Monday, December 25, 2006

Rooster with Personality Disorder

TO THOSE drunk on late-night reading, no figure can be more fiendish these days than that of the petty poultry potentate, the rooster.

As a self-respecting devotee of cats, I have no love for birds.

Yet I am now bleary-eyed from concentrating for a cue from this fowl creature.

The reason is simple. In barely five hours, the pompous green-purple-with-a-dash-of-orange rooster of our neighbor will warble in a deep baritone that it is three A.M., time for our household to wake and prepare for the first of the nine-day dawn masses.

Our neighbor’s rooster loves his crowing so much, he can barely wait for the night to decently roll up its mat and keep the dawn from seeing its barbaric state.

But while admitting that our neighbor’s rooster has a better chance than I of meeting and exchanging call cards with San Pedro’s very own manok (chicken), I concede that, for love of my God and my family, I attempt, every year, to be more Catholic than lapsed.

As my yaya never fails to remind me, the faithful who attend the whole nine-day novena of the Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi are assured that their petitions receive a fair hearing at the Pearly Gates.

If not turned a blinding white, a soul as dingy as mine may still trick the weak of eye that it has been leached of 9.9 percent-blackness.

All these thoughts I direct now with all malevolence and malice to our neighbor’s rooster who, by the deep silence reigning on their side of the fence, must be sleeping as soundly as an innocent babe.

When it will be my time to nod off, the creature will begin his breathing exercises before launching on to full orchestral maneuvers.

So are the sinful punished.

This year, to spare my heathen soul, I am attempting not to sleep anymore so even before Bach-a-doodle-doo starts crowing, I am dressed and ready before anyone else.

Alas, my Internet trawling has snagged me more of the feathered wretch. From Alejandro R. Roces’ Dec. 14, 2006 feature for The Philippine Star, I first learn that the Misa de Gallo tradition, which culminates with the Misa de Aguinaldo or midnight mass on Christmas eve, literally means “Mass of the Rooster.”

Not only is my Fowl Friend naturally obeying his inclinations, he even has doctrinal permission.

According to Roces, Rome decreed that the Philippines follow Mexico in offering masses at cock’s crow during the 16th century. This was to give farmers and their households a chance to worship before leaving for the fields.

Much has changed though since the 16th century. The elegant terno and barong, which Roces says filled churches to the rafters, have been replaced with jeans, shorts and Chuck Taylors.

The scenes he paints of community—brass bands playing Filipino Christmas classics to wake families and parish priests knocking on doors of every home—seem quaint and somehow alien.

I should say that now, if the faithful do attend mass, they do so despite their perceptions of some priests and the lack of leadership in a Church still groping in the darkness of abuse charges and worldliness.

Times have changed. In pre-Christian and Christian mythology, the rooster was held up as a herald of sunrise, symbolizing the triumph of light over darkness.

This belief in man’s resurrection after every fall from grace stems from the legend, which Roces quotes, that a rooster crowed when the Child in the manger was born, “Christus Natus Est (Christ is Born)!”

A Latin-speaking bird is rather too much of a mouthful to swallow. But roosters now have my sympathy.

For in Biblical lore, the phoenix bursts into flames but always rises from its ashes. According to, a mother pelican will pluck her own breast during famine to feed her own young before dying.

But no such consistency for the rooster. Sometimes it is a herald of resurrection; at other times, the traitor that crowed thrice after Peter betrayed Jesus.

Two more hours and then I go join Christiandom. At cock’s crow, who will the flock see leading the offering of the Holy Eucharist: herald or traitor? 0917-3226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Dec. 17, 2006 issue

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