By Gloria Ross

Simbang Gabi – Traditional Filipino Mass Celebration over 9 days leading up to Christmas in Australia’s Capital, 8-9pm every night until 23rd December, St Monica’s Parish Church, Evatt, ACT.

This Simbang Gabi (Dawn Mass), is a common Filipino Christmas tradition. In the Philippines it is a series of nine dawn masses, although in Australia and particularly in Canberra it is being held in the evening from 8 to 9pm.

Fr Luis (Loi) Viovicente is the main parish priest in the Canberra suburb of Evatt. His parish is St Monica’s. Fr Loi started the Simbang Gabi masses in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) a few years ago and it has become a major drawcard for the parish with the church being packed out almost every night with people coming from all over the ACT and the surrounding NSW Capital Country region to attend.

RFA photo: Fr Luis (Loi) Viovicente, the main celebrant at St Monica’s Parish, Evatt, Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Fr Loi is from Tagum City, Davao del Norte, which is located in the southeast corner of Mindanao Island and the Philippines.

This Simbang Gabi Filipino celebration has been recognised by the Australian Catholic Church hierarchy who also attend the mass. In past years mass celebrants have been Archbishop and Papal Ambassador to Australia Tito Yllana, as well as Archbishop Christopher Prowse of the Canberra ACT and Goulburn (New South Wales (NSW)) Archdiocese, appointed by Pope Francis in 2013.

Simbang Gabi at St Monica’s is held in the evening from 8 to 9pm. After the church service their is a huge social gathering outside the church as different Filipino community groups in Canberra cater to the large crowds with awesome Filipino food.

RFA photo: A previous social gathering and Filipino food extravaganza at St Monica's Parish after the completion of one of the Simbang Gabi masses at 9pm in 2016.
RFA photo: A previous social gathering and Filipino food extravaganza at St Monica’s Parish after the completion of one of the Simbang Gabi masses at 9pm in 2016.
RFA Photo: Archbishop and Apostolic Nuncio (Papal Ambassador) to Australia Tito Yllana. Papal Nuncio Archbishop Yllana is originally from Naga City, Camarines Sur Province, Bicol Region, at the southern end of the main Philippine island of Luzon. The city is approximately 400 kilometres south of the Philippine capital Manila by car. Naga, which is considered the cultural capital of the Bicol region, is home to many old and influential Catholic institutions, from universities to churches run by different religious institutes. Some of these are Ateneo de Naga University by the Jesuits, the Universidad de Sta. Isabel by the Daughters of Charity, the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral; which is the oldest cathedral that is still standing in Luzon outside Metro Manila (400 years old), Peñafrancia Basilica Minore, which is the largest Catholic structure in Southern Luzon in terms of size and land area, Our Lady of Peñafrancia Shrine, the historic San Francisco Church, and Peñafrancia Museum. By Philippine Presidential Proclamation In 2010, Naga was officially named the Pilgrimage Capital of the Philippines. This recognised the many mammoth and spectacular religious festival and sites within Naga. Our Lady of Peñafrancia Festival alone draws in millions of visitors to watch one of the biggest, most colourful and energetic fluvial (river) festival processions in the world.
RFA Photo: Archbishop and Apostolic Nuncio (Papal Ambassador) to Australia Tito Yllana. Papal Nuncio Archbishop Yllana is originally from Naga City, Camarines Sur Province, Bicol Region, at the southern end of the main Philippine island of Luzon. The city is approximately 400 kilometres south of the Philippine capital Manila by car. Naga, which is considered the cultural capital of the Bicol region, is home to many old and influential Catholic institutions, from universities to churches run by different religious institutes. Some of these are Ateneo de Naga University by the Jesuits, the Universidad de Sta. Isabel by the Daughters of Charity, the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral; which is the oldest cathedral that is still standing in Luzon outside Metro Manila (400 years old), Peñafrancia Basilica Minore, which is the largest Catholic structure in Southern Luzon in terms of size and land area, Our Lady of Peñafrancia Shrine, the historic San Francisco Church, and Peñafrancia Museum. By Philippine Presidential Proclamation In 2010, Naga was officially named the Pilgrimage Capital of the Philippines. This recognised the many mammoth and spectacular religious festival and sites within Naga. Our Lady of Peñafrancia Festival alone draws in millions of visitors to watch one of the biggest, most colourful and energetic fluvial (river) festival processions in the world.

This event demonstrates the large and devoted Filipino-Australian community and vibrant multiculturalism which exists both in Australia’s capital as well as every state and territory of Australia.

This is now one of the biggest extended Catholic events on the calendar for the Catholic church in Canberra.

The Simbang Gabi tradition was introduced to the Philippines by Spanish friars hundreds of years ago to allow the farmers to hear mass before going to the fields early in the morning. Simbang Gabi is also known by its popular Spanish name as the Misa de Gallo, or “Mass of the Rooster.”

In the olden days, the church bells start ringing as early as three o’ clock, waking people up so they can get ready for the four o’clock dawn mass.

Photo: A Simbang Gabi service spills outside The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (canonically known as Saint John the Baptist Parish and colloquially known as Quiapo Church; Filipino: Basílika Menor ng Itím na Nazareno; Spanish: Basílica Menor del Nazareno Negro). Quiapo Church is a prominent Roman Catholic Latin-rite basilica located in the District of Quiapo in the City of Manila, Philippines. The basilica is famous home for the shrine of the Black Nazarene, a dark statue of Jesus Christ many claim to be miraculous.

 

Gloria Ross is the Director and Main Broadcaster
Radyo Filipino Australia (RFA), 91.1FM

This article was first published on www.radyo-filipino-australia.com

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