Today is the first day of the Simbang Gabi – a nine-day novena which starts December 16 and ends on December 24. It is celebrated at 4:30 in the morning. But in recent years, when masses are also regularly held in chapels and other places outside of the main church, simbang gabis are held during evenings – at 7:00, 8:00 or 9:00 depending on the availability of the priest celebrant.
But the original practice is to hold it at dawn; at hours before the sun rises. It is common among former colonies of Spain. The friars convinced the catholic converts to prepare themselves for the celebration of the birth of the Saviour; and what more fitting preparation there is but to attend nine-day novena mass. The problem however, is that the subjects have to be in their agricultural fields early, so as a compromise, the clergy began to hold Mass early dawn when the land would still be dark. In fact, it was so dark going to church from their homes that the faithful brought with them lanterns or parol… which later on took various shapes… and eventually into the shape of a star – the Christmas lanterns of today we are familiar with.
I remember with fondness the simbang gabi of my youth, in Padada, Davao del Sur. Misa de Gallo, as we called it, was an event that everybody looked forward to. Parishioners filled-up the church every day of the simbang gabi. Every mass was sponsored by one or two socio-civic organization, a church-based group, school-based youth organization or barangay units. The mass sponsors provided the lectors, commentators, collectors, altar servers, the choir and any and all tasks attendant to celebrating the mass.
It was not only a religious celebration; it was a social event as well. People looked around which ones of the mass goers are wearing new clothes. Some checked out what the offerors give as gifts for to make sure they will give something different when their designated day as offerors come. Kids greeted their godparents and subtly reminded them of the coming Christmas Day (and their gifts). To the teenagers and the singles it was an opportunity to see their crushes and special friends. The bolder ones sat beside them during the mass, and walked them back to their house after. Those with political ambitions lingered around after the mass and met as many people as possible.
But it is what cams after the mass that everybody looked forward to – the early morning “painit” that awaited you when you came back from the church; or the “painit” that you bought after hearing mass and before going home. The painit can be any or all of the following: bibingka, torta, suman, and biko with tsokolate or brewed coffee as the accompanying hot drink. If the lady of the house had not cooked or bought any native delicacy, the family shared a fare of pandesal with margarine bought from a neighbourhood bakery.
But even among families that had no “painit” awaiting them when they come home from mass, the simbang gabi was still something they look forward to. For one, while waiting out for the sun to rise, family members talked among themselves and consequently had some quality bonding moments. Moreover, completing the whole nine day novena without fail has its rewards. It is said that when if you make a wish on the first day of the mass and when you completed the nine day mass, your wish will be granted.
If we build, they will come. This is a line from the movie Field of Dreams. This was the same line we used to answer detractors when we decided to build a chapel with nothing but the belief that we will receive contributions from the community’s residents and friends
It was the early-90s, and Parkwood Greens Executive Village was not as affluent a community as it is today. This was prior to the real estate boom that drove up land prices in the area. We were a small community then – mostly middle class employees at the early stages of their professional careers. Ninety eight percent of the residents are Catholics. Once a month on Sunday afternoons, a priest held masses at the clubhouse. But as subdivision population increased, the small clubhouse become a bit small for the increasing number of mass goers.
In 1996, an attempt to generate funds for a chapel was postponed to give way to another pressing project: solving the subdivision’s water supply problem by interconnecting its water lines with the MWSS. Every household had to fork out a substantial sum of money to make push through with the interconnection.
In 1998, Fr Henry Ferreras, then parish priest of the San Antonio Abad Parish of Maybunga, Pasig encouraged the residents to revive the project. He also promised that if a chapel is built within the village, he will make sure that there will be weekly Sunday masses in that chapel. The subdivision’s officers, which I then headed as President, took the challenge squarely.
In the beginning, all we had was the determination and the desire to build a chapel. The village association has no extra funds in its coffers to bankroll the project. But we were able to increase the collection efficiency of the association dues so that we had excess funds after payments of the maintenance, security and admin expenses. We used part of these savings as a seed fund for the project. We also embarked on a series of fund-raising activities: a Little Prince and Princess of Parkwood; a souvenir program; and, fund-raising dinners. During the Christmas season, we went house to house and sang christmas carols. All these activities raised funds and became opportunities to expand the support-base for the project. Those who believed in the project not only contributed cash and/or construction materials but also their own personal time campaigning for support from residents and friends outside of the village.
