Four-Peat Simbang Gabi: Looking Back and Looking Forward

Last December 2008, my maternal grandfather was terminally ill with gastric carcinoma. As a science major, I knew that only a miracle of some sort can kill all those cancer cells which are paining him. I wanted to help but I ran out of solutions.

It came to me then to complete the nine-day Misa de Gallo. Much like visiting seven churches during Visita Iglesia, one is granted wishes upon perfect attendance of the Simbang Gabi. Thus on the dawn of 16 December 2008, I started what I never predicted would be a habit. On Christmas Eve 2008, I finally uttered my wish: Dear Baby Jesus, with your healing hands, please touch my Lolo Abner and take away this cup of pain from him. I want to go on more roadtrips with him.

Abelardo “Abner” S. Gatmaitan died on the 4th of January 2009 at 3:00 AM. Right before my eyes.

It was as if Baby Jesus mocked me. It was as if Mama Mary forgot to tell my prayers to her Son. It was as if everything negative in the world conspired against me. I hate living. I hate the world.

However when Lolo Abner was buried three days after, I finally got to better see his face inside his eternal bed. It was a peaceful sight to behold. Mission accomplished for my super hero. He lived a great life and it’s time to go back and report in to the Commander General. It was then that I realized it’s not yet my time. I have to follow his footsteps. Even go beyond farther where he traveled.

By December 2009, I completed a back-to-back Simbang Gabi. I wished for a second college undergraduate degree, a chemist license, and a job and Baby Jesus gave them to me on 2010.

By December 2010, I bagged a grandslam Simbang Gabi belt. I wished for hints regarding my American dreams. I got them during the latter half of 2011. I am still getting more actually.

And just this morning, 24 December 2011, like the Ateneo Blue Eagles, I claimed a historic four-peat Simbang Gabi. There are two things I wished for this year. I hope both of them come true, one by August next year, and the other, hmmmm well when I’m 29 years old or older. Haha. But anyway, these two wishes are both very important to me. 🙂 I’m not telling them exactly for now though. I don’t believe in jinxes and stuff but just to be safe…

The most striking Mass during this Simbang Gabi period to me would be Day 8, which was celebrated by Ateneo President Fr. Jett Villarin, PhD, SJ. His homily was in science so I like it so much haha. Anyway, when we look at someone, we actually see not the person him/herself, but his/her image some microseconds ago. The same goes when we look at the stars, and they are even farther. Those we will be looking at later might be dead for millions of years already.

Fr. Jett says that the key to living a meaningful life in the present is to understand the past and the future well. We learn to accept the lessons of the past and we accept the reality of death in the future. As a Heideggerian, I cannot agree more: how one dies is how one lives. We continue to hope and we continue to count all the blessings we have received. Life, is after all meant to be enjoyed.

My Lolo Abner is not a Catholic but he taught me how to observe this tradition just before his death. I hope that whether I am away from this country or not by next year, I can accomplish a five-peat. 🙂


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