THOUSANDS of survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda flocked to the ruined Santo Niño Church on the first of nine days Simbang Gabi novena masses despite the pains and hardships they’ve been through last month.
Archdiocese of Palo spokesman Father Amadeo Alvero said on Monday the people of Tacloban were excited to witness the first dawn mass. “The Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo went well. In fact, the Church was filled with thousands of devotees,” Alvero said.
This year’s Simbang Gabi had strengthened the people’s faith “despite the pain and the difficulties they had gone through” in order to survive the super typhoon, Fr. Alvero said.
The super typhoon on November 8 ravaged many areas in Leyte, Samar, Capiz and even Palawan and Cebu, leaving 6,000 dead, thousands more missing and properties leveled to the ground. The typhoon had also cut off electricity and telecommunications in the affected areas and ruined historical churches like Santo Niño Church.
“This year’s Simbang Gabi, compared to previous years, is special for the people as they witnessed the real meaning of Christmas by calling God to come to their lives in the midst of devastation brought about by Yolanda,” Alvero said.
Even before Yuletide season entered, the people of Tacloban knew the spirit of giving based on their experience of donations coming from “generous people” all over the world, the priest said.
The Simbang Gabi started at 4:30 a.m. for the synchronized mass with other 13-vicariate parishes compared to previous years’ masses that started at 4 a.m.
In Bohol, meantime, the dawn mass was celebrated in makeshift places of worship after legacy churches were pulverized by the 7.2-magnitude quake on October 15.
In Dauis, Bohol for instance, the mass was held under an acacia tree.
“This is really a very good occasion to show us that the church is the people of God. In other words, with roof or without a roof, we can still worship because the church is not the building, but the people,” said Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.
“If the people gathered under the clear skies that is still church. What is important at this time is the human person.”
Earlier, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle has discouraged the holding of “Simbang Gabi” in malls or shopping centers, noting that the parochial church is the usual venue for the celebration.
“We do not allow Simbang Gabi to be celebrated in hallways or corridors of shopping malls where the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is exposed to shoppers,” Tagle said.
However, the prelate clarified that the “chapel”—recognized within the jurisdiction of the parish church—are giving permission to celebrate the Misa de Aguinaldo “only with the consent of the parish priest.”