(SPOT.ph) Data analyst Glenn works double time to accomplish all his tasks just before Simbang Gabi begins, a nine-day endeavor he is eager to complete even after he moved to Pasig City from the province.
A native of Alfonso, Cavite, the 24-year-old now rents a condo unit near his office in Ortigas. Although he sometimes struggles to go home early due to his heavy workload, this will not stop him from keeping with the Christmas tradition he started in his teenage years, he said.
“Naging tradition na kasi talaga siya sa family namin na every year, kinukumpleto 'yung Simbang Gabi,” said Glenn, who grew up in a devout Catholic family.
“Kaya kahit na mahirap siyang gawin kasi maraming work lalo na kapag patapos na 'yung taon, I will really make time to still do it this year,” he added.
While it originated in the rural parts of the country during the Spanish period to allow farmers to hear Mass before they began their day in the field, Simbang Gabi has become one of the most celebrated Filipino Christmas traditions even in the cities today.
Aside from reminding Filipinos of the solemnity of the occasion, Simbang Gabi also gives churchgoers an opportunity to explore all the things the city has to offer during the holiday season.
Where to attend Simbang Gabi in the city
Traditionally held before dawn owing to its agricultural roots, Simbang Gabi today is also celebrated in early evening, allowing working Filipinos to hear the nine-day Mass just after they finish their work for the day.
For those living in the metro, this also means that Simbang Gabi is held just as the holiday lights in the city begin to glow, adding up to the excitement that the season brings.
Churches in Metro Manila offer a unique Simbang Gabi experience as most of them are located parks, malls, and other areas of recreation which churchgoers can visit before or after attending the Mass.
If you're like Glenn who wants to complete Simbang Gabi this year, or at least make it more memorable, here are some churches you can visit and other holiday activities you can do.
Located inside Intramuros at the center of the nation’s capital city, the Manila Cathedral is one of the oldest churches in the Philippines that saw the transition of the walled city from a Spanish fortress into an important historical landmark.
Aside from its rich history dating back to the 1500s, the Manila Cathedral offers churchgoers easy access to the attractions in Intramuros, including museums, casas, guided tours, and even Christmas bazaars that showcase the beauty of the walled city.
SCHEDULE: December 15-23, 8 p.m.; December 16-24, 4:30 a.m.
Just one ride away from Intramuros is the Quiapo Church, home of the revered Black Nazarene that celebrates its annual feast on January 9, just two weeks after Christmas.
Quiapo Church is one of the most visited churches in Manila as devotees pray for their special intentions to the image of the Black Nazarene, believed by many as miraculous. Outside the church is the famed Plaza Miranda which hosts several tiangges selling a wide variety of food as well as religious items and memorabilia.
SCHEDULE: December 15-23, 7 p.m. and 8 p.m.; December 16-24, 4 a.m. and 5 a.m.
Still in the city of Manila, the Binondo Church is also one of the most popular churches in the metro, where Chinese and Filipino cultures meet in the world’s oldest Chinatown.
Aside from the vibrant display of Chinese traditions even during Christmastime, Binondo also hosts a slew of restaurants and food stalls that offer Noche Buena favorites, like the famous Excelente Chinese Cooked Ham that hordes of people line up for during the holiday season.
SCHEDULE: December 15-23, 8 p.m.; December 16-24 4 a.m., 5:30 a.m.
Ayala Triangle Gardens
If you’re looking to attend Simbang Gabi outside of the typical church setting, then the Ayala Triangle Gardens could just be the place for you. This park situated within the Makati Central Business District glistens every year with a lights and sounds show that makes for an Instagram-worthy shot.
This year, Ayala Triangle Gardens also hosts its first-ever Filipino-French Christmas Market where visitors can buy unique food and gift items perfect for the season.
SCHEDULE: December 15-23, 6 p.m.
Nothing says Christmas season in the Philippines like holiday shopping in malls. As city dwellers go out to score yearend sales and discounts, several malls in Metro Manila host Simbang Gabi in their local parishes to make the Filipino Christmas tradition more accessible and convenient to its patrons.
For those who will be making a last-minute Christmas shopping, you can drop by these malls and attend Simbang Gabi as well:
- SM Makati (Our Lady of The Most Holy Rosary Chapel): December 15-23, 7:30 p.m.
- Eastwood City (St. John Paul II Parish): December 15-23, 6 p.m.
- Uptown Bonifacio (St. Gabriel The Archangel Chapel): December 15-23, 7:30 p.m.; December 18 – 12 noon, 7:30 p.m.
- Venice Grand Canal (St. Raphael’s Church): December 15-23, 6 p.m.
- Newport Mall: December 15-23, 6 p.m.
- Shrine of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Newport City: December 15-23
- Lucky Chinatown (Our Lady of The Most Holy Rosary Chapel): December 15-23, 6 p.m.
- San Lorenzo Place Mall: December 16-24, 5:30 p.m.
How to stay safe during Simbang Gabi
Like many public gatherings that have fully reopened as the pandemic waned, Masses and religious gatherings can now be conducted at 100% capacity with Metro Manila placed under COVID-19 Alert Level 1.
But since COVID-19 cases in the region continue to increase close to Christmas, it’s best to continue observing minimum health standards while attending mass gatherings like Simbang Gabi.
When you are inside the church, make sure to practice social distancing and wear your face mask. If possible, avoid the holding of hands during certain parts of the Mass to prevent the spread of the virus.
Some 13,000 police personnel will also be deployed around churches and other places of activity to provide security to people going out for Simbang Gabi and other Christmas-related events in Metro Manila, the Philippine National Police National Capital Region Police Office also said.