13 December 2009

The pink candle of the Advent (Christmas) wreath was lighted at church this Sunday. There are five advent candles, 1 white, 1 pink, and 3 in purple color. Every Sunday leading to Christmas, a candle is lighted signifying hope, light, joy, peace, love. The big white candle in the middle is lighted on Christmas day. It is Christ's candle. It is what Christmas is really all about. Christ-mas.

By next week, the dawn masses will begin. We call it the Simbang Gabi, literally means evening mass, or in most cases masses that are held at night or at dawn, celebrated for nine days until Christmas. In the Philippines, the simbang gabi is a community gathering, where people try to complete the nine day masses at least once in their lifetime.

I had several memories of simbang gabi even as a student on a holiday break, huddled in our sweaters, trying to stay awake during the cold evening or dawn masses, anticipating the hot chocolate, puto-bumbong and bibingka (native sweets using sticky rice) after the mass, the noisy walk home with friends and family, and meeting carolers on their way home.

The last time I had simbang gabi was years ago. It was the first time I attended alone and I drove to church after work. It was so cold that the car misted and I can't see the car's rear view. When I got home, everybody was asleep so I have to eat the puto-bumbong by myself. It is best eaten hot. Somehow, inspite of the sleepless nights, you complete the nine days and feel refreshed. Like you underwent a good executive check-up!

When the pink candle was lit yesterday (I posted this at dawn Monday) I reminisced about all the simbang gabi I attended, the happy times, the blessed feeling, the warmth of Christmas in my land, and the joys of having my family, and this include all my cousins and extended family members across the globe, still in touch after all these years, remembering their own simbang gabi and wishing they were here. . . Christmas is really an unforgettable event in the Philippines which is why most of the Filipinos try to return home during this joyful time. Now I wonder when I can do simbang gabi again?

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