1. Simbang Gabi
This seems to be an unique thing to Philippines, I haven't come across this elsewhere. From 16 to 24 December, dawn masses are held at churches. These masses start as early as 4am and the faithful wake up and go to church to attend mass. A common belief is that if an individual completes the nine consecutive days of the Simbang Gabi, this will result in a wish being granted. Simbang Gabi may have originated from the Spanish tradition of Misa de Gallo, which is literally Rooster's mass and is held at the stroke of midnight. The Spaniards ruled Philippines for a long time, so the Misa de Gallo might have been customized to local requirements. The Filipino version which is Simbang Gabi is held at early morning instead of midnight. After the mass, putong bumbong, which is a rice pastry along with tsokolate (hot chocolate) and bibingka (flour and egg cakes) are served to the attendees, though nowadays it is street vendors selling these outside the church. I wondered why the dawn mass at such an early hour. Apprantly it goes back to Spanish days when early dawn masses for the farmers who wanted to attend Christmas mass but could not leave their fields. Thus the mass was held before sunrise and the farmers who attended were served those putong bumbong, which is made of rice, to boost their energy levels before a hard day's work in the fields.
Perhaps, this is one of the few remaining places where you actually see carollers visiting houses to sing carols. And then there are carollers who visit you in the office. And ofcourse, there are those street bums who torture you at every traffic light stop, with improvised musical instruments. Something interesting, the carollers seem to enjoy singing "Nobody Nobody But You" rather than Silent Night or Jingle Bells. Oh well, it's the season to be joyous, so thank you Wondergirls !
Oh, god ... on Christmas Eve, the whole island turns into a humongous fire ball, literally ! All around the island, people stock up on fireworks and shoot it to the skies. Even the big ones that can go several metres high up into the sky with loud bangs. But it is a beautiful sight to behold. If you can, go up to the hills of Busay and look down at the city, you can see fireworks everywhere. And then there are those kids by the street side, who throw fire crackers at your car. And Christmas is also the time the firemen work so hard, for it is a norm for some houses to burn down with all these fire crackers.
4. Public Holidays
9. Parols & Lights
The Starbucks outlet at Asiatown IT Park is open through out the day on Christmas. Well, that is the best thing about Christmas in Cebu. Atleast I don't miss my double latte. Most of the other Starbucks outlets at the malls will be closed.