Two weeks ago, I wrote about the Simbang Gabi at St. Patrick’s Cathedral which kicked off all the Simbang Gabi masses in the tri-state area.
As mentioned in my previous blog, Simbang Gabi has become one of the most important religious traditions, especially for Catholics in the U.S. A series of Simbang Gabi was held in one of the local community Parishes where I regularly visit. A humble missionary priest, Rev. Fr. Richard M., who has recently been assigned in NYC was tasked to officiate the said masses for the entire duration of the nine-day novena. The beauty of this kind of set-up, i.e., assigning one priest for the period covered is that it enables him to prepare and make a follow up of his prayerful talks the previous day. That was what happened in our case, Fr. Richard’s homilies served like a nine-day retreat or a series of recollection about the meaning of Advent and Christmas. The 9th day culminated the Simbang Gabi and I thought it was the most memorable and meaningful Simbang Gabi mass ever held at the said Parish. Prior to the main celebration, a brief chanting of Christmas carols was provided by the choir to have a "Christmassy" feeling in the air, so to speak!
Fr. Richard’s homily was unconventional, not just the regular talk, but there was a touch of art to it, accompanied by acting and singing presentation which required impromptu participation from the parishioners.
The liturgical music was excellent from my perspective, in fact it made the atmosphere joyful yet solemn.
Another Simbang Gabi was held at one of the consulates in NYC. Together with my choir friends, I was able to attend one Simbang Gabi at the said venue which was officiated by Msgr. Oscar Aquino of the St. Lucy's church in Manhattan.
Likewise, our group attended another evening mass at the St. Mary Gates of Heaven Parish, which can be compared like a one-day post Simbang Gabi. It was quite significant and momentous event as our group was invited and given the privilege to sing for a local community mass at the said Church for the first time in its history. Awesome indeed!
For Catholics worldwide, the month of October is dedicated to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. It is one of the major Marian feast days particularly for devotees of the Blessed Virgin Mary and believers of the significance and powers of the Holy Rosary.
The feast day of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Manaoag likewise falls in October and is consistently celebrated by Filipino migrants throughout the United States, particularly the natives of Manaoag, Pangasinan, a town which is about more than 100 miles north of Manila.
The original image of Our Lady of Manaoag is currently enshrined at the Church of Our Lady of Manaoag, where throngs of devotees and pilgrims visit every day.
It is reported that the image of Our Lady has performed miracles based on various testimonies inscribed at the said church’ murals and accounts by people who have received tremendous help and favors granted.
Almost all of the parishes in the United States where Filipinos are present and actively involved in the Apostolate would normally celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Manaoag. There were parishes like Our Lady of Pompei and the Immacualte Conception Church which commemorated the feast of Our Lady of Manaoag in the month of May.
However, at the Church of the Holy Child Jesus, the heads of the Filipino Apostolate decided to celebrate it last October 10, which coincides with the month of the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. A nine-day novena with the recitation of the Holy Rosary commenced the celebration.
A small replica of Our Lady of Manaoag , owned by Kuya Cesar and Ate Linda Quitalig, was present during the novena.
We were also privileged to be visited by the beautiful image of Our Lady of Manaoag dressed in “gold” robe during the day of the mass itself, courtesy of Mr. Michael Calicdan.
It was a special celebration as there was a coronation ceremony led by Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Guerrero and flower offering which were made part of the liturgy. The Holy Child Jesus (HCJ) Fil.-choir in their native Filipina dress and barong Tagalog rendered the liturgical songs and showed their wonderful talents during the entire ceremony, with the Himig Heswita’s version of Ave Maria Gratia Plena, as one of the highlights.
HCJ's FilAm choir tenors and basses
version of Ave Maria Gratia Plena, as one of the highlights.
The celebration last October 24, 2010 at St. Lucy’s Church in Manhattan may be considered as the culminating activity for the feast day of Our Lady of Manaoag in NYC. The event was organized by the Our Lady of Manaoag Society of America, led by its President Nida Cortez.. Mr. and Mrs. Ernesto and Rixie Tagle were the current Hermano/Hermana Mayores, respectively. The sponsors were the Board of Directors of Philippine Independence Day Council, Inc. (PIDCI) and the community representatives.
