“Kampana ng simbahan ay nanggigising na, at waring nagsasabing na tayo’y magsimba. Magbangon at magbihis, tayo’y magsilakad at masiglang tunguhin ang ating simbahan!”
(Church bells are waking us up and seem to be telling us to go to Mass. Get up, change clothes, and let’s all walk and joyfully go to our church!)
Have you ever heard or read these lines before? For those who haven’t, these lines are lyrics of a song that invites everyone to the very special Filipino Christmas tradition called Simbang Gabi.
Simbang Gabi is actually ‘night worship’ in literal meaning and is also known as Misa de Gallo or ‘mass of the rooster’ as it is usually celebrated in the early hours before dawn. It is said to perhaps have come from Mexico, like many of other Filipino Catholic traditions.
On the dawn of the 16th of December, Church bells start ringing as early as 3 o’clock in the morning signifying the start of the novena masses celebrated in preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ on the 25th. In present times though, Simbang Gabi is not only celebrated pre-dawn but also late in the evening at around 8 or 9 o’clock.
Simbang Gabi: A sacrifice, an offering and a gift
It is so good and heart-warming to know that, even if this tradition dates back to so many years before, its spirit is still very much alive, especially among our youth.
“Kakaiba ang Simbang Gabi para sakin kasi isa ‘tong paraan para mapakita ko kay Lord na kaya ko magsakripisyo ng tulog at oras para sa Kanya, araw araw. Dumadalo din ako ng Misa de Gallo dahil iba ang epekto nito sa akin. Iba ang mga narerealize ko mula dito. Hindi hassle ang 9 days pag alam mo ang rason kung ba’t mo kailangan magpuyat para dito. Simbang Gabi also gives you the chance to show that you are ready and capable to sacrifice for God, kahit na sa simpleng paggising ng 3am ng umaga para magsimba.”
(Simbang Gabi, for me, is one of a kind because it’s one of the ways I can show the Lord that I can sacrifice sleep and time for Him, every day. I also attend Misa de Gallo because it’s effect on me is different; I realize different things. It isn’t an inconvenience if you know the reason why you need to stay up late for nine days. It also gives you the chance to show that you are ready and capable to sacrifice for God, even in a simple way by waking up at 3AM to attend Mass.)
– Jolo Ramos, 19 years old
“Nakakatulong siya ma-feel yung Christmas spirit. Parang sariling preparation ko na rin for Christmas. Nakakatuwa yung feeling na maraming nagpaparticipate dun kahit ang aga-aga nya. Besides sa homily na matututunan mo, yung fulfilment na nafi-feel ko tapos kasama ko pa yung family ko, parang enough na yun to make me get up sa morning.”
(The tradition helps me feel the Christmas spirit; in a way, it’s also my own preparation for Christmas. There’s a certain happiness you feel when you see so many people participating even if it’s so early. Besides learning from the homily, there’s also the feeling of fulfillment plus I’m with my family—it’s enough to make me get up in the morning.)
– Iris Salonga, 18 years old
“Ang simbang gabi ay 9 na araw na pagmimisa bilang paghahanda sa ating mga sarili sa pagdating ni Hesus. bukod sa tradisyon at nakasanayan, mas mahalagang maisip na ito ay isang sakripisyo at paghahandog ng sarili para sa pagdating ni Hesus. Isa pang tawag sa simbang gabi ay misa de aguinaldo, aguinaldo na nangangahulugang regalo. Pagdating ng kapaskuhan, ito ang madalas nating natatanggap – regalo mula sa ating mga ninong at ninang, pero ang pagsisimba at pagsasakripisyo ay ang ating regalo kay Hesus. Ipakita natin ang tunay na diwa ng pasko, na ito ay selebrasyon ng pagdating ni Hesus sa mundong ito upang iligtas tayo.”
(Simbang Gabi is composed of nine days of going to mass as a way of preparing ourselves for the coming of Jesus. Aside from a tradition and something we have been accustomed to, it is more important to think of it as a sacrifice and preparation of oneself for Jesus’ coming. Another name for Simbang Gabi is Misa de Aguinaldo—Aguinaldo meaning ‘gift’. When Christmas comes, these are the things we often receive: gifts from our godparents, but attending Mass and sacrificing are our gifts to Jesus. Let’s show the true meaning of Christmas that it’s a celebration of Jesus’ coming to this earth to save us.)
– Mark Somosa, 18 years old
“Dumadalo ako ng simbang gabi dahil isa ito sa mga paraan upang iprepare ang aking sarili para sa Pasko. Isa rin itong tradisyon ng aming pamilya ang magsimbang gabi ng sama sama. Ang aral na nakukuha ko dito ay parang pagbabalik ito sa lahat ng ibinigay sa iyo ng Diyos.”
(I attend Simbang Gabi because it’s one of the ways I prepare myself for Christmas. It’s also been a tradition to attend Simbang Gabi together as a family. One learning I get from this tradition is how it’s a way of giving back for all the blessings that God has given you.)
– Reñee Mariano, 18 years old
“Masayang magsimbang gabi kasi madami kang matututunan. Ang masasabi ko’y sulit ang pagsisimbang gabi. Bukod sa sense of fulfillment sa pagtatapos ng 9 days, you get an experience that is truly unique in simbang gabi.”
(It’s fun to attend Simbang Gabi because you learn a lot. What I can say is that it’s worth it; aside from the sense of fulfillment for completing the nine days, you get an experience that is truly unique in Simbang Gabi.)
– Ken Guevara, 20 years old
There is no difficult sacrifice when one understands its true meaning. This season’s true meaning is in Jesus Christ. By attending Mass in the wee hours of the morning or even late at night, it becomes more meaningful by thinking of it as a gift to our Savior, the greatest gift to us all. So, let the church bells ring with the Christmas spirit it will bring.
– Article by Jasmine Afuang
– Reference used: simbanggabi.net