Last Christmas eve, we welcomed the Christmas day with a “simbang gabi” or Christmas midnight mass in Sacred Heard School grounds. It started at 10:30 in the evening until the turn over to the Christmas day. It was attended in majority by Filipinos and Indians, though there are other nationalities as well. It was freezing cold having to stay in the open air for almost about two hours probably due to long lines during the offertory and the communion; that’s how many thousands of people attended the celebration. The Indians, maybe as a tradition, were wearing formal attires. Men in coat, the women in their beautiful, colorful, glittery Saris. I saw the Caucasians lifting their own stools on their way home, probably, learned the lesson already in the past.
It was a festive mood. The stage was all set up with sound system, lights, logistics, hospitality team, even cafeteria on a mass. The music was as upbeat as it can get, all in the tune of a Christmas song. The announcements were translated in variety of languages, some I could not even identify. I felt like I was in an airplane getting ready for the take off where the attendants are making themselves understood. The hospitality team scouts for vacant seats to offer to people who were not early enough to occupy one. The lines were well organized. Preparation it was!
The best part of the mass I can say was the choir, not the songs but that the choir was of children! How angelic children voices are. It makes each song soulful and meaningful, very innocent and pure. Then the weather and the sky adds up to the mood of the festivity. Everyone’s covered up by winter clothes, scarfs, boots, mittens and bonnets. Different nationalities seated side by side, singing together, responding to the officiating priest in chorus.
Getting into the venue was hard. We got lost several times being new ones in town. We thought we would not be able to make it such that a flock of cars, crowded and lined up deduced sparkles in our eyes. We finally found it and even more, we were able to find seats. At the entrance, there was an ice cream van (yes, a van that sells ice cream, much like the jolly jeep in Makati) and other things Christmas sold and shown.
It was a new stimulating experience for me. Though I have attended Christmas mass celebration in Hongkong- it was oh so beautiful as well, there was some feeling of community in this particular gathering.
The message of father Line, an imported General Santos priest, particularly flew in to lead the 9 simbang gabi til the Christmas was basic and simple–Go back to the basics and live simply. Gatherings like this only remind us that the differences-race, color, language, upbringing, etc, are null when it comes to humanity and community. Our being brothers in this human race is much bigger than the smaller groups we belong to. That in the end, we are one in spirit and in truth, just one tiny particle in a vast humongous space we occupy called the universe. If we just prevent being tangled up in our own little worlds, consumed by selfish desires or personal gains, we can actually own a world worthy of saving and dying for.