It was a community effort. Somebody worked on getting a written approval from the subdivision developer to allocate a vacant lot for the structure. Another resident made the engineering design. Two other residents, supervised the project. Another resident acted as foreman for the construction group. Within 5 months from the start of the construction, the chapel infrastructure was finished. The structure was blessed and the first mass within the chapel was celebrated by a guest priest — Fr Rex Arminia. Weekly masses in the still unfinished chapel started immediately after.
It took us another year to complete the finishing stages of the chapel. Another resident adept at finishing stages of a construction work took over the supervision of this meticulous phase of the project. Almost every aspect of the finishing stages of the project was sponsored by either one family or a group of families: the pews, the floor tiles, the altar, the altar’s marble floors, the ceiling, the chandeliers. the belfry, the images, the sound system. The parish priest waived the parish’s share of the Sunday mass collections in the chapel to add funds for the project.
We could not ask for anything more. We started building, and the support and the contributions came
Finally, on November 18, 2001 — then Bishop Carino of the Archdiocese of Pasig consecrated the Our Lady of Remedies as the Patroness of a fully finished chapel,
Since then, the chapel has become an integral part of the community. Aside from the weekly Sunday masses, it is also a more convenient venue for the traditional Simbang Gabi and the Lenten activities. It is also used for recollections, retreats, Easter egg hunts, and other activities of the various organizations of which some Parkwood residents are members. Occasionally, it is used for wakes of departed residents or their close relatives.
Last November 18. 2011, the village celebrated the 10th anniversary of the consecration of Our Lady of Remedies as the Patroness of the chapel. It was momentous occasion especially for those who were there when the chapel was nothing but a dream; and, who have worked to make that dream a reality. Moreover, it was an opportunity for the younger generations to understand how a structure has become a symbol of a community working together to fulfill a dream. To me, the most fulfilling part of the experience was when we got more than the majority of residents of the subdivision to take part and to take ownership of the project. I would not have trade that for one or two guys just giving me the whole sum we needed for the chapel project.
In closing., let me share with you a music video prepared to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the consecration of our chapel. (please click-through the video title below)
Let me end this post with excerpts from the homily delivered by Fr. Henry Ferreras during the Holy Mass on the feast day of Our Lady Of Remedies held at the chapel last November 18, 2011.
…… Walang saysay ang ating pananampalataya kung ito ay hindi nakaugat sa isang malalim na pagmamahal.. pagmamahal sa Diyos, pagmamahal sa Inang Maria….na ipinangalan natin sa chapel na ito … Our Lady of Remedies…
Today, as we come together in this chapel let us remember that this chapel… ay bunga.. bunga ng ating pag-ibig sa Diyos, bunga ng lahat nag ating pagkakayahan sa lahat ng pagsubok sa atin… at ito ay bunga ng ating malalim na panampalataya…
Very recently, I became a golden girl. Turning 50 has its perks. You care more about substance rather than form. Men still take a good look at you and respectfully, smile. I like this. It used to be winks, or long glazed stares that make you either uncomfortable or could make you stare back. You think it matters? Perhaps two decades ago, when we sought some attention at an age when we were neither too young nor old enough, it could have meant something.
But it does not matter anymore, not at all, not now when I am half a century old! Isn’t this grand? I used to think, wow, when I’d get to this age, will I be wearing long skirts and tie my hair in a tight bun? What will it be like? Will there be many unwelcome changes? Surprise! It feels good. I only need to lose a few pounds; otherwise, it feels so good. It makes you thankful, that you have reached this ripeness of age. It is very similar to knowing what you want and getting it. You understand what contentment is and know its cousin satisfaction.
The knowledge that you have gone through so much and have learned as much makes you slow-nod your head in quiet understanding. I remember thinking how ancient this age would probably be like. Now I throw my head back in laughter because my thoughts were as lacking in finesse as the age I was in when I thought them.