OLM image photo taken at St. Lucy Church, different from the one crowned at HCJ(courtesy of www.myusefultips.com)
Apart from the holy mass which was officiated by Most Rev. Oscar Aquino,JCD, other highlights of the celebration included the Blessing of the Medals. Installation of the Hermano and Hermana and the Sponsors, with the Investiture of Medals and Installation of Sashes, and the Crowning Ceremony.
It was a remarkable celebration, not because the church was jam packed with devotees and parishioners, but because of the 4 musical groups that offered and shared their talents, not only from FilAms but by foreigners as well. There was this amazing rendition of the liturgical songs by the Himig at Alay Music Ministry led by our friend Philip
the interpretation of Mr. Bob Kennaway, an American tenor, of the song “How Great Thou Art”,
the sax instrumental version of Ave Maria by a Venezuelan guy and the communion song “Lead Me Lord” by a few of the members of San Lorenzo/St. Lucy Choir.
(Venuezuelan man in the background)
As a matter of fact, Msgr. Aquino related one of the songs about God’s greatness that He gave us Blessed Mary, who is just like us, to be the Mother of Jesus, the Savior of the World.
Just like any other gatherings, the two feast day celebrations which I’ve witnessed both concluded with the partaking of food donated by devotees, line dance and the merriment. I would say, all of these could serve as ways of Our Lady giving back her gratefulness to us too!
Dedicated volunteers during HCJ's Our Lady of Manaoag fellowship (courtesy of www.myusefultips.com)
Line Dance activity during HCJ's OLM fellowship (courtesy of www.myusefultips.com)
Line dance activity at St. Lucy's social hall (courtesy of www.myusefultips.com)
Our Lady of Manaog is “canonically crowned image of our Lady of the Holy Rosary, duly recognized by the Vatican and enshrined in a church under the Dominican Order in the Philippines".
Back in my home country, I hardly experience the so-called “line dancing” perhaps due to the nature of my previous work and the lack of time for extracurricular activities.
I was relatively new in the U.S. when line dance (LD) was introduced to me by a hometown-mate at a festival. I wasn’t pretty much attracted to it at first because I didn’t have the drive in knowing it just then. It is not that I don’t have the knack for dancing, as a matter of fact at some point in my younger days, I get to be invited in dance troupes. It is also worth noting that I came from a place where merry making, dancing and singing are quite known and considered as an integral part of people’s social life, regardless of age, status, gender, profession and the like. Some of the professional ones even excel on this and at a world class level!
It took a couple of years for me to appreciate the dance and finally nailed it to a “T”. As they say, LD is ubiquitous, it's ever-present, always performed in any party or gathering here in the U.S.. I get the chance to see it wherever I go, be it in fellowships, weddings, birthdays,
anniversaries and any kind of celebration.
In fact, various parishes in NYC have acknowledged and took cognizant of the fact that a once-a-week activity could bring together the people to socialize, foster camaraderie among parishioners and gain new friends from all ages, from all walks of life. As such, it was impossible for me not to recognize the value and the importance of the said activity especially to migrants who want to preserve and convey their cultural identity.
As part of our apostolate in our Parish and in line with our goals for the choir, I took the initiative this summer together with the leadership and the other members to discuss and informally organize an LD fitness on Fridays for the members and co-parishioners. I thought LD was a neat form of exercise and recreation especially after a long and hard day from our respective daily norms. Believe me, I get to sweat heavily and it makes me feel a lot better and this is also the feedback I got from the rest of the participants.
It surely releases the unwanted pounds and the unnecessary fats and cholesterols from our bodily systems. LD is a better alternative to swimming, a way of exercise which is rarely or can never be done in a frigid zone like the U.S. Likewise, it could pave the way to raise funds (for the parish/choir needs) via voluntary donations from generous hearts and souls! We're fortunate to belong to a Parish which is very sup[portive and kind enough to accommodate our request and provide us a space for our dancing activities.
So far, the activity has been blessed with a very dedicated, committed and seasoned line dance instructor. She patiently taught us a repertoire of music and dance steps, even with those with two left feet was able to make it! Isn’t it great?
