Saving Christmas: How PLDT-Smart services keep Christmas spirit alive

·3 min read

IN THE time of Covid-19 pandemic, time-honored traditions have to adapt to the new normal.

The Christmastime 2020 has taken the digital route to keep the season’s spirit of Christian kinship alive.

The Misa de Gallo, the novena of dawn masses that signifies the start of the season in the Philippines, is now covered by safety protocols.

In a circular, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) encourages live streaming of the liturgical celebrations as an alternative to church attendance, which is limited by social distancing rules.

“The spirit of Misa de Gallo will not be lost even if we cannot celebrate in a bigger physical gathering,” said Fr. Pacifico C. Nohara, rector of Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu.

Churchgoers and devotees spreading out to the Pilgrim Center make an iconic December scene at the Basilica. However, it is the scene this time.

“The nine-day masses are Filipinos’ unique way of professing the faith and the importance of Jesus in our lives,” Nohara said.

Waking up early to attend mass is an act of sacrifice for the greater good, and a form of penance. The faithful who cannot attend mass physically can go online.

“If you participate in the aguinaldo Masses virtually, these are also deemed significant and meritorious,” said Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma, Archbishop of Cebu. “Through technology and connectivity, the beautiful tradition of Misa de Gallo is preserved wherever the faithful may be.”

At the San Carlos Seminary College in Cebu City, Advent started with the lighting of the Christmas tree, accompanied by communal singing, games and other activities. This year’s attendance was limited, and the ceremony was broadcast online.

Priest-formators also livestreamed masses on their official Facebook account.

“We wanted to highlight the spirit of rejoicing, that we still have every reason to celebrate. Although the virus has robbed us of so many things that we’re so used to, it has not robbed us of that one thing that matters most—it is our love for the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Msgr. Joseph Tan, rector.

“The internet is able to connect the Church to the faithful amid a very unusual time,” he added.

The traditional kakanin peddled outside the church may be missing from the online Misa de Gallo; and the grand family reunions, with lavish Noche Buena and exchanging of gifts will be muted. But, as Monsignor Tan emphasized, that should not diminish the significance of Christmas: It is still about the birth of Jesus.

“Padayon lang kita sa pag-ampo ug pag-amping (Let’s keep on praying and let’s all keep safe),” said Archbishop Palma. “May all of us find joy and hope this Christmas season.”

Enabling these online celebrations are PLDT and Smart’s fixed and wireless network superiority nationwide. PLDT’s nationwide fiber footprint is already at more than 422,000 kilometers. This infrastructure supports Smart’s wireless network by providing high-capacity fiber connections for its LTE base stations.

At present, Smart’s mobile networks serve 96 percent of the population and are available in 95 percent of the country’s cities and municipalities.