By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City-During the first simbang gabi (night mass), Philippine Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Vatican’s permanent representative to the United Nations, challenged Filipinos here to “transfer their enthusiasm of observing the Christmas tradition to their children and grandchildren.”
Auza, a native of the province of Bohol, said the Christmas evening mass tradition in New York remains the longest running Catholic practice in the US. “Immigration is an opportunity for evangelization. I wish we could do that to our youth,” he addressed to a large crowd of faithfuls here.
Auza, who was ordained into priesthood in Oakland, California in 1981, said that immigration could also mean erosion of religious values and lifestyle changes. He cited modern day practices in the US where family members get so preoccupied with digital gadgets that they hardly interact with each other even at home.
“I wish that you could share your enthusiasm to our youth” Auza stressed.
The Simbang Gabi event consists of nine evening maases which is organized and participated by various groups. Traditionally in the Philippines, it begins on December 16 and ends on Christmas eve December 24. At the Consulate, it begins early December to wind up in the middle of the cold winter month.
The Pasko sa Konsulado has always been carried out through the bayanihan (cooperation and support) system of Filipinos. Five community organizations handle one evening and take charge of inviting the officiating priest and choir, preparing food, and other details. They share the cost of the event as well.
Perla Garcia, a resident of Queens, said she is happy to take part in the simbang gabi for 2 years now because it makes her feel like home.
“I like that we have assignments to fulfill. This makes me feel Christmas and that I am truly part of the community.”
New York and New Jersey are home to majority of Filipinos in the East Coast.