Chicago Church Bucks Trend; Holds Misa de Gallo At Dawn!


(© 2011 Journal Group Link International) 

CHICAGO (jGLi) – In the run-up of Dec. 16, the start of “Simbang Gabi” (evening mass) in Chicago and around the world, Father Alfredo Salera, Pastor of Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish in Chicago’s northside, sent out word that his parish was going to hold the Simbang Gabi at early dawn at 5:30 in the morning, which is the closest as it is observed in the Philippines.

In the Philippines, Simbang Gabi is held at 4 a.m. because of the tolerable weather.

The timing of the mass must have sent a chilling message to the parishioners, mostly Filipinos, because of the dip in temperature around the event in Chicago.

Feeling that there seems to be no takers to his plans, Father Salera, a native of Meycauyan, Bulacan in the Philippines, sent out another word that even if only one will attend the Dawn Mass, he would still hold a mass.

When his church parishioner and pianist, Amor Saenz, a native of Sorsogon City in the Philippines, told this reporter about this startling schedule at the Simbang Gabi community celebration in nearby St. Gregory the Great Church last Dec. 16, my first impression was that Miss Saenz must be joking.

So, at 5 in the morning on Sunday, Dec. 18, when radio newscast was telling me that the temperature was 29 degree Fahrenheit, I went to the Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish Church, at 2609 West Carmen in Chicago, some five miles away from my home in Jefferson Park in Chicago’s northside, just to satisfy my curiosity.

(For those in the Philippines, the freezing temperature is like the temperature inside the freezer of your refrigerator. At 33 degrees Fahrenheit when rain falls, it turns into snow. The 33-degree temperature stings when it is windy.)

So, when I got inside the church at about 5:40 a.m., the Dawn Mass presided over by Father Salera had started in earnest with Miss Saenz smiling at me while playing the piano.

It turned out there were not only one but about 30 parishioners, who braved the very cold weather just to attend the mass that they missed attending in the Philippines. They were the same number of parishioners, when the Dawn Mass started last Dec. 16.

One of the parishioners, Marc Aguja, told this reporter, “I used to sleep at 11 in the evening and got up at 5 in the morning. During these nine days until Christmas, I advanced my sleeping habit at 10 p.m., so I can get up at 4 a.m. just enough time for me to prepare and attend this 5:30 a.m. Misa de Gallo (Spanish for rooster’s mass, when the roosters or cocks crow).”


 If Transfiguration of Our Lord Parish Church will be able to hold a 5:30 a.m. for the nine-day Novena, ushering the Christmas Day celebration, it is believed to the first church located in a cold weather area outside the Philippines to hold a Dawn Mass anywhere in the world.

All the 75 different Catholic churches under the Asian Archdiocese of Chicago are holding the Simbang Gabi daily from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at its 26th anniversary celebration this year.

“I hope to keep up this same Dawn Mass while I am the pastor of this parish,” Father Salera, 65, told this reporter. “I hope my successor will continue with what I have started and other churches will follow suit” as he looks toward his retirement in five years.

He said, “Rising early in the morning with children is a form of discipline to keep up with Misa de Gallo as festive as Christmas is celebrated the longest in the Philippines. It still has penitential color in it, to reflect the life of Jesus to be like us, except for the sin, the sharing and His saving act. The act of all saints in Heaven, the sharing of our local food. The Filipino delicacies in the Philippines, where you buy them outside the church while some parishioners take the food with them in coming to church and partake of them in the basement of the church after the mass.”

When asked if he was going to pray for the 652 victims, who perished from the flash floods in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities in Mindanao during the last two days, the priest, who grew up in Cebu and Bohol, said he was not aware of it, saying he “doesn’t watch TV but I have not opened the news online. I will pray for them just as we have for so many intentions for many people.”


 Father Salera was pastor for seven years of St. Catherine Laboure in suburban Glenview, Illinois, where His Eminence, Francis Cardinal George, the Archbishop of Chicago, will be celebrating the Simbang Gabi at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 23. On Monday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m., Chicago Bishop Francis Kane will be celebrating Simbang Gabi at Transfiguration of Our Lord church at 7 p.m.

Last Friday, Dec. 16, St. Gregory The Great Church in Chicago’s northside was one of the 11 Chicago churches which celebrated Simbang Gabi at 6 p.m. Fr. Paul Wachdorf, pastor of St. Gregory The Great Church, celebrated the mass in front of majority members, relatives and friends of The Filipinos of St. Gregory, a lay and voluntary organization headed by Dr. Dona L. Hernandez of Sorsogon City in the Philippines. St. Gregory The Great Church is one of the Chicago churches, which have been observing Simbang Gabi during the last 24 years.

