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Jan 27th
Home Columns JGL Eye There Is Room in the Inn
There Is Room in the Inn PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - JGL Eye
Written by Joseph G. Lariosa   
Saturday, 19 December 2009 12:23



(© 2009 Journal Group Link International)



C HICAGO, Illinois (JGLi) –  Perhaps, one of the more-visible faces of the Filipino culture at this time of the year that could eclipse Manny Pacquiao, CNN Hero of the Year Efren Penaflorida, the disastrous images of Typhoon Ondoy or the carnage of journalists or the high-level corruptions in the Arroyo government is no other than the Simbang Gabi (dawn mass) that is now a mainstay of the Filipino community.


Slowly but surely, the popularity of Simbang Gabi is gaining a foothold as more and more churches are celebrating it every year like the way Mexicans are venerating the miraculous Our Lady of Guadalupe in the United States.


Editor’s Note: Please read a related article, The Lady of Guadalupe Was the Original Marian Patroness of the Philippines


I remember more than 20-years ago, only a very few churches were observing this unique Filipino tradition of a nine-day novena of Masses before Christmas that has become a source of great joy and anticipation of Jesus's coming.


Since 2008, more than 70 of the 363 parishes in Cook and Lake counties in Illinois have been celebrating Simbang Gabi.


This year, Francis Cardinal George, the first Chicago native to become Archbishop of Chicago, will be the main celebrant of the Simbang Gabi mass at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 23 at St. Lambert, II-A, at 8148 Karlov Avenue in suburban Skokie, Illinois with Bishop Francis Kane as the co-celebrant.


Just like any human activity, Simbang Gabi is catching popularity because in the words of former registered nurse Teresa Nuval, “it has become a catalyst for evangelization, a continuing call to mission, welcome and integration into the life of the universal Church.”


Ms. Nuval had been appointed full-time director of the office of the Asian Catholic Ethnic Ministry under the Chicago Archdiocese as Simbang Gabi has become a multicultural parish celebration of this rich Filipino tradition.


Incorporated in the reflections during the celebration are “Filipino values that can be joyfully shared and nourished with non-Filipinos who will celebrate with us this novena of Simbang Gabi.”




T he nine Masses follow the liturgy of votive Masses in honor of the expectant Mother of God. The color of vestments is white, not the purple of Advent and the text of the Masses are those of the votive Masses for Mary “tempore adventus” (In Advent).


In Philippine tradition, the novena of Masses are also known as Misa de Aguinaldo (Mass of the gift); they take place at dawn, hence the term Simbang Gabi (Mass in the night), from December 16 thru 24; the Masses are given solemnity and festivity by the singing of the Gloria and the Credo, which signal the total joyous anticipation of Christmas morn; the church is decorated with the “parol” (paper star-lantern).


The “parol” hangs outside every window of Filipino homes as a symbol meaning “lighting the way for Mary and Joseph as they travel to Bethlehem.”


The practice similar to the “posadas” of Latin America that is done the same way as the “panuluyan” where a procession with the statues of the town patron saint, Mary and Joseph are accompanied by people carrying “parol” lanterns with long handles.


Editor’s Notes: The readers may want to read the following related articles:


How Filipinos Reinvented Christmas


A Slanted Version of the Greatest Story Ever Told


Christmas in the Philippines (by Ella Madrigal-Wagner)



H ere in America, the obvious adjustments are the time and the dates of Simbang Gabi celebrations. The Masses are celebrated from December 15 through 23 so the general parish celebration of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are not pre-empted- the faithful are strongly encouraged to attend the Christmas mass on the evening of December 24 in their home parish.


Also instead of dawn Masses, these are celebrated in the evening after daily work.




T he practice of celebrating the novena of Masses, called Aguinaldo Masses, can be traced back to the last decades of the sixteenth century in Spain. These Masses, in turn, were already being celebrated in the Philippines by the middle of the seventeenth century.


The Aguinaldo Masses had a plenary indulgence attached to them granted by Pope Sixtus V in 1585.


