In the last 15 years, it has been a tradition at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) to hold Simbang Gabi when the Christmas season comes. For the cultural instituion, holding the novena (nine) Masses is no ordinary program but a special event that needs careful planning.
In partnership with the Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Pasay City and several business establishments around the CCP Complex, the dawn Masses held at the CCP Main Ramp gathers a daily audience averaging close to a thousand, while the Misa de Aguinaldo (Christmas Eve Mass) at the Main Theater draws people who spill over into the lobby.
The CCP Christmas Eve Mass is highlighted by performances from CCP resident companies Tanghalang Pilipino Actors’ Company, the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group, and the Philippine Madrigal Singers with participation of a 100-voice chorale, among and the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra.
While this season has been saddled with fears of contracting COVID-19, discouraging large gatherings including holding dawn Masses, the CCP has taken a different course in this time of the pandemic. Like its other programs, the CCP Simbang Gabi 2020 migrates to the digital platform.
The virtual Simbang Gabi will be from 15 to 23 December, at 9 p.m. (anticipated masses), and 16 to 24 December, at 5 a.m. (dawn Masses), and will be streamed via the official CCP Facebook page and YouTube channel. It will also be broadcast on the CNN Philippines channel.
CCP partners with various parishes all over the country — Our Lady of Sorrows in Pasay City; St. Peter the Apostle Parish in Loboc, Bohol; Our Mother of Perpetual Help (Redemptorist) Church in San Miguel, Iligan City; Holy Cross Parish (Margot) in Sapang Bato, Pampanga; Our Lady of Montserrat Parish in Jaro, Iloilo City; San Pedro Cathedral (also known as the Davao Cathedral) in Davao City; Our Lady of Piat Basilica in Piat, Cagayan; Santo Niño de Tacloban Parish in Tacloban City; and St. Francis Xavier Parish in Pueblo de Oro, Cagayan de Oro City.
On 24 December, 9 p.m., the Misa de Aguinaldo will be celebrated from St. Gregory the Great Cathedral Parish (also known as the Albay Cathedral) in Legazpi City, Albay, with rector/pastor Rev. Msgr. Noe Thomas.
The CCP Simbang Gabi will culminate with a special Christmas Day Mass (25 December, 10 a.m.) with Cardinal Luis Tagle presiding from Rome, Italy.
As a pre-Mass event, there will be a 10 to 15-minute video clip of the past Simbang Gabi activities (i.e. performances of the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Tanghalang Pilipino, Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group).
“In the time of crises and pandemics, art and spirituality help us rise from despair, and supported by the Filipino’s close ties to familial bonds, we get to form psychic sanctuaries… much needed and most timely in this season,” said CCP Production and Exhibition Department head Ariel Yonzon.
As an expression of gratitude, the CCP will also arrange small token offerings for the parishes which have been instrumental in bringing the message of hope and love this holiday season in spite of their limitations and difficulties.