If there is one thing that is so memorable this Christmas, it would be the nine evening masses here in Qatar. Before I left Pinas I thought I would never experience the Christmas spirit this year. Having no Christmas tree or colorful lights I was already settling to the idea that my Christmas would be just an ordinary and dry event this year. I was wrong. Never did I know that there is simbang gabi here.
Unlike the usual simbang gabi in Pinas, the mass was held at 10 in the evening (literal na simbang gabi talaga), which is 3 in the morning in Pinas. There were also some kakanin (puto, kutsinta, bibingka, piche-piche you name it) outside the Church and even arroz caldo and taho to warm our tummies. When I looked around, only Pinoys were buying food and walking around the church’s premises.
The church was always filled with big number of Kabayan (ang tawag namin sa kapwa Pinoy). Parang may laro lang ang Ginebra sa Araneta sa dami ng tao sa loob ng simbahan. I never thought that Filipino community has truly grown so fast here in Qatar. Para na rin akong nasa Pinas sa dami ng Pinoy na nakita ko.
One of the tradition of evening masses here in Qatar is to have someone to share his/her personal life lessons or experiences. There were duly assigned speaker for the night and some who had great courage volunteered to speak impromptu. Different stories from different people from all walks of life. There was a story of infidelity of a man who was far from his wife; a story of misfortunes with employers, unpaid salaries, the struggles of an ex-addict and now working abroad, a mother’s story abouth her daughter’s near-death experience while she is in Doha, a lovely couple’s story about the miracle of having a baby amidst the mom’s heart ailment and the story of a nurse who has been living in Qatar for almost 38 years and counting.
After listening to their stories, I felt the sudden sadness while looking at other people inside the Church. These Pinoys like me would be celebrating Christmas away from their families from our beloved country. I couldn’t imagine how many Christmases or any other events they missed out just to have something to be provided for their families. Inisip ko nga, ano kaya magiging life story ko dito sa Qatar? Magiging happy ending story ba din ako? Kakayanin ko rin kaya mga stuggles at hirap dito? Then naisip ko tama na muna ang drama. Isipin ko na lang hanggat kasama si lovelife makakasurvive na ako. (Yun yun eh!)
Going back to my simbang gabi story, I realized that what I am searching for this year’s Christmas spirit is only a product ofcommercial or material aspect of life. Kahit papaano naging materialistic din ako ng kunti lang naman. Siguro kasi nasanay ako sa makulay, masaya at maingay na kasiyahan tuwing Pasko.
I realized, there is greater and deeper side of Christmas which I witnessed through the nine evening masses.
If I will look at the spiritual aspect of Christmas, pakiramdam ko busog na busog na ako. Naimpatso na ako sa dami ng magagandang reflections I received from the nine evening masses. Magaling kasi maghomily si Father Kabayan (I forgot the name of the Pinoy priest). Eto lang ang simbang gabing hindi ako inantok sa homily. Para kasing tv series ang homily ni Father, meron at meron kang susundang kwento. Aside from the punch lines nya, sagad to the bones ang mga life lessons at insights nya about sa buhay-buhay.
If there is one thing I will truly keep as my life lesson from this year’s simbang gabi, it would be these two:
“Kung ano ang inumpisahan ay kelangan tapusin” and
“Sit and plan your life, kneel and offer your plans to God, and walk and act your plan.”
I hope in 2013 I could apply what I learned from simbang gabi.