In a note to her fellow parishioners, Dr. Hernandez explained that, the Simbang Gabi “masses refer to the practice of performing nine days of private or public devotion to obtain special graces.”

Like the rest of other churches celebrating Simbang Gabi, a light dinner for the parishioners follows after the mass. The nine-day Novena during Simbang Gabi culminates with the Midnight Mass on Dec. 24.

Father Salera said there are 1,000 Filipino priests around the United States headed by the first Filipino American bishop, Bishop Oscar A. Solis of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. There are 100 priests from Tagbilaran and Bohol; there are about 65 or 66 Filipino priests each in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York and less than 10 in Chicago. He urged parishioners to be generous in their donations and asked families to encourage their children to join priesthood. (



Announcement of the 5:30 a.m. Misa de Gallo is shown outside the Transfiguration Of Our Lord Church at 2609 West Carmen Avenue, Chicago, Illinois last Sunday, Dec. 18. (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)


Fr. Alfredo Salera encouraged parishioners during the Misa de Gallo (Dawn Mass) at 5:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 18, to pray often as part of the covenant with Virgin Mary, the Spiritual Mother of God, and who responded to the message of an angel when she answered “yes” to be the Mother of God, the most momentous and profound event in human history and the Christmas story full of beauty. Listening is Atty. Manny Aguja, lector during the mass. (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)


Parishioners take a light breakfast in the basement of the Transfiguration Of Our Lord Church after the 5:30 a.m. Misa de Gallo (Dawn Mass). (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)


Parishioners await their turn to have their tsamporado (chocolate porridge), one of the light offerings during a light breakfast in the basement of Transfiguration Or Our Lord Church in Chicago’s northside after the 5:30 a.m. Dawn Mass last Sunday, Dec. 18, the first such early sunrise mass in Chicagoland area with cooler climates outside the Philippines. (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)


Rev. Paul Wachdorf (ninth from right, back row), Pastor of St. Gregory The Great Parish Church in Chicago’s northside, and Dr. Dona L. Hernandez (fourth from right, seated), president of The Filipinos of St. Gregory join the officers, members and friends of The Filipinos of St. Gregory after the Simbang Gabi mass celebration at St. Gregory The Great Parish Church last Friday, Dec. 16 in the church cafeteria. To Dr. Hernandez’ right is Gina Ibardaloza, executive vice president of The Filipinos of St. Gregory, Angie G. Lariosa (second from left, seated), incumbent vice president; Mandy Ibardaloza (to Angie’s right), Alex Siapno (third from left, back row) and Mr. Vic Tibudan (fifth from left back row with cap), past presidents. (jGLiPhoto)


Bikol U.S.A of the Midwest Holds Christmas Party, Keeps Tradition Alive


(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

CHICAGO (jGLi) – “Mommy” Irene Emperado, an employee of Unimart on 5845 North Clark Street in the northside of Chicago, Illinois, was scratching her head when I placed an order over the phone for 22 pounds of Galunggong (mackerel) to be fried for the Christmas party of the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest last Sunday, Dec. 11.

But it was another director of our club, Dr. Dona L. Hernandez, who would be paying for the order. And yet there were two other members, Ben and Chit Ner, who were going to pick up the seafood.

I told Irene she should just keep still. We were not pulling a trick on her. It is just how teamwork and transparency work in a socio-civic organization. Everybody has to get involved no matter how trivial the part, including cleaning-up the place after the party, if you are the host of the party.

Nobody should be prima donna in any organization if they want to make it strong.
 If there are burden sharing, everything becomes even lighter, especially the checkbook.

In fact, even if members were no-shows for the event, they even volunteer to contribute.

Take for instance, my province mate, John Claridad, a Philippine lawyer of Bulan, Sorsogon. For the second time, John could not attend our party because our Christmas party coincided with the birthday party of his daughter. So, he told another, director, Miss Amor Saenz, from Sorsogon, Sorsogon that he will be contributing just the same for the expenses of members from Sorsogon of the club.

Even Nita Payos from Gubat, Sorsogon was able to convince Salvacion ”Sally” Expectation and Sally’s sister, Lourdes Coloma, to chip in too, even if they were no shows.


