But, good for me and to my fellow OFW in Singapore, we are able to experience simbang gabi and bisita iglesia at the same time as the novena is celebrated in 27 different Churches with 3 churches simultaneously celebrating mass and being filled to the brim every night.
We have invited my In-Laws to spend Christmas and New Year with us here. And being religious folks, they have enjoyed attending the Simbang Gabi, even with the long bus and train travels and trying to find the correct church every night. And last night we have just attended the fifth of ninth masses.
Having witnessed the overwhelming response of the OFWs to Simbang Gabi for the last 4 nights, we have decided to go as early as 7:00 PM as the mass starts at 8:00 PM, just to be able to secure seats especially when we are tagging our 1-year old son with us. But to our surprise, we weren't even able to go to the 2nd floor which is the main floor of the church in St. Michael's. By the time we entered the church perimeter, I immediately noticed the crowd sitting in the plastic chairs in front of a projector in the void deck of the church. But we still tried our luck by heading to the main door but a communion minister told us that the church is filled with people already upstairs and are advised to find seats in the void deck. Luckily we were still able to find enough seats for us in the nearly occupied chairs of nearly 400 capacity.
Father Angel Luciano, a Filipino priest officiated again the mass. He was officiating the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th masses that we've attended. He gives homily mixed with humor and often giving funny lines with arroz caldo (porridge) which are being served after each novena mass. He also read emails sharing real life stories from OFWs in Singapore who've been offering the novena mass in exchange for their own wishes in life. One sender that he never forgets to share are from a certain "Trining". A filipina who've been here for 5 years and been following Simbang Gabi in Singapore for her fifth straight year now.
Their stories have one thing in common, they are all OFWs who are offering the 9 Simbang Gabi to God for a wish to come true. Which circles around on finding a good and stable job in Singapore for them to be able to fulfill their respective needs and to be able to help their families back home. But besides that, they are also trying to celebrate the spirit of Christmas the closest possible they could have celebrated it in the Philippines. A true home to all of us Filipinos. Merry Christmas everyone!