By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America Bureau
Dec. 24, 2013
LOS ANGELES – Long lines…packed parking lots…holiday decor…and some wrapped up gifts…
It’s not a scene at a local mall…but at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church for over a week now. Hundreds of Filipinos flock the place to participate in the Philippine tradition of Simbang Gabi.
“I do this because I used to do this in Philippines. I feel the spirit of the Pinoy Christmas,” Melissa de Guzman said.
Even if they have to wake up early to attend the nine masses, Nancy Jurok said, “I feel very energetic. We have to have the power for the Lord.”
Despite a new poll released by the Pew Research center, showing that only half of Americans consider Christmas a religious time, Filipinos believe the days leading up to Christmas is a time to show their devotion.
Despite the numbers showing a widening gap between the holidays and religion, Father Rodel Balagtas, who started this annual pre-dawn spiritual tradition twelve years ago in Los Angeles sad it has only grown since.
Balagtas said, “They say that Christmas is not religious anymore. We Filipinos think this is so profoundly spiritual and that if we really live the Gospel and understand the meaning of Christmas, we will really feel God’s presence and know there’s hope in the world.”
Los Angeles Consul General Helen Barber de la Vega noted that there were more people who attended Simbang Gabi this year. “It’s an expression of the kind of love that they have for the parish and for the community.”
Filipinos believe it is in Church and it is through praying that true holiday wishlists are fulfilled.
“The Simbang Gabi is a commitment we intend to keep,” Ellie Cabungcal concluded.
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