This story of cooperation and camaraderie in an organization was in full display during the annual Christmas party of Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest headed by Ms. Evelyn R. Tolledo of Pandan, Catanduanes, as her whole family was involved in almost all facets during the party that was shared with Juzz Dance Club headed by Mr. Ed Cabanayan.

Evelyn’s better half, Robert “Bob” Tolledo, a doctor of medicine (orthopedic surgeon) in the Philippines, who decided to run his own medical code billing company, Alert Solutions, LLC, in Chicago area, for a living, did not want to eclipse the role of his wife. But he bought $500 worth hard drinks for the guests and parted with $250 cash as gifts to children, during the gift-giving.

While Rocky Tolledo, one of the three children of Evelyn and Bob, was the photographer, Rocky’s brother, Royce, donned Sta. Claus, complementing his Mom, who was dressed up as Mrs. Santa Claus also. Ronnel, the youngest, was busy giving away goodies to children, who were the envy of adults, for having lots of gifts, mostly cash.

But the officers of Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest made sure that the kids, who were to get gifts had to take the hands of Lolo Norberto and Lola Irene Pagatpatan, parents-in-law of past president, Ayres Pagatpatan, and plant them on their foreheads. It is some trait that is running out of style, especially for overseas Filipino kids, who may not have ninongs (male sponsors) or ninangs (female sponsors) to turn to.”

The John Ajena family seemed to take the cake when Jau and Jannae Ajena turned the party into a virtual “American Idol” contest while the Christopher Jones Family performed Michael Jackson footwork to the tune of Billy Jean.

But the adults led by Ed Cabanayan, disk jockey and master dance instructor, and Lilibeth Castagna, representing Masbate province, did not take it sitting down by giving “Dancing With The Stars” performers a run for their money with their fancy steps.


If the party was a non-stop dancing, it had to because the social hall of St. Henry Church at 6335 North Hoyne in Chicago’s northside had no heater. If one were stationery, one could freeze.

The non-stop dancing was interrupted only when Evelyn Tolledo told the crowd of over a hundred that the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest had donated $1,000 for victims of Typhoon “Juaning” in Bato, Bula, Buhi and Nabua, Camarines Sur; $300 for the completion of Divine Mercy Shrine and Carmelite Monastery of the Carmelite Nuns of the Holy Trinity (CNHT) in Kawakawa, Ligao City in Albay province; and another $320 for a package of three kilos of rice with six pieces of Nissin Ramen and canned goods in each of the packages to about 150 indigent families last month in Bagamanoc and Pandan, Catanduanes brought by club secretary Alice Llames plus additional contribution of $100 from Ray Galicia.

As PRO of the club, I was also tasked to announce some of its upcoming events for 2012. They are the Post-Valentine Party Fund Raising for Calamansi (Citrofortunella microcarpa) Tree Planting Project at $35 per donation at Lone Tree Manor at 7730 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Niles, IL on Feb. 24; a trip to Our Lady of Snow in Belleville, IL from May 26-28; Hawaiian Luau Party on July 14 for $10 donation; BNAA National Convention, Hyatt Regency, Dearborn, Michigan from July 20-22; Annual picnic on Aug 12 at Proesel Park at 7001 N. Kostner Ave., Lincolnwoold, IL; Novena of Our Lady of Penafrancia and Feast Day at St. Mathias Catholic Church at 2310 W. Ainsle St., Chicago, IL, Sept. 7-14; Golf Tournament Fund Raising at Big Oaks Golf Club & Country Club in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, Sept. 23; Halloween Party and Masquerade Ball, Oct. 17; and Bikol U.S.A of the Midwest Christmas Party and Election of Officers, Dec. 16.

As PRO also of The Filipinos of St. Gregory headed by Dr. Dona L. Hernandez, I also announced the Simbang Gabi on Friday, Dec. 16, at 6 p.m. at St. Gregory The Great Parish Church at 5545 N. Paulina, Chicago.

Among the donors (mostly cash) to the Christmas party aside from Evelyn Tolledo, who also donated red and white wine, decorations and six bags of bread, were the Bikol USA of the Midwest, which spent $500 for the food; the Stanley’s Fruits which donated fruits; Alice Llames, Toy Mancenido (cash), Dennis Alban (water/ice soda) and Ayres Pagatpatan (hotdogs) (past club presidents), Rosalle del Valle, Rick & Aida Joseph (chicken), Letty Costales, Gil Buena (vice president), Jess and Lilet Mante (Arroz caldo), Julie Buenafe, Julie Chavez, Naty Atienza and friends Sally Kagingin , Julia Estrada and Lisa Soriano (Sotanghon), Ben and Yoly Zoleta (balloons), Rico del Rosario (chicken curry), Lilibeth and Sam Castagna (gifts), the Tolledo children – Rocky (gift/photography), Royce and Ronnel; Mila Emocling (cash); Lura & Darlo Gonzales (cash); Pipo & Frances D. (lechon kawali), Romy Sarcilla (dessert), Cecile Manlapaz and Joel Basilio (pancit). (