The devotion of the Aguinaldo Masses was brought within the pale of Vatican II in 1961 by then Archbishop Julio Rosales of Cebu, the president of the Philippine Hierarchy. He requested, in the context of the new CODE OF RUBRICS, that the Aguinaldo Masses be allowed to be sung as of former times.


Today, as in the days of the missionaries, catechesis continues to be the strong point of the nine days novena of Simbang Gabi. It has continued to be the catechetical moment, when people can be together to reflect on issues or the general/daily themes that are promoted and preached in all parishes. The novena continues to express the sentiments of the people towards Mary, but more importantly, in harmony with the Advent season, Simbang Gabi has become a channel of celebration of the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word – the Fruit of Mary’s womb.

What makes Simbang Gabi ever popular is that even non-Catholics are celebrating it.




E ven the Philippine government through the Philippine Consulate in New York city is even hosting it in the Consulate itself.


When reminded that celebrating it in the Consulate might cross the line of the Philippine Constitution, whose original Malolos Constitution of 1899, was very graphic when its Article 5 says, “The State recognizes the freedom and equality of all religions, as well as the separation of the Church and the State,” a spokeperson of the Consulate referred me to its lawyer.


When asked if the Philippine Consulate will also host other religious events of the Muslim, Jewish, Protestants, etc.  in the consulate instead of their churches, the same spokesperson, the consulate’s cultural officer, Marivic Dimaculangan, said “by all means we will also accommodate them if they so request. We have been hosting Simbang Gabi in the consulate during the last 24 years, we don’t see any reason why we would turn them away.”


It looked like Ms. Dimaculangan remembers the ordeal of the Holy Family at this time of the year when they were turned away to deliver Jesus because “there was no room in the inn.”


M erry Christmas To All! (


© opyright 2009 The Journal Group Link International. The contents provided in the JGLi may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of the Journal Group Link International.


(Editor’s Note: Watch out for the upcoming outlet-oriented, subscription-based website of Journal Group Link International that guarantees originally sourced stories, features, photos, audios and videos and multi-media contents.)


Editor's Notes: The has never deleted any of the articles that it published since Day One on April 9, 2007. Here are some of the articles written for the Advent season in 2007, 2008 and 2009:


How Filipinos Reinvented Christmas

A Slanted Version of the Greatest Story Ever Told


Christmas in the Philippines (by Ella Madrigal-Wagner)


Advent Is the Expectation of Our Lord  (by Francis Fernandez)


Why Gloria and Mike Arroyo, Et Al, Perhaps Are Not Even Christians But There’s Hope for Redemption


Merry Orthodox Christmas


Pig-Ebola Now in RP and Congressmen Refuse to Accept Malacañang’s Gifts of Ham and “Queso de Ebola”


BalitaKuno (Niños Inocentes Edition)


I Am Dreaming of a White Christmas  (A Column by Jesse Jose)


MabuhayRadio’s Articles on Christmas & New Year and Welcome, Ms. Ella Madrigal-Wagner


Advent and Abortion: A Christmas Message for George W. Bush and the American People


Yes, Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus . . .


My Giddy Christmas Thoughts this Christmas (from “A Cup O’ Kapeng Barako” column of Jesse Jose)


Christmas Actually Came Early for Filipinos in Boston (by Dr. Minnie Festin-Navato in Sections / Sunday's Sermon)


The Parable of the Atheist Who Spends Christmas in Kalimantan


Talltale Signs: The NaFFAA’s Home Is Melting this Christmas


The Joy of Advent (by Francis Fernandez in Sections / Sunday's Sermon)


Inventing the "FOOD" for the World (Part II)


Readings for the Night Before, and the Evenings After, New Year (and Christmas)  (by Atty. Domingo Lira)


What the New Year Is All About . . . Is 2008 “Almageddon Time”?


"Mabuhay, Las Vegas" Radio Broadcast, January 2005, as Hosted by Bobby Reyes


Remembering the Departed Filipino Diplomats in Los Angeles

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Last Updated on Saturday, 19 December 2009 12:36

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