the voices of the Lumads in Central Mindanao as to their demands of the recognition of their own ancestral domain. As we remember the birth of the Prince of Peace, let us do our share in peacebuilding work even in the small ways that we can contribute to letting peace reign on earth!

Ninth – 24 December.  That members of my family, confreres, friends, associates and  loved ones will have bountiful blessings this Christmas and each day of 2015.

Malipayong Pasko! Bulahang Bag-ong Tuig!

Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar of Davao City, Academic Dean of the Redemptorists’ St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI), and author of several books, including the recently launched “Desperately Seeking God’s Saving Action: Yolanda Survivors’ Hope Beyond Heartbreaking Lamentations,” writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw)].