Would I wish to go back to my youthful days? To what? To be clumsy and awkward again? To be reckless and uncaring again? Should I turn back the hands of time and relive certain memorable moments? The thought took form when, one magical weekend, a group of childhood friends gathered together, after 33 years of being apart. A fluke! That the friend who put up a facebook page is named Jesus. Jesus Betia, Jr.
And yes, what a gift for a golden girl! Is it possible to relive our youth, minus the awkwardness, the confusion, the curiosity, the ignorance or was that arrogance, too?! Yes it is!
After only a few months of filling the page, we were able to plan something quick. All eager, all missing one another, we set a date. This was not easy because some lived in the U.S., others in Canada, Japan, and scattered in the Philippine Islands. But, when people decide to do something and commit, the wheels of the universe also start turning and things happen.
We once lived in a street called Nobel. We always mention Edison in Makati to let people know where this is. If it were not enough, you have to say Buendia and add Bautista. Those who know the main avenues would easily know where it is. Some would volunteer knowing all the other streets in Barangay San Isidro named after inventors: Marconi, Bell, Morse, Galvani, Faraday, etc.
The family friends we made include the Santoses, the Dys, the Betias, the Borromeos, the Evangelistas, the Mallaris, and the Patrimonios. The families became close not just by the proximity of homes, but by the friendships formed among the children and the parents. More intimately, there’s Angie, Tere, Mercy and Dothy, Danny and Rey, Lynn, Jesus, John-John and Con-con, Jun, Rey Dy, Matt, Ate Fely, Winnie and Siony, Boy P., Ponggie, Al, Mabeth, Beng and Elvie, Juan, Ellen, Judith, Daday, Mico, Gino, Nino and Ana. Of course my own beloved siblings, Cynthia, Bobby and Badong. And there were some more, much younger, but Nobel-Edison youth still.
For many years, in our case ten, we not only lived next to one another, we played the best of games on the street where we lived. There were times when rainstorms flooded the streets and you would think we’d be staying indoors, but we waded in the murky waters instead. No flood would stop the Nobel-Edison children from playing.
Play was a serious matter. It meant gathering the best players for each patintero team, cops and robbers (we used to say Touching Rubber) team, even soccer/football, Chinese garters, jackstones, skipping rope, hide and seek and whatever other games we could play.
There were no personal computers yet, no laptops, no cellphones, and so we had time to sweat on the street, to run in wild abandon, to scream, squeal our delight at winning whatever game we decided to be engrossed in for the day. As if we had all the time in the world! But yes, we gave our games the time. Despite our assigned household chores, or being required to sleep after lunch, the games had to be played.
We were children, ages 7 below, till we grew up to 17 below. Those who were older than us, had other things going for them, aside from being the despotic rulers of our magical world. They were the commanders, the older brothers and sisters who were blessed to have us to run to the stores for this or that.
Alas, nothing lasts forever. We parted ways and lost touch. Although there were times we would recall, sometimes teary-eyed and achy-heart, wondering where we could find our childhood friends again, whether we would see one another ever again.
But believing in our hearts that this day would come, it does! Facebook Assisted Reunions! Though so far apart and three decades later, we find our GOLD.
Gold is the friendship that has not been ravaged by the many years of being apart from one another. The true mark of friendship is simply picking up from where we left off and it was clear, in our warm embraces, our hugs and kisses, it was reuniting the children in us once more.
The apartment building where we grew up, is now the Bombo Radyo Building. The noise it now makes may equal ours backthen. We trekked “our street” one more time and posed for photos. We felt its power, this great street, which witnessed us win and lose, laugh and cry, fight and make-up, and then laugh some more. It was there where we learned more than what our schools taught us.
We learned not to be lazy from the grand old men Mr. Ben Dy and Mr. Pol Santos who were up before any of us, before sunrise in fact. We learned to be tough women, from Mrs. Mary Santos and my own mother, who were strict disciplinarians. Mrs. Santos being a Navy Man’s wife who easily handled six children and my own Nanay, Pat Palomo, an ex-army nurse, widowed and raising four difficult kids.
