Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Simbang Gabi... Truly Pinoy!!!

Misa de Gallo… Simbang Gabi… Aguinaldo Masses… Christmas Novena Mass… I am now back in the UAE. This is the country where I grew up. A country 6,000 kilometers away from my beloved Philippines. Today was the first time I attended the Simbang Gabi in my Parish here. It is quite ironic since I live right across the church compound, and was not able to make the nine days for 2011. Attending the Simbang Gabi was something that made me proud to be a Filipino. It is one of the Filipino People’s contributions to the Roman Catholic Church. It gives us a sense on zeal, a sense of faith to those who turn to God in preparing for the great feast of Christmas. In my eleven years of stay in the Philippines, I was able to witness the richness of these nine days of preparation. This gave me several reflections and realizations.

First, the Simbang Gabi is an expression of one’s Faith. Many believe in myths that this practice is something that can make WISHES come true. “Pag nakumpleto mo and Simbang Gabi magkakatotoo ang wish mo.” Yan ang paniniwala nang marami kaya sila bumubuo ng Simbang Gabi. Wishes are based on the paradigm of chance. If you make wishes, you lack faith. Therefore I believe that Simbang Gabi is more than a practice of WISHING. It is an act of FAITH. Faith will allow us to move mountains. Faith will allow us to work with the will and power of God. Those who received answered prayers on these nine days did not just make a wish, they had FAITH.

Second, it is an act of self-discipline and sacrifice. Whether one attends the dawn masses or the anticipated masses, I am overwhelmed by the determination of those who complete these nine days. I commend you. It shows how much you are willing to sacrifice rest or long hours of sleep just to be with the Lord on these nine days. I guess if we are able to sacrifice nine days for the Simbang Gabi, then we can make further sacrifices for our Faith in the future.

Third, it is a communal act. It gives us Filipinos a sense of identity and belongingness. Whether I am at the Divine Mercy Shrine in Mandaluyong or St. Michael’s Church here Sharjah, the atmosphere of festivity and faith combined is simply something that is automatically realized. You will immediately feel that you are with your own. That need to belong is answered by this communal act.

Fourth, it is an act of giving. I say this from the perspective of a server. In the mass, I observed the servers here in Sharjah. I could relate to these servers. They are different from the servers in the Philippines. They are different and special because the servers here, many of them, are far from their loved ones. They are far from their loved ones, yet they are still capable of giving something to the people. In their brokenness they still have the willingness and courage to share. They are something that I look up to. For all the lay faithful serving at the altar, they do not just part take in the celebration like the usual mass-goer; but, they are privileged to be facilitators in uniting the rest of the faithful. They help the priest and the congregation unite in one voice to actively participate in this sacred mystery of faith. It is a gift of the server to the Catholic faithful this Christmas.

The Simbang Gabi is almost over. For those who have completed and have served in these nine days, I feel happy that you are doing something Filipino, something Filipino for your faith. May your Christmas be meaningful as these nine days of preparation.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A World Much Larger than One's Own

(From my Facebook Notes, October 5, 2011, World Teachers' Day)

Education is indeed a dynamic phenomenon. It makes or breaks an individual. It is an endeavor that becomes a meaningful reward to both the learner and the learned.

This school year is very different compared to the last five years of my teaching profession. I am now teaching in the school where I spent most of my basic education. It is meaningful in several ways. The school was a second home for me from the years 1990 to 1999 (Grades 3 to 12). It has contributed to my well being in several ways. Within those years, it has molded me trough the many challenges I faced and through the good people I have met along the way. This year I am back no longer as a student, but as a teacher. It is great and feels great to be back. To be with my past teachers and to be able to work with them.

I would remember back then, my teachers were the best source of knowledge and in many instances wisdom, which allowed me to see things from a different perspective. Many lessons that were considered significant always stayed with me. Straight grids for graphs that Ms. Ayesha Shaukat draws using free hand on the board while teaching Physics... Mr. Jerry Lovette's interesting stories and facts that supplemented the boring English Literature material... Mrs. Seema's long standing patience... Constructiveness of the Math lessons that I still remember to this date, Mrs. Sandra Qazamel's English portfolio during the Elementary years and many more.

But there is more to lessons in being a teacher. A teacher is someone who chooses to live his life so that others may also live. They are here not just to impart what they know, but also to impart their whole being. They share themselves so that their students may also live. It is a cause more noble than choosing to live for one's self. It is choosing to embrace a world much lager than their own.

To my fellow teachers in the academe, we must remember to keep hope burning every time we deal with the challenges of our profession. Let us continue to believe in what we do and in the potential of the young minds that we are molding. Who they will become is a reflection of how much we have really given them. We live in a globally challenged society that yearns for more free-thinkers that will allow humanity to survive amidst the social collapse and economic turmoil now and beyond. Let us have hope and give hope for we cannot give what we do not posses.

Today, October 5 2011, is our day. Let us continue to remind ourselves how significant we all are.HAPPY WORLD TEACHERS' DAY.