THE time of the year where Filipinos wake up early to attend Misa de Gallo has come again. The challenge to complete the nine mornings is on as the Catholic faithful start their countdown to Christmas Day and have a wish come true -- as is the belief if you complete the nine dawn masses.

A churchgoer, Bonifacia Ponce, likens “Misa de Gallo” to the promise of a new life in preparation for the birth of our Lord.

“For Catholics this is the celebration of the new life, remembering how the Father God gave his only begotten son, who saves us. Almost all people want to complete all the nine days in order for their Christmas wish to come true,” she said.

According to a 78-year-old candle vendor at San Pedro Church,

Alina Rio, 78, a candle vendor at San Pedro Cathedral, said that Misa de Gallo is a living Catholic tradition and a sign of faith.

“Daghan jud kaayo. Dili maihap. Sa two masses, puno kaayo ang simbahan (Countless people come, even if there is already two masses every morning, the church is still filled to beyond capacity),” she said.

She admits that she can no longer attend the dawn masses because the dawn air is too cold for her now, given her age, she completed all dawn masses in her younger years and had several wishes fulfilled.

“It is true, for as long as you pray with all your heart. I do not know with the experience of others but mine were granted,” she said.

Rio said that she had been selling candles at the San Pedro Church since the 1950s.

Windy, a 12-year-old candle vendor, said he will be waking up at 3 a.m. today to help his mother sell candles. He also has his wish as he will be around during all dawn masses.

“Gusto lang nako ma-bless ko sa Ginoo (I want to be blessed by God),” he said.

He also wants a peaceful celebration all throughout, noting that there were Christmas seasons when riots among rival youth gangs broke out around the church doing these dawn masses.

Like Windy, Jimmy, 13, will wake up early today to hear mass and sell candles. He wishes for "good health" for him and his family.

There has been no riot last year, though, both boys said. They attribute this to stricter security measures.

All Catholic churches will be holding the dawn masses, thus Dabawenyos from all over are expected to be flocking to their parishes in the run-up to Christmas Eve.

Julie Ann Dumalag from Toril said she intends to complete the nine dawns this year as she did last year.

It was a challenge, she said, because she was a graduating student and had late nights to contend with. But her resolve to complete the Misa de Gallo was strong, her desire for a wish come true buoying her resolve.

"I asked God for a peaceful mind and heart, good health and happiness in my family and that I will survive that year. And God did not fail me, though he did not grant my wish perfectly, at least he guided me now. This year I have the same wish: peaceful mind and heart and to let go of the things that I need to let go, happiness, more friends and to be successful in my career path,” she said.

Churchgoers trek to their parishes today, with their long-held wishes in mind, not realizing that it is their faith that is key to this all.