The pandemic made going to church difficult due to safety protocols that imposed a limited capacity.
But last Christmas, Catholics felt glad the easing of alert levels afforded them the chance to attend Misa de Gallo in person and with family members in tow.
Two places of worship, Malate Church and Manila Cathedral, had many people spilling over their exterior premises.
There’s a lot of history in these two churches.
Malate Church, which honors its Marian patroness with the title Our Lady of Good Remedy (Nuestra Señora de los Remedios), was built by the Augustinian friars on 8 September 1588.
It survived the Chinese invasion of 1662 and the British occupation of the church in 1762. It was damaged by earthquakes and typhoons, and burned down during the Battle of Manila in 1945.
When the Spanish Augustinians relinquished running the church, Irish Redemptorists took over from 1912 to 1929, after which the Columban Fathers assumed control to this day.
The Manila Cathedral was originally built in 1571 under the administration of the Archdiocese of Mexico.
It is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the patroness of the country.
It is the episcopal seat of the Archbishop of Manila.
Earthquakes and fires damaged and destroyed the church several times, and the Japanese occupation reduced it to rubble.
It has been rebuilt eight times.
A papal endorsement came from Pope Gregory XIII, and it has hosted three apostolic visits from Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis.
On 27 April 1981, Pope John Paul II issued a papal bull designating the cathedral as a minor basilica; hence, its formal name Minor Basilica and Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
The Manila Cathedral houses classic images of the Immaculate Conception, sculptures of angels and St. Peter, and reportedly contains 365 relics of saints.