We learned cheerfulness from Atty. Estela Betia and Tito Jess who often smiled at us kids and asked how we were. We learned kindness from Mrs. Dominga Dy and Mrs. Mallari who seemed to never raise their voices more than two notches above a whisper. Capt. And Mrs. Evangelista taught us what it was like to have many visitors every day! He was the barangay captain at the time and his wife Amalia ably assisted him. Mr. and Mrs. Borromeo taught us how it was like to care for little children by carefully watching over them.
But most of all, we learned that no amount of time can erase the wonderful feeling of being friends, no distance will stop true friends from reuniting and that love which we know we share with our family members is the same kind of love we share with these very friends whom we have known in our innocence and pureness of hearts. What a great gift for all of us who made it to the first reunion. What a privilege it was to see one another again.
How many people get this rare privilege? What are the chances of hugging your best childhood friends after 33 years of being apart? How do you cram all the missing information in the two days that you’re allowed to be with them? So many more stories to tell, so many lessons to share, yet so little time. But the promise of sustaining and nurturing the gift is there, in our hands now, and hearts, too.
Now that we have been reunited, it marks the beginning of hopefully longer chapters in our lives, to stay connected, to continue our communication, to keep caring for one another. This for me, is finding pure gold.
About Stella Palomo Monteno:
Stella is a Cebu City based writer, advertising practitioner and television producer. She recently turned golden and decided to trace back her roots to where she spent her childhood years.. in the streets of Makati. Stella works as a marketing consultant of a beach resort in Cebu. But most of the time, she is a secret poetess and a novelist taking forever to finish her first published epic novel! Stella’s email address is email@example.com.
September 28-29 is the parochial fiesta of my hometown – Padada, Davao del Sur. Our patron saint is St Michael the Archangel. I remember with fondness the image of our patron on the front wall atop the main door of our church. It is a symbol of the triumph of good over evil. It is a concrete sculpture of St Michael stepping on the body of Lucifer and burying his spear into the devil’s heart. Below the sculpture is the phrase “KINSAY SAMA SA DIYOS.”
I often tell my friends that only those who can clearly describe how the image look like can rightfully claim he is from Padada. Moreover, I also have kababayans who maintain that only those who can explain the meaning and the context of the words “KINSAY SAMA SA DIYOS” can rightfully say that he understands the Story of Creation.
The church of St Michael in Padada was built 59 years ago in the spirit of bayanihan. The original chapel was located beside the national highway, more than a kilometer away from the present location of the church. My grandfather told me that led by a Fr. Paul Gravel, a PME priest, they first repaired the old chapel, after which they literally carried it on their shoulders to its present site. Of course, there were hundreds of them who enthusiastically did it.
Town folks, rich and poor alike, pooled their resources to build the church. They contributed money, materials, and labor in order to build the present church. That they contributed the best construction materials can be better appreciated if one examines closely the type of wood used in the construction of the church. Before it was unfortunately painted over in the 80s, the upper walls, pillars, and ceilings glistened in the natural sheen of the hardwood used.
Every year, the parochial fiesta is a much awaited event in our small town. The fiesta proper is preceded by a nine-day novena. Every night during these nine days, there are cultural and/or sports events held either in the church grounds or in the municipal auditorium. After the fiesta mass, the catholic school students hold ground demonstrations wherein they showcase their terpsicorean and musical abilities. Parents and visitors watch these activities which usually end before noontime. During lunchtime and well into the evening, visitors are treated to sumptous feasts in various houses in the town.
Fiesta is an excuse for us to go home to our hometown to renew ties with old friends and to visit parents and relatives. If one fails to do so, the tradition is to light a candle in any church and say a prayer for St. Michael. The better option of course, is to gather some kababayans and their families and celebrate the fiesta in the part of the world where they are staying.
Let me close this post by sharing with you the Prayer to St Michael:
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle; be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast unto hell, satan and all the other evil spirits, who prowl through the world, seeking the ruin of souls, Amen.
