Sunday, December 17, 2006

Simbang Gabi

I still remember the first time I ever completed the Simbang Gabi. I was in 4th Grade. I believe I was ten going on eleven. That was the one and only time that I ever completed the nine consecutive early morning mass just before Christmas. It was a happy memory. It was really an adventure for me at that age.

I grew up on a barrio San Agustin and our ancestral house beside the Maharlika highway. We were about 3 to 4 km away from Alaminos town proper where the church is. This church survived the war save for the belfry. Like any other church or chapel it is well lit up during this time of the year. The mass starts at 4 am in the morning. I had to wake up at 2am and ask my Lola Abeng or my Tita Ching Inay to come with me to Simbang Gabi.

Such determination was fueled by a wish. I was really determined to finish those nine consecutive mornings because I learned that year in 1982 that if ever I complete this, I will be granted whatever I prayed for.

So there, every morning at 2am I will wake up ready and eager to walk (as we do not have a car and there is no jeep at that hour) the 3 kilometers to town in the cold dark morning. The lamp post along the highway is few and far between in minds eye at that age. It was cold and I kept warm with all the layers of clothing my small body can carry fashionably hehehe bata pa lang fashionista na. One thing I will never forget is that rag doll that Inay made for me. I always brought her with me during those long walks.

We need to wake up at 2am if we want to have a seat. If we start walking any later than that we will have to endure the standing-room-only condition for an hour or more. Our early morning walks was marked by blinking lights from the houses we passed by.

Looking back I was thrilled every morning. I love the festive atmosphere. It was cold outside but it was really warm inside the church. There was the puto bumbong and bibingka but I look forward to the pandesal more at that time. It was a celebration unique to us that now I am really happy to look back at my childhood.

And yes, the wish. My Mama and Daddy and sisters we just live with my Lola and relatives. We were really poor. We have been living in different places begging relatives to take us in for a while. An experience that marked my young mind of how hard it is to have no roof above your head. I never told anybody what I wished for. But my Lola knew that I was praying hard for something really important to me. Yes, that Simbang Gabi season in 1982 in my deepest prayers, I prayed that God please let us have a house of our own.

In less than a year, despite financial challenges, my wish was granted.

Thank you Lord for that blessing.

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