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Predawn services and the pall of the drug war mark Christmas in the Philippines But they were too late.
Hundreds of worshipers had already packed the Santo Ni de Paz Community Greenbelt Chapel, a low, white dome in a sprawling outdoor shopping complex, for Friday's Simbang Gabi Christmas Mass.Christmas in the Philippines is a long, spirited and, to many, exhausting affair. About 90% of Filipinos are Christian, and they take the holiday seriously. Stores start playing Christmas music as early as September and don't stop until early January. Christmas trees spring up in malls and public parks. Carolers go door to door singing "Jingle Bells," "Silent Night" and "Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit", a lively Tagalog tune celebrating Jesus' birth. The holiday delicacy is lechon, whole suckling pig.But nothing captures the Philippines' Christmas obsession like Simbang Gabi, nine consecutive days of early morning Mass ending Dec. 24.Portuguese and Spanish missionaries brought Christianity to the Philippines in the 16th century, new pandora beads and in those days most converts were farmers. The holiday fell during harvest season, so Mass began early, allowing them to tend their crops at daybreak. The tradition stuck.Politically, the Philippines has endured an unusual and highly controversial year, casting a pall over Christmas celebrations here.If you don't stop and the violence continues, this will be your last 'Merry Christmas.' President Rodrigo Duterte, in his Christmas message, speaking to criminals President Rodrigo Duterte, a former city mayor, campaigned on promises to kill tens of thousands of criminals, and since his June inauguration, more than 6,000 suspected drug dealers and users have been shot to death by police and vigilantes.The vast majority have been poor, and few, if any, of their killers have been brought charm necklace pandora to justice."I'm only human, so I'll still say 'Merry Christmas' to drug traffickers, thieves, corrupt criminals and those who've made life hard for Filipinos," Duterte said in an early December message. "If you don't stop and the violence continues, this will be your last 'Merry Christmas.'"On Wednesday, a bracelet with charms pandora Simbang Gabi Mass in Laguna province, about 20 miles south of Manila, was racked with violence. A man providing security for a Bi City church, Allan Fernandez, makeup pandora charm was on an illegal drug watchlist, according to the Philippine Inquirer. A gunman on a motorcycle arrived at the Mass and opened fire, killing him and a 12 year old girl and wounding another bystander.The priest reportedly ordered the church's doors closed, and the Mass proceeded.At the Redemptorist Church in Para City, near Manila, church workers have installed a prominent exhibit of images from the drug war in an effort to raise awareness of its human cost. Large, framed photographs line the paths near the church entrance. Some show grieving families."I don't really know how many bullets from my gun went inside their bodies," he said. "It happened. I cannot lie about it."Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte affirmed on Friday that he shot dead three people as mayor, dismissing any uncertainty and displaying no remorse."I don't really know how many bullets from my gun went inside their bodies," he said. "It happened. I cannot lie about it."()Amado Picardal, a priest in the church, said the exhibit would run through Christmas Eve."This is meant to mirror what is happening in our society today, even in the midst of Christmas," he said. "During this time, you would like to awaken the conscience of our people. A white robed priest spoke slowly and softly, drifting freely between English and Tagalog. He did not mention the drug war."Good morning, sisters and brothers. How are you surviving or growing? There's a big difference," he said. "I ask you that question because many times we just let the days pass by without realizing how much the Lord is blessing us every night."He went on to deliver a sermon about loving one's parents, the lessons of John the Baptist, and the "graciousness of God."Aivee Remo, a 27 year old banker, said this was her third year of attending every Simbang Gabi Mass. "With all the Christmas festivities, it tends to make you tired," she said. "Because you have parties, Masses, gifts it all adds up.
"It dies down eventually," said her husband, Don, 43, a technology worker. "Usually it stops once you've seen all your friends and relatives, in the first few weeks of January.".
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