Davao’s Simbang Gabi
Text and photos by Jojie Alcantara (published in SunStar Davao on Dec. 21, 2011)
The Misa de Gallo (“Rooster’s Mass”) in Spanish and Simbang Gabi (“Night Mass”) in Filipino is a highly celebrated and one of the longest Filipino traditions which we hold until the present. It is a nine-day dawn ritual of novena of Masses which is a very important Christmas tradition that starts on December 16, and which Catholic churches hold.
This tradition is considered a public devotion to obtain special graces and an opportunity of showing your faith to God. It is believed that upon completion of the nine Masses, a devotee’s special wish will be granted.
After the Mass, devotees enjoy the traditional Filipino food being sold outside and within church premises, and these are typical painit (snacks) of native delicacies: like bibingka, putò bumbóng, with hot tea (salabat), and chocolate.
According to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila website, the Simbang Gabi traces its roots in Mexico when, in 1587, the Pope granted the petition of Fray Diego de Soria, prior of the convent of San Agustin Acolman, to hold Christmas mass outdoors because the Church could not accommodate the huge number of people attending the evening mass.
Today, the spirit of the Simbang Gabi is still being preserved despite modernization of the tradition. Church bells are still being pealed before Mass begins, Christmas music is being played all over town, while colorful lights and parols adorn every street and house. Additionally, midnight sales and bazaars are booming all over town.
In Davao, the tradition is even more significant because we do not celebrate Christmas in a loud way. This season is a special moment for families and loved ones to gather together and celebrate the nativity of Christ as well as give thanks to blessings received the whole year round.
Early dawn, we went around capturing familiar and nostalgic scenes of Simbang Gabi being observed in Shrine Hills and San Pedro Cathedral.
It is not only a season of gift giving, but a renewal of faith as well.
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(published in SunStar Davao on Dec. 21, 2011)