A young boy takes the hand of Lolo Norberto Pagatpatan and plants the back of the hand in his forehead to ask for a blessing as Lola Irene Pagatpatan is about to hand him the bills at the joint Christmas party celebration of the Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest and the Juzz Dance Club at the Social Gym of St. Henry Church at 6335 North Hoyne in Chicago’s northside last Sunday, Dec. 11. (jGLiPhoto by Joseph G. Lariosa)



Ms. Evelyn R. Tolledo (sixth from left, third row wearing red with black hat) smiles as she joins the officers and members and friends of Bikol U.S.A. of the Midwest in this souvenir photo during the Christmas party last Sunday, Dec. 11, at St. Henry Church at 6335 North Hoyne in Chicago’s northside. Also in photo are Bikol U.S.A. past presidents Toy Mancenido (behind, President Tolledo) and Dennis Alban (second from left front row) with Bob Tolledo to Dennis’ right, Joseph G. Lariosa (third from right, front row) with Marlon Pecson to his left and Dr. Dona L. Hernandez (sixth from right front row). (jGLiPhoto by Ernie Antonio, Jr.)





(© 2011 Journal Group Link International)

CHICAGO (jGLi) – A 36-year-old parolee was indicted Wednesday (Dec. 7) with 14-count murder in the brutal attack last October of Filipino American nurse Virginia Perillo before the Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago’s south side.

A Clerk of Court source said that although, there was only one victim in the attack, the 14-count murder considers “different ways and intents” that contributed to the brutal killing.

Raymond Harris, a resident of 7100 Block of South Yale in Chicago, was not granted bail.

He will be up for arraignment on Dec. 28 at 9 a.m. at Room 101 at the Criminal Courts building on 2650 South California Avenue in the south side of Chicago.

Harris, who is on parole for an attempted murder conviction, was arrested after stealing the wedding and engagement rings of the victim, Perillo, 73, and used them to propose to his girlfriend.

If found guilty of murder, Harris could be sentenced to a maximum life in prison without parole. There is no death penalty in Illinois.

Prosecutors said Harris, who was paroled in May, attacked Perillo as she was getting out of her car in her garage in the 3300 block of South Parnell Avenue. He stole her purse and wedding and engagement rings. 

Perillo, a native of Cagayan de Oro City in the Philippines, sustained serious head wounds and was found lying unconscious by a neighbor, who was trying to close her garage door that was open. 

An intensive critical care nurse of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago’s southside for 40 years, Mrs. Perillo died on Oct. 24, two days after she was rushed to the hospital.

Prosecutors say on the night of the attack, Harris went to a party, wearing “brand new clothes” and showed the rings to a witness, asking which of them he should use to propose to his girlfriend. Harris later used both rings.


It was the DNA collected from a blood-stained men’s watch found inside Perillo’s car that matched Harris. A resident of suburban Carpentersville, Harris was arrested Tuesday afternoon in suburban Elgin, police said. 

When police contacted Harris’ fiancé, she turned the rings over to the detectives and Perillo’s family identified them as hers. 

Harris was paroled in May after serving 13 years of a 30-year sentence for his 1997 attempted murder and aggravated arson convictions, according Assistant State’s Attorney Melissa Howlett. 

In that case, Harris broke into a woman’s home, raped and beat her for several hours, Howlett said. He also threatened that victim at knifepoint, cut her neck and set three separate fires in the woman’s home, Howlett said. The woman woke up with her legs on fire and suffered third-degree burns. 

Just three weeks before that attack, Harris had been released from prison for a 1993 armed robbery, vehicular invasion and burglary. In that case, Harris brandished a gun at a woman getting outside of her car outside her home, Howlett said. 

Perillo’s son, Michael Perillo, 32, the youngest of Perillo’s three children, all boys, told this reporter in an interview that Chicago police found his mom lying unconscious Saturday (Oct. 22) between 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. by a neighbor, who tried to close her garage after seeing it open.

M rs. Perillo’s husband, Mauro Perillo, 75, is a native of Polangui, Albay in the Philippines. (