Mary, Queen of the Angels, pray for us. All your seven Archangels of God, pray for us.
DAVAO City — Lately I visited Bangkok, the “City of Life”. It looks like Manila where the old and new cultures collide but with a different touch and ambiance of exotic Asia where Westerners are lured to discover. It is indeed a city busting with life because it is the center of trade and commerce and a prime tourist destination in Asia. Despite of the heated political climate obtaining in Thailand lately, where a regime is replaced by another through both violent and non-violent uprising just like our EDSA revolt,Bangkok is still a magnet for tourists.
I think Davao and Cagayan de Oro can learn much from Bangkok because unlike Manila and Cebu, they have immense potential for tourism, infrastructure and industrial development. I do not claim to be an expert in urban development. But I am a keen observer of things, people and situation so that I can share my observations to others who have the “K” and power to accomplish things. The people from the University of the Philippines, Asian Institute of Management and Development Academy of the Philippines, etc., must have such collective expertise to turn around our sleepy economy into a robust one if they can just learn to work together as a team. Of course they cannot move without the political will of the government to keep this team going.
I arrived at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport on an evening flight from Manila in August 22. I had to attend a week-long regional workshop on engaging the UN Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review at Intercontinental Hotel Bangkok sponsored by Save the Children Sweden. I would not delve much about the workshop but on what I observe there that makes the city a prime tourism destination in Asian region. Here are some of the features of Bangkok that are interesting:
First is the airport. They say that first impression lasts. Air and sea ports are the first “line of sight” of any visitor. As a rule of thumb, they must be impressive to attract visitors to discover what lies behind the gold linings of the ports. Bangkok Airport may not be grand as the Hong Kong International or the Paris International which I also visited some years ago but definitely it’s one of the best in Asia. Our NAIA pales in comparison with Suvarnabhumi in terms of its overall design and amenities. Our Davao International Airport looks like a tiny wing of its multi-layered and multi-faceted airport. One can literally waste his time in the mess of boutiques and stores selling souvenirs and duty-free gift items. The airport also offers luxury restaurants, gyms, games area, internet stalls, clinics, chapels and prayer rooms.
The second point of interest is the efficientrailway system. Bangkok airport is connected to the center of the city by two railway airport links aside from the usual public taxi and airport limousine which are appropriate for those with big luggage but are quite expensive. The traffic condition of Bangkok is terrible, to say the least, so travel organizers prefer the railway system for traffic-sensitive and budget conscious visitors. One railway is the non-stop Airport Express from the airport to Makkasan station in the East and the City Line which is heading to the Phayathai station to the West. It took me about 40 minutes to reach Phayathai for a fare of 40 Baht (around Php 60). From these stations you can transfer to the elevated Sky Train, also called the BTS to skirt the heavy traffic below and to proceed to any places in the city at no time at all. Our traffic congestion in Manila, Cebu and eventually Davao will surely ease with such an efficient railway system.
The third point of interest is the lodging and function amenities like hotels and convention halls. Visitors come because they want ease, peace and fun. I was booked at Room 411 of Holiday Inn Bangkok which is just a stone throw away from the ravaging BTS railway but I could not hear any roar and thunder as it passed by. The place was cozy yet homely, a great place to rest from all the day’s work and worry. Our workshop venue was at the Presidential I and II suites of the adjacent Intercontinental Hotel. If you take pride of Marco Polo and Insular Waterfront as the best that Davao can give, you might change your mind if you would see the Intercontinental at973 Ploenchit Road and other plush hotels in their category in Bangkok.
The Grand Palace, Bangkok (photo courtesy of www.thaiwebsites.com)
The fourth ispeople and places of interest. For those who are more culturally-inclined, they can visit many religious and cultural sites where distinct Thai arts are displayed and dances and songs performed. No wonder Bangkok is also called the “City of Temples” because of its numerous Buddhist shrines and images found even in the city’s busiest streets. There is one fronting the street from the Intercontinental complete with priests and dancers in ethnic costumes doing their thing almost 7/24. If you are lucky you can get a glimpse of the royal life of the revered King and Queen of Thailand doing their ceremonial functions in one of the state’s offices in Bangkok. Those who love outdoors can try the Koh Samui’s crystal waters of the Amari Palm Reef and other resorts to have a good tan. Shopping complexes selling hi-end i-Pods, 4G cell phones to second hand “ukay-ukay” are everywhere. Just make it sure you get the “best” of those fake gadgets for your money and not get skin rashes from those fancy clothes sold in the “bangketa”.
