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Ladies and gents our story begins with our author who one day packed up his bags to spend the next 5 years of his life on some tropical island far far away. This land is not like any place he has ever been to before. There is no telling of what he may encounter during his stay there but one thing is sure he is going to be in for one crazy adventure. And this is where you get to read about it.

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The stories told here maybe appear larger than in real life and at times may even appear outlandish. However, all actual events are in fact real (well, most of them). What may appear as a distortion of reality to some may only be due to the author's perspective of the actual events. Some say he is just not right in the head.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Simbang Gabi

Last Thursday my uncle asked me if I would like to attend the Simbang Gabi. I have never heard of it before and my uncle said it would be a good custom of the Philippines to try at least once. So curiously I decided to give it a shot and staid up for the next 4 hours until it was time to head off for mass at 3:30 am! The literal translation for Simbang Gabi means "night worship". I don't know why it's call that because at 3:30 am the night is already over; it's early, early morning.

When I got to the chapel in Pacita I was sort of expecting to see something I have never seen before maybe some guy with a magical banana plant healing the sick or at least a live reenactment of the nativity with a real birth but I got nothing like that. It basically seemed to be your normal Sunday mass except for being held way earlier in the morning and with quite a few people sleeping in the pews and even some sleeping as they stood straight up. I saw one older gentleman who dozed off while standing up and ended up falling back in to his seat. (He broke his hip but it was alright because the priest pulled out the magical banana leaves and healed him up really good. Just kidding.) After that mass ended I and my cousins headed off to another chapel in Alabang to attend their 5:00 am mass. I wanted to see if there was something extra I missed the first time around. Nope not a thing.

All kidding aside it was at least an experience for me. I don't think I have ever been to such a mass in the States. It's kind of a symbol here of the people's devotion to their faith as they go about their normal lives working and what have you and then proceeding on to mass at the wee hours of the morning for nine days straight. I did it for one day and I'm still tired.

Now for the educational portion of my blogg.

The Filipino tradition of Simbang Gabi is what is sometimes referred to as a Classic Christmas Novena. It last for nine days starting on December 16th and ending on December 24th. The word novena itself is derived from the Latin word "novem" meaning "nine", hence the nine days of prayer. But why actually nine instead of seven or eight? I'm not actually quite sure of this. It may have something to do with the pagan religions that date back during the early times of the Roman Catholic Church. The number nine seems to have had a special meaning to many of the early pagans, especially to the Anglo-Saxons.

This Classic Christmas Novena is not actually a custom in which all Roman Catholics take part in. Neither is any other novena for that matter. However, holding a church mass for this particular novena has been popular for a long time in the countries of Spain and France (where it originated) and later in the Latin American countries and the Philippines (where the custom was introduced the by the Spanish). While most of these countries begin their mass in the early morning, usually from between the hours of 5:00 am to 6:00 am, Simbang Gabi may start as early as 3:30 am. The reason for this may have been to accommodate the lifestyle of the Filipino people during their time under Spanish rule. Most of the Filipinos during that time were farmers who normally began their work at the start of dawn. So starting the masses exceptionally early gave the Filipino farmer time to attend Church before they had to begin their days work. Due to this bit of historical trivia the title Misa de Gallo (Mass of the Rooster) has now almost become synonymous in the Philippines with Simban Gabi but in doing so they have created another misnomer.

It would almost seem perfectly logical to entitle the mass of Simban Gabi as the Misa de Gallo if you had no prior knowledge of history, since roosters are known for crowing at the break of dawn. However, Misa de Gallo was originally the Spanish title given to the mass which is held at the night of Christmas Eve. This is because it is believed that the rooster was the first animal to recognize the birth of Christ; crowing at midnight to usher in the dawn of Christ in to this world not the morning sun. A more appropriate Spanish title for Simbang Gabi would be Misa de Aguinaldo (Christmas gift mass).

One of the beliefs of completing the Simbang Gabi is that you would receive what ever it is that you were asking for Christmas. Ain't that cool it's kind of like a divine chain letter.

Now send this to nine people with in the next nine minutes and in nine days Santa will send you what ever it is you wish for.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

ahaha that was funny. i never did attend the simbang gabi in straight nine days coz **cough. i'm too lazy to wake up so early** i'm always sleeping so late. well and the part about the wish.. it's so silly but elders always saying it will come true so the children always give effort in waking up early.. but now. **ehem i'm not a child anymore**.. but simbang gabi ir really part of our culture.. so true.

2:31 PM  

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