The most revered and favourite Christmas tradition of Catholic Filipinos is alive and well here in Calgary as proven by the enormous turnout at several of the special mass celebrations held across the city.
In Calgary the first of the nine days of the simbang gabi was held at St. Albert the Great Parish on November 30 and turned out to be the biggest simbang gabi ever held in the city.
Kababayans from all quadrants of the city braved the cold weather to celebrate and experience an amazing early simbang gabi for 2014. Many Filipinos came with their families and loved ones to feel the Christmas spirit and give thanks to God. Many also came with the hopes of fulfilling a tradition and completing all the simbang gabi masses.
Gemma Bulan-Santos came to the mass with her whole family and was in awe of the Christmas carols sang by the choir and the festive atmosphere in the church.
“Ang masasabi ko sa simbang gabi na ito ay sana nga mabuo ko dahil noong last na nag-simbang gabi sa Pilipinas ay nabuo naming mag-anak so kasama ko na ang husband ko sana mabuo naming,” she says. “Gusto naming maging maganda ang pamumuhay, maganda ang pangangatawan at sa aking mga anak laging malusog.”
For Filipino-Canadian youths, celebrating simbang gabi is a way for them to keep in touch with their culture and their roots.
James Nefulda, one of the youth volunteers during the mass, finds the simbang gabi brings the whole Filipino community together and other nationalities as well.
“I think it’s cool,” he says. “People lose touch with their culture and it’s really great to see a lot of people kind of keep in touch with that and especially introducing it to their friends who aren’t Filipinos. I think that’s the one thing for me; the most exciting thing for me—to see people just to be enthusiastic and not forget where they came from.”
Simbang gabi organizer Mar Aquino said that the large turnout would not have happened without the Lord’s guidance and the passionate and hard work of so many volunteers.
“Hindi namin ine-expect ito na ganito ang mangyayari,” Aquino says. “Ineexpect lang talaga namin mga 600 ganoon. Pero thank you kay Lord siya ang nagdala lahat dito at napuno, punong-puno ang simbahan, for the first time ever na nangyari dito sa St. Albert the Great Parish. Kaya
nagpapasalamat ako sa mga committee sa simbang gabi dito sa St. Albert the Great. Salamat kay Rey, na siyang aming main chairman at kay Bernard, aming vice chairman at si Adele ang aming secretary at sa bumubuo ng simbang gabi dito sa St. Albert the Great.”
Father Badiola and Father Benedicto, who officiated the mass congratulated everybody for the successful turnout of people.
“Mabuti ng pumunta kasi mas malaki ang grupo ng Pilipino na ipatunay nato na tayo pala ay may paniniwala sa Diyos,” says Badiola. “Hindi lang tayo kailangang pabayaan kasi kung tayo ay pababayaan lalo na ng simbahan, mawawala ang simbahan dito dahil kahit pumunta ka kahit saan mayroon mga Pilipino na nagsisilbi sa simbahan.”