Today marks the start of the annual Filipino Advent novena, Simbang Gabi. In Parish C, hundreds of Filipino American Catholics gather at 5:30 a.m. for Mass, followed by a breakfast of traditional Filipino delicacies – all intended to wrap up by around 7:00, in accordance with a tradition base on the need for the peasants to be back working the fields at dawn.
We went this morning. My wife and I sort of stumbled across this devotion last year, and, even though we certainly don’t look Filipino, everyone very graciously welcomed us in. There are maybe a dozen European-looking people in the group, most of whom seem to have Filipino spouses. The gracious acceptance we felt is typical of Filipinos, in my experience. They are a warm and gentle people.*
We’ll be going back tomorrow. Maybe by the 9th day, I’ll be able to sing some of those funky Tagalog songs. As for the Filipino delicacies, let’s just say the Italians and French (and Thais, and Chinese, and Indians…) have nothing to fear. De gustibus non disputandum est. The ginger tea is good.
* A lot of my personal warmth toward the Philippines comes from a fine young man who my mother hired to help out with my dad, when his dementia and failing health made it impossible for my mother to care for him alone. He was always cheerful and kind, especially to my parent. He helped make my parents last couple years much better. Wherever he is today, may God bless him and his family.