The more favorite ones are the dance steps to the tune of Totoy Bibo, Todo Todo, Cumba Semana, Baila Chili Chacha, September, Mama Maria, I Have A Dream, Waltz, Tango and the like. Dance steps are basically a combination of chacha, jazz box, meringue, shuffle, mambo, waltz, tango, soul, boogie, and a lot more. There are still remaining in the pipeline, I just forgot some of the titles of the songs.
I would say that the line dancing activity that we’ve recently ventured into is truly God’s blessing and hopefully said blessing will continue to thrive. Apart from providing us fun and enjoyment, it also gives us the opportunity to give our talents back to the Giver, making everyone happy gliding once again on the dance floor!
The whole experience is actually fun and rewarding. It is relatively easy to dance, so why don’t you give a try yourself. Take it from me, you wont regret it!
*line dance is choreographed dance with a repeated sequence of steps in which a group of people dance in one or more lines or rows without regard for the gender of the individuals, all facing the same direction, and executing the steps at the same time.(as defined in Wikipedia)
Hello, folks, I’m here again to blog about the subject. Please bear with me, if I may sound like so excited to give you updates on how our choir is doing. It is just so amazing how God answers prayers – indeed, sometimes in really strange unexpected ways, right?
As in some choir groups, our newly formed choir is made up of busy volunteers from our parish who view their membership as a stewardship of their 3T’s, time, treasure and talent? Rather than being with their respective families during weekends, the members find time to be with the group for rehearsals despite their hectic lifestyles, even to the extent of shelling out green bucks from their own pockets for the good of the choir. Oh yes, I would say this is the kind of choir members who are readily available and reliable in so many ways. Such good souls! Someone up there may just be so proud of them.
Thus, in exchange for their goodness and generosity, I would like to share this to my colleagues and to you guys out there whose passion is to be of service to the community thru singing.
Did you know that there are plenty of benefits that choir members get from joining choir groups? You will just be thrilled of the surprising gains from joining a choir and these include the following, among others:
1. It promotes positive attitude – Attending choir rehearsals regularly and praising the Almighty thru singing bring the brighter side of life and eliminate the negative things that dwell in you. When you go inside the choir practice room and see the warm smiles and happy faces of the people around welcoming you, the positive energy is just palpable and the effect makes you feel better. The song itself, especially the spiritual songs can inspire the choir member and can lift up her/his mood.
2. It creates camaraderie and fellowship among the members – It is not only the pleasure of singing that you get from being a member of a choir, but also the bonding experience. I have noticed that our choir members have become friends and there seems to have a genuine involvement with each other’s lives, real concern, interest and support.
3. It reduces stress, tension and depression – Some of the choir members may neither be actively involved in church activities nor are very religious, but they just love to sing. When they mingle with the more spiritually inclined people, they yearn to be more spiritual – be more closer to God and may become immune to stress and tension.
Likewise, it has been proven by scientific studies that when you sing, you give yourselves doses of “natural medicine”, specifically when you sing with passion. Learning and singing new songs helps one to keep the brain young and alert, thus providing significant benefits to a person’s body and mind.
Perhaps, you may have heard this before from your music teachers or from medical practitioners that singing or playing certain musical instruments (e.g. trumpet, horn, flute, or any related instrument) is in fact good for your respiratory system. A friend once told me that her doctor has encouraged her to continue joining the choir, both as a therapy and an interest, and also as a form of exercise for her lungs and diaphragm.
4. Choir rehearsals enhance the choir members’ vocal skills. As the old adage say, “practice makes perfect”.
Additionally, a choir member tends to be more expressive and her artistic ability is even more enhanced. Joining a choir gives also the member the opportunity to gain new insights and experience musical enjoyment in a supportive atmosphere.
5. Joining church choir gives choir members’ a sense of belonging in the church and the parish community as well.
Last but not the least and on a lighter note, when you join a church choir, you’re in a wonderful spot to see the full gothic inside view of the church, to observe the regular and the new parishioners, and most especially the opportunity to receive the Body of Christ ahead of everyone. Such a great privilege!
Hey, if you have the talent and the genuine willingness to share said talent, go and approach your parish music ministry head and I wish you a Happy Singing!