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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Simbang Gabi sa New York 2014

Night Mass or commonly called Simbáng Gabi in the Philippines was originated in the early days of Spanish rule as a practical compromise for farmers, who began work before sunrise to avoid the noonday heat out in the fields. Priests began to say Mass in the early mornings instead of the evening novenas more common in the rest of the Hispanic world. This cherished Christmas custom eventually became a distinct feature of Philippine culture and became a symbol of sharing.

During the Spanish Era and early American Period, the parishioners would mostly have nothing to offer during Mass except sacks of rice, fruits and vegetables and fresh eggs. These were graciously accepted by the priests, who besides keeping a portion for themselves, would share the produce with the rest of the parishioners after the service.

Today in the Philippines, local delicacies are readily available in the church's premises for the parishioners. The iconic puto bumbóng, bibingka, suman and other rice pastries are cooked on the spot. Latík and yema are sweets sold to children, while biscuits like uraró (arrowroot), barquillos, lengua de gato and otap (ladyfingers) are also available. Kape Barako, a very strong coffee grown in the province of Batangas), hot tsokolate, or salabat (an infusion of ginger) are the main drinks, while soups such as arróz caldo (rice and chicken porridge) and papait (goat bile stew from the Ilocos region) are also found.

The rice-based foods were traditionally served to fill the stomachs of the farmers, since rice is a cheap and primary staple. The pastries were full of carbohydrates needed by colonial Filipinos for the back-breaking work they were subjected to in the rice paddies and sugar mills.

While here in Woodside New York, you will sometime see Kababayans selling our favorite kakanin right in front of the church main entrance despite this cold winter. But it is more convenient to eat this food in several Filipino Restaurants steps away from San Sebastian Church. 

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