Simbang Gabi Down Under
I finally managed to squeeze in some writing! I said writing — the finishing and the publishing, I am not so sure when 🙂
Every year, after Christmas, things seem to slow down. As in before Christmas came, it was like whoa, it’s coming! It’s coming! Then on the 26th, things go slow mo’. Sleep ins, left overs, sleep ins, left overs. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been doing heavy shopping prior to the 25th — not too much — I am watching every cent we have like an eagle — specially because my husband is presently the sole breadwinner and all… not complaining here — I have never been a real “shopper” anyway! I don’t like crowded places, looking for parking spots, smelling the ciggies outside malls, nope, not me. A single whif of cigarette smoke is enough to give me one big time migraine and spoil either the remainder of my day, or remainder of my week 😦 Sad but true.
Each year, I say out loud I will start shopping for presents September. And I never do so. I end up shopping online, or go to the mall a week before Christmas, or 2 days after Christmas! Lucky most everything are on sale by then hihihi!
Anyways, the main reason I am writing today is to reflect on the simbang gabi Australia style.
For the first time in my nearly 10 years of living here in Australia, I was able to complete the 9-day traditional Filipino novena (last year, they only had 8). During these 5 am masses, our family was given the opportunity to meet new friends and form some sort of a bond with the rest of the “simbang gabi-ers”. Perhaps seeing the same sleepy eyes and tousled hair and stifled yawns from mostly the same people everyday somehow merged everyone in the same prayerful zombie-like specie. We were all trying our best to praise and worship at a time when everyone is still in lala land. My daughter sleeps wearing the clothes she will wear the following morning to church never mind if they get all wrinkled up haha. And I didn’t care (that much) if my eyeshadow is maybe darker on one eyelid than the other, or some of my hair is sticking up or flatter than usual.
Our priest is the handsome Italian Fr. Mauro Conte. I have heard that he was assigned to the Philippines for 4 years and hence is familiar with the tradition and the Filipino songs that were included in the Simbang Gabi here. Fr. Mauro is a very likeable priest, not just because he is a looker (though that probably helps), but he manages to convey this openness to everybody, this welcoming aura that would make people want to be a part of his parish. He is young and that could be a factor to the way he deals with the churchgoers, but he also has a sense of authority that reminds everybody that he is a priest and would not tolerate nonsense in church.
After each mass, there is breakfast for all to share. Families volunteered every certain day and in those days that there were no volunteer family, people brought food and there were always enough for all. It is heartwarming to see that although the Simbang Gabi is a Filipino by nature, people of different skin color are in attendance. It was very nice to see an elderly Indian man bringing a tray of ham and chaeese sandwiches. An Italian man cooking rice and chicken adobo (which he says he learned to cook from a cooking show — but he said he forgot to cook the pork with it; his original plan was to cook Chicken and Pork Adobo). An Indian woman bringing what she said is called Milk Rice (white sticky rice that you sprinkle with palm sugar and some tiny spicy things), and another bringing a super spicy noodle dish. It was the story of the two fish and five pieces of bread in action over and over, each morning after mass. And it is because of these after mass snacks that my daughter is always worried whether people could hear her tummy rumbling during mass.
It is during these breakfasts that our family was able to meet new friends — and somehow bond with them. We got invited to a Christmas party organized by a Filipino group though we couldn’t stay longer than 8:30 pm because we had to wake up around 3 am the following morning as we volunteered to do the morning after breakfast.
Everything went smoothly the next day, as we had time to prepare everything in advance and planned very well 🙂 We cooked and brought steamed rice, Filipino beef tapa, beef yakiniku, tomatoes, scrambled eggs, Ken’s biko and my very own Mango Cream Cake for Fr. Mauro and another parishioner Vanessa, who were both celebrating their birthdays. I should be inserting here a photo of the food we brought but we haven’t had the time to take even one!
That’s alright. We had a great time completing the novena, and preparing and serving our friends in church. My daughter can’t wait until next year!
At the end of the day, our family is glad of the opportunity to be a part of Our Lady of the Southern Cross here in St. Augustine, Ipswich, of the chance to meet new friends, and of being blessed enough to be together to enjoy the season.