The crowd which packed the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea on Dec 17.The crowd which packed the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea on Dec 17.

Thousands of Filipinos flocked to attend the Simbang Gabi Masses ahead of Christmas

Thousands of Filipino Catholics flocked to the Simbang Gabi Masses held in 27 churches here in preparation for Christmas.

These Masses, popular in the Philippines, are also known by their Spanish name, Misa de Gallo, which means “Mass of the rooster”.

The celebrations, traditionally held at about 4 or 5 am, would last nine days, starting on Dec 16 and ending on Christmas Eve.

Here in Singapore, churches held these Masses in the evenings. And they overflowed with Filipino Catholics eager to practise their tradition in a foreign land.

St Anne’s Church and the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea had crowds packing the premises since 7 pm, an hour ahead of the celebration.

Ms Quesa Siano from the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea told CatholicNews that “there’s no difference here to the [Simbang Gabi] in the Philippines except that it starts earlier there”.

Just like in the Philippines, the Masses are very crowded and popular because it is a Filipino Christmas tradition, she said.

“The Simpang Gabi is seen as a way of requesting blessings from the Lord, and some believe that if one completes the series of nine days, their prayers will be answered.”

Ms Mary Joy Castillo, who attended the Mass with friends, said that she still feels homesick at times although she has lived in Singapore for five years.

“The celebration gives a feeling of unity among Filipinos … it gives me that sense of home,” she said.

The theme of this year’s Simpang Gabi was The Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with a tribute to the various titles of Our Lady on each night.

Twenty-four churches held the Masses on only one night, starting at 8 pm, while three churches held Masses on all nine nights.

The Masses were held in English with some songs sung in Tagalog.

Ms Geraldine M Quiambao, Simbang Gabi coordinator of St Anne’s Church, shared that after the Simbang Gabi Mass held there on Dec 15, the parishioners enjoyed fellowship over food.

The konting salo-salo, as the fellowship session is called in Tagalog, was a success, she said.

“Loneliness is the greatest enemy of a migrant worker which intensifies during Christmas,” Scheut Mission Fr Angel C Luciano, who organised the Simbang Gabi Masses, told CatholicNews.

“Migrants can connect with others through the pilgrimage to churches and a sense of belonging is developed,” he added.

By Martin See
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