Advent hymns for Simbanggabi, and fast food coffee

Last Sunday, I attended the usual Sunday liturgy at Holy Trinity Church Makati, where in true Anglican fashion they sang the Great Litany (without the simplification of the Litany of the Saints Cranmer included in 1549), but not in procession as was originally planned. (I should write more about my weekend, because it was as thrilling as the day before the long weekend began.)

The gradual, which was taken from a psalter that adapts hymn tunes in the Hymnal 1982 for the refrains, used the melody which I later discovered was that of a Charles Wesley hymn, “Lo, he comes with clouds descending.” (The tune name is Helmsley, so my non-Filipino readers may know what I am talking about.) It is a tune that when I first heard the full verse, it felt powerful enough that I wished people around here, outside the non-Catholic Churches, sang it during Advent. If not the people, at least the choirs.

I have wondered whether an anticipated Christmas celebration like the Simbanggabi, which I will be attending on occasion both in my parish and in Ateneo, should benefit from a reminder of the “not yet.” Apart from “O Come, Emmanuel,” whose source antiphons are still not sung (as the Missal prescribes) in their Mass context, Filipino Catholics have very few musical resources that explicitly treat of the Advent themes. I can think of two more offhand in the Filipino language, but I think it is a very strong weakness of the Jesuit music ministry’s efforts that they have not emphasized Advent preparation enough.

Apart from kicking a man when he is down, one of the worst traits of Filipinos is that they celebrate Christmas too early. That is why commercialism of the worst sort takes root quite easily when September comes, in our country. Perhaps it is a necessary corrective, at least for me, to expand our repertoire of Advent carols, and use them more during those nine days. A suggestion: there is a Marian hymn, called “Lo, a rose of Sharon,” that is considered an Advent carol, for technically, all Simbanggabi masses are votive masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

*****

On a very light note:
I am beginning to think that the revitalized Burger King is the biggest threat now to McDonald’s, resigned as they may be to the dominance of Jollibee. It seems that McDonald’s has been launching parallel offers of late at the high end to whatever BK offers. So when Burger King declared that a Whopper Jr. meal would cost 99 pesos, the Golden Arches followed by similarly pricing their two bigger burger meals at the same price. Now, a few months after the home of the Whopper launched their BK Joe, by whose “turbo strength” variant I swear, McDonald’s put out a suspiciously similar product, priced exactly 10% less.

It used to be, sadly, that McDonald’s was one up on all the fast food chains here when it came to coffee. Now, both McDo and Jollibee use the same kind of coffee I get in the office vending machine, so they lost a lot of ground (pun intended) here. Burger King’s move is a welcome one, but then they are not the best, if you ask me and my family.

The best fast food coffee is that of Dunkin’ Donuts. A native Bostonian, for whom I worked a while, told me that he read a case study back in the States where it was said that the fortunes of the doughnut chain were in part revived by their coffee. This has been no surprise to those of us who have been frequenting the chain for years, and I now have even greater reason to be proud of their coffee. For I learned recently that the coffee is a special blend, which comes from… the Philippines! Instead of paying money to the US chain, the local franchise-holders pay in coffee. The blend is used both here and in the US, I believe. The other reason is that they really train their crews to make it fresh. So unlike the other chains (and like, I suspect, Burger King, where they use a special machine that enables this), they always brew it only on order, not leaving a pot on for a long time.

So next time you drop by that doughnut store, do try their coffee. It’s way cheaper than the premium ones they have at the two burger shops, and the muffins are quite okay too. For that matter, ask McDo and Burger King where they get their premium coffee. (I might get around to asking that one day.) It’s one little thing you can do to help our country.

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