The fifth isfood. If I am right, Buddhism, the prominent religion of Thailand like Christianity, has no food restrictions. Authentic Thai restaurants like the Kum Poon and dumpling king Din Tai Fung located at the 7th floor of the Central World Plaza have a small stove and wok or pot on each table where customers can fry and boil their dishes as they wish. Thai food is usually spicy but visitors can always have a choice of their usual fare of burgers, spaghetti, salad and long array of Chinese dishes. For curiosity, I tried a pack of two sticks of ball-shaped street-made “longanisa” for 20 Baht near the Siam Train station. And lo and behold, it tastes exactly like the ‘longanisa” of the barbecue shanties at Magallanes and Claveria streets of Davao. The only exception is that the pack of Bangkok “longanisa” is not complete without shreds of cabbage and 10 pairs of raw “siling labuyo” which you ought to eat with your meal. What a hot experience indeed. Chow!
(This article first appeared on September 02, 2011 was published 2 at Mindanao Gold Star Daily (www.goldstardailynews.com) Emmanuel Roldan’s column Davao’s Peak . The author can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org)
About Emmanuel Roldan:
Emi is my kababayan from Padada, Davao del Sur. We went to the same high school and were altar boys and choir members in our parish church. Today, is a news editor/columnist of the Mindanao Gold Star Daily – a member of the Sunstar Group. Aside from being a journalist, he is also a development worker and a human rights advocate having served in various organizations engaged in human rights protection and development work. At work and at play, Emi was able to nurture his childhood love for music. He still plays mean tunes on his guitar and sings very well.
Up to the early 70s, there were no television and daily newspapers in Padada- my hometown. Our main form of information and entertainment during those years was radio. So we listened to radio dramas, to the radio commentaries, and to songs played over the radio. Radio announcers were celebrities, and radio characters were our heroes.
If we don’t like the radio program(s) and for lack of anything else to do before bedtime, we spent our time telling stories; or more accurately, the adults telling the stories and us the younger ones listening to them. On some of these occasions, they played games of wits – the most popular of which are challenging the other people in the crowd if they can solve a puzzle. The dynamics of the puzzle game was amusing. As one person gave his solution, the other people in the group retorts back why the solution is wrong.
Here is one of the puzzles I remember being discussed in one of those. Lets see if you can solve it!
The Rabbit, the Cat, and the Cabbage
A farmer is returning from the farm. With him is his cat, a rabbit and cabbage. On the way home he must cross a river. His boat is small one, allowing him to take only one of the three things. He can’t keep the rabbit and the cabbage together (because the rabbit would eat it), nor the rabbit with the cat (because the cat would eat the rabbit).
How shall the farmer get everything on the other side (without any harm)?
And for my kababayans, the original version is as follows:
Ang Rabbit, ang Iring, ug ang Repolyo
Ang magbabaol pauli na gikan sa iyang umahan. Duna siya dala nga iring, rabbit ug repolyo. Bag-o sya mo-abot sa iya nga balay, kinahanglan nga molabang siya sa usa ka sapa. Pero gamay ra ang iya nga baruto mao nga usa ra sa tulo nya ka dala ang pwede nya nga makarga sa baruto. Dili nya pwede unahon ug dala ang iring unya biyaan ang rabbit ug ang repolyo kay kaunon man sa rabbit ang repolyo. Dili pod nya pwede nga biyaan ang iring ug ang rabbit kay kaunon man sa iring ang rabbit.
Unsaon man iyang himoon aron malabang nya ang rabbit, ang iring ug ang repolyo sa tabok sa sapa nga walay mahitabo sa bisan usa sa tulo?