That was fun. I need sleep.
By Day 9, we’d begun to learn some of the Tagalog songs. Hope the Filipinos near us can forgive our no doubt atrocious pronunciation. But enthusiasm seems to count for a lot in Filipino liturgy, and we were all over that angle.
In sum: doing a novena of Masses with a crowd of good-natured people full of Christmas cheer at 5:30 in the morning is a good, grace-filled and happy thing to do. Some of our kids made it at least a couple times. We’ll be back next year.
Different parishes and groups took turns providing the choir, celebrant, readers and post-Mass breakfast. The choirs were enthusiastic, and had a number of really good singers in them. They did a lot of 2-part harmony and men vs. women arrangements. In general, the musicianship was as good as one finds in a typical parish singing group, and the enthusiasm (and volume!) were much better.
While my original note that Filipino cuisine is unlikely to supplant Italian, French, Indian, Thai or Mexican on the world stage still holds, (it could maybe give English cuisine a battle – but even that would be and uphill fight, as fish and chips are, at least, pretty good) it should be noted that, as is the case with food in general, it does make all the difference in the world who prepares it. The mainstay chicken and rice soup, for example, was pretty good each day, but really good one day. The real issue seems to be rice flour – if that’s a key ingredient, you’re going to run into gummy, dense items a good bit of the time, barring the intervention of some culinary genius or, say, wheat flour. But, hey, it was really generous of these people to cook all that food first thing in the morning, and it was perfectly edible and often tasty.
Music: I’m pretty sure that Common Practice music and composition reached the Philippines several centuries ago, so that, like Mexican music, there’s no doubt a body of Filipino liturgical music that sounds a lot like Palestrina and Vivaldi and Bach as written by enthusiastic locals. There may even be some indigenous, non-western music. Be that as it may, the music we sang at simbang gabi had three apparent sources: 1) liturgical music as can be heard anywhere in America – Marty Haugen, for example, and Silent Night; 2) pop/theater/adult contemporary music written by Jesuits; and 3) music in the style and of the quality of ‘folk’ music. Since the Mamas and the Papas were not Filipinos to my knowledge, it’s a mystery just whose folks this music is from. Having seen pictures of lovely old cathedrals and churches in the Philippines, I have to wonder: what happened to the music appropriate to such buildings? When they were built, I’d bet the choirs weren’t strumming 3 cord songs on mandolins…
Simbang Gabi was a wonderful experience. Thanks and prays for the lovely people who put it together.