Monday, December 19, 2011

Simbang Gabi: The Intramuros Experience

The Christmas spirit in the Walled City is very much alive.

One day, I just had a sudden inspiration to attend the Simbang Gabi in Intramuros.

I don't remember myself being religious about attending the Dawn Masses before as I am a self-confessed nocturnal being and I loathe waking up early. But, I thought it might be a good experience for me to attend it at least once. This time, at no less than the Manila Cathedral.

So after a get-together with some college friends in Tomas Morato in Q.C., I headed straight to the Walled City. From the windows of my cab, I witnessed how the scenery changed- from seeing the bright lights of the restaurants, bars and cars in the city to the dimly-lit and old-looking Spanish-Filipino houses, streets and other establishments in Intramuros.

As my cab went further inside the Walled City, I couldn't help but notice the increasing amount of brightness emanating from ahead. As we draw nearer San Agustin Church, I saw them- the people who are going to attend the mass, the sacristans who are glowing in the whiteness of their garments and some vendors selling bibingka and puto bumbong. Something warm welled up from my insides.

It's Christmas time.

And when we reached the cathedral, here is what I saw.

The Manila Cathedral looked magnificent that day.

Manila Cathedral was a house of gold in the middle of the evening sky. It was glowing! I saw a lot of people going straight inside the church. It was 4 o'clock in the morning. The mass shall start any moment soon. As for me, I took my time to admire the beautiful facade of the cathedral and took some shots.

The beautiful interiors of the Manila Cathedral.

As I entered the cathedral, an equally beautiful and magnificent interior welcomed me. It was huge and grand! I couldn't help myself taking a few shots before I pick my seat in one of the first few pews in front. It was already filled with people when I came in. The mass is, indeed, going to start any moment soon.

Simbang Gabi or the Dawn Mass is a 9-day devotional mass that starts from December 16 to 24. In Spanish, it is called Misa de Gallo or the Rooster's Mass due to its nature of being celebrated before the dawn.

It started during the era of the Spanish colonizers as a practical compromise for the farmers who still wish to attend the novena masses in the evenings after a whole day of labor in the fields. Since they normally start their day in the fields before the sun rises, the priests decided to hold the dawn masses for them.

After the service, the people and the clergy would share the former's offerings to the church before they head to the fields. They offer sacks of rice, fruits and vegetables that the farmers harvest themselves. This is where all our all-time favorite Christmas snacks such as bibingka and puto bumbong originated from.

Just like this one.

After the mass, people lined up to taste their all-time favorite Bibingka.

My favorite taho drink was also present that day. I can feel the distinct "Filipino Christmas spirit" just with the way these kids huddled at the taho vendor. I wish the taho vendors would never get tired selling their well-loved merchandise in the mornings- forever. It is my morning cup and morning music, all at the same time.

I would be demise if the next generation of Filipinos will not be able to experience this beautiful part of every Filipino's childhood.

My all-time favorite drink, Taho, was present that day too.
Merry Christmas, folks!


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