December 23, 2014.
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
he Filipino community here did not disappoint me. They have their own Simbang Gabi celebration, so the streak is still on. My wife and I attended the service at St. Peter’s Catholic Church (more like a chapel), Mississauga, Ont. The church is small and very old, but cozy enough to seat about 100 worshipers.
Big or small it is the worshippers that matters. The old church might creak and moan with its wooden infrastructure, but it still brings out the best in everybody, especially at Christmas time. To me, Simbang Gabi masses always brings back memories of celebrating it back home. After mass, there are street vendors outside the church selling “puto bumbong” or “bibingka”. These delicacies are best eaten with hot chocolate made from pure cocoa called “tablea.” Ah…these are the simple delights of waking up early, going to mass, and eating warm treats that nourishes the body and soul.
Here in Mississauga, as in Chicago, there is a fellowship gathering after mass. And when Filipinos gather you do not go home hungry. Sometime you go home with even more food, I kid you not. So after mass we went to the basement of the church and there you see a full display of food all brought by the parishioners. Wow. There was pancit (fried noodles), lumpia (spring rolls), fried rice, egado (pork dish), puto (rice dish), rellenong bangus (stuffed fish), etc. These Filipino-Canadians have put the after-Simbang-Gabi fellowship in Chicago to shame. They even have Indian dishes like chicken biryani and samosa brought by fellow Indian Catholics. Moreover, for some of the home-cooked Filipino foods they serve here, it is only worthy for special occasions or small gatherings because they are difficult to prepare or expensive. I love it here.
I am all done. I have completed the nine-day novena mass. Tomorrow, I head back to Chicago and celebrate it with my family. As my advent journey closes, I am very thankful for this memorable experience. It has brought back memories of my youth and fun times with my cousins, singing Filipino Christmas carols again, seeing many churches, meeting new friends, and reflecting more on the importance of the blessing I have. It would have been an ordinary, rushed, and commercialized Christmas for me. Instead, it has turned to a beautiful experience.
I am fortunate to experience all this. I also have not forgotten those who are struggling with cancer, especially my recently diagnosed friend Helen, or those still at the infusion center of UofC. My advent journey has taken me to place I have never been to, made me experience new things, renewed my faith, and gave me additional pounds. Ha!
Maligayang Pasko (Merry Christmas)
December 21 – St. Peter’s Church at 7:00 pm. Done.
December 22 – St. Peter’s Church at 7:oo pm. Done
December 23 – St. Joan of Arc at 7:00 pm. Done.
Lots of food at St. Peter’s. Yum.
Two rows of food at St. Joan of Arc
Footnote: The “eh?” expression is very common among Canadians. They seem to say it every other sentence. Back to Chicago tomorrow for Christmas eve preparation.