Tula sa Pasko: “Simbang Gabi”Posted: December 16, 2012
Rebecca T. Añonuevo
Si Nanay talaga.
Ipinaalala niya kagabi na simula na ulit
Ng siyam araw na nobena ngayong adbiyento,
At kung mabubuo ko raw iyon ay matutupad
Ang anumang hihilingin ko sa Diyos.
Alam ko ang gusto niyang hilingin ko
Na hinihiling niya para sa akin kahit mangitim
Ang tuhod niya sa pagkakaluhod
Araw-araw kahit hindi Pasko.
Simple lang ang sagot ko, pigil ang pagsinghal,
Habang pinaiikot-ikot ang bilog sa mata:
Kung ibibigay ng Diyos, ibibigay Niya. Sa isip ko’y
Hanggang ngayon ba’y kaliwaan ang areglo sa langit?
Ang totoo’y di sinasadyang sinasadyang buuin ko
Ang simbang gabi ngayong taon nang di inaamin sa ina.
Hindi ko alam kung ang mundong kasabay ko
Ay dumadagsa dahil may mga hinihiling din sila
Katulad ni Nanay para sa hindi nag-aasawang anak,
O may ipinagdarasal na maysakit, kaaway, kapatid,
Lumubog na negosyo, petisyon para sa Canada o Australia,
Pagtama sa lotto, o kahit man lang sa cake raffle sa parokya
Na nagpapamigay ng pulang scooter at mga bentilador.
Sa pugad ng mga Heswita ay nahabag ako
Sa puto bumbong dahil ang pinipilahan ng mga bihis na bihis
Ay ang churros con tsokolate at donut sa magkabilang tabi.
Gusto kong sabihin kay Nanay na ang pagsisimbang gabi ko
Ay tulad ng panalangin ng puto bumbong habang sumasagitsit
Sa nagtatanod na buwan: salamat, ulit-ulit na munting salamat
Sa pagkakataong maging payak, walang inaalalang pagkalugi
O pagtatamasa sa tangkilik ng iba, walang paghahangad
Na ipagpalit ang kapalaran pati ang kasawian sa kanila.
Salamat sa panahon ng tila matumal na grasya,
Sa sukal ng karimlan, sa budbod ng asukal ay husto na,
Ang di pagbalik ng malagkit na puhunan
Sa kabila ng matapat na paninilbihan at paghahanda
Sa anino ng Wala, luwalhating kay rikit! Tikom-bibig.
. . .
Rebecca T. Añonuevo (born 1965, Manila, Philippines)
You’ve got to hand it to my mother.
Last night she reminded me
that the nine-day Simbang Gabi masses begin this Advent,
and that if I manage to do the whole thing,
any wish I have will be granted by God.
I know what it is she wants me to pray for—
It’s what she constantly implores,
not caring that her knees have darkened from
her daily supplications, and not just at Christmas time.
I held my tongue and rolled my eyes
but answered simply:
If God means to give me something, He will. Could it be
that after all this time, slanted deals are still made in heaven?
To tell the truth, I did not mean to complete
the nine-day masses this year without eventually letting Mother know.
Could it have been because I felt in the crush
of people around me, the weight of a whole world’s
requests: including Mother’s prayer for her still
unmarried daughter to please find someone, including those
praying for the sick, for their enemies, their siblings,
for a business gone bankrupt, for petitions to migrate to Canada or Australia;
prayers to win the lottery, to win even just the parish cake raffle
(which also gives away red scooters and electric fans as door prizes).
But then, in the Jesuit compound my heart went out
to the lowly puto bumbong, because well-dressed churchgoers
were making a beeline for the stands selling churros con chocolate and donuts.
I wanted to tell Mother that my going to Simbang Gabi
was like the little puffs of steam exuding heavenward from the puto bumbong,
as the moon, austere, kept perfect watch: manifold in even its smallest aspect,
such gratitude as the chance to feel part of the whole, without thought
of having been short-changed, without regret for the concern that others did not show,
without wishing to swap fortunes or even the pains one has been given.
I give thanks for such finitudes that are nevertheless imbued with grace,
for the powdery cone of darkness and its just-enough dusting of sugar,
for the succulent body that will soon disappear.
Faithfully we serve, preparing the feast presided over
by the shadow of Death. And yet, how beguiling! The promise of fullness cupped
and brimful in the mouth.
Simbang Gabi is a succession of early-morning masses attended and performed by Roman Catholics and Aglipayans in the Philippines in honour of The Virgin Mary and in anticipation of Christmas/the birth of Christ. There are nine such devotional masses – making a “novena” – beginning on December 16th and ending with the Misa de Gallo (Rooster’s Mass) just before dawn on December 24th.
Puto bumbong is a special after-novena dessert: lilac-purple-coloured sticky rice (white and black rice combined) with butter, sugar and shredded coconut, wrapped in a banana leaf. “Puto” means the sticky rice, “bumbong” means the bamboo it’s cooked in.
“Simbang Gabi” poem © Rebecca T. Añonuevo
Translation from Tagalog: Luisa A. Igloria for the literary journal Qarrtsiluni
Image: “Simbang Gabi”: a serigraph print by Claude Tayag
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