Monday, November 24, 2008

2008 Simbang Gabi Singapore

by Carmelita C. Ballesteros

Simbang Gabi is one of the unique characteristics of a Philippine Christmas. Simbang Gabi means evening mass or night worship. When I was a girl back in the 20th century, my folks called it misa de gallo. It’s a Spanish term which literally means dawn mass – a mass that is celebrated at four in the morning as the roosters crow at dawn.

In preparation for Christmas, the nine-day Simbang Gabi is held in Catholic churches, cathedrals, and chapels all over the country. It begins on the 16th and culminates on the 24th of December.

In the Philippines, many churches in the provinces celebrate the Holy Mass as early as five in the morning on a daily basis. So a misa de gallo at 4:00 a.m. isn’t extraordinary. It is neither inconvenient for rural folk who go to bed early and get up early.

But for me, it’s always been a huge effort. As a girl, I was always teased as a sleepyhead. I loved to sleep, and it was a chore waking me up.

Sleep would be heavy on my eyelids. The chilly breeze of dawn would keep me curled up under my thin cotton blanket. But my mother’s insistent invitation to rise and shine would become my father’s intimidating threat of a day deprived of puto-bumbong and bibingka! So I’d perk up and jump up and say, “Wait! I’m coming!”

As children, my siblings and I went to the Simbang Gabi not in anticipation of Jesus Christ’s birthday, but in anticipation of breakfast after the Holy Mass. Around the church would be food stalls selling puto-bumbong and bibingka which came with steaming cups of bottomless tea.

It was an annual tradition I grew up with. It is a Christmas tradition most Filipinos grow up and grow old with. It is a special season for family togetherness – going to church, hearing mass, and sharing a simple breakfast of native delicacies.

Living abroad as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), I’ve experienced many Christmases without Simbang Gabi. In Taiwan where I taught in a university, there were Christmases when I found myself teaching on Christmas. It was an ordinary working day for the Taiwanese.

Last year, I celebrated my first Christmas in Singapore. To my delight, there is Simbang Gabi in Singapore! It’s a multicultural city state which celebrates Chinese, Malay, Muslim, and Christian holidays.

Rev. Father Angel Luciano, CICM, a Filipino priest based at the Church of St. Michael, has made it his mission to spearhead the observance of Simbang Gabi since 1999. This is the 10th year that Father Angel is leading the Filipino flock in Singapore in remembering Simbang Gabi in the Philippines.

Ten churches are taking part in this year’s 10th anniversary of Simbang Gabi Singapore. All Christmas novena masses will be held at 8:00 p.m. starting at the Church of St. Anthony of Padua on December 15. Then the Simbang Gabi will move to the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea on December 16.

Each night, the Simbang Gabi will be celebrated in a different church with an active Filipino community. (See schedule below.)

Fortunately, there are many Filipinos in the church I go to, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi on Boon Lay Avenue in the west side of Singapore. The Legion of Mary, headed by Yolanda Ligon of San Miguel Bulacan, is taking charge of the preparations for the Simbang Gabi which it will host on December 20.

A sister organization of the Legion of Mary is the San Lorenzo Ruiz Choir which sings regularly during the 7:30 a.m. mass every week.

Thus, the San Lorenzo Ruiz Choir has been tasked to prepare a very special repertoire for the Simbang Gabi.

Led by Manny Rosmeros, and accompanied on the organ by Marissa Esguerra, the choir has been rehearsing since September Christmas carols to be sung before the mass. It includes old-time favorites: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing; Joy to the World; Ang Pasko ay Sumapit; Noche Buena; Pasko na Naman; Himig Pasko; Silent Night; etc.

The choir’s main repertoire for the Simbang Gabi promises to be a marvelous treat of original Filipino Christmas compositions by Jesuit priests Manoling Francisco and Rene Oliveros as well as Rene Gozum. The arrangement is by Norman Agatep.

For the entrance hymn, the choir will sing Gumising. Then they will sing Unang Alay and The Seed during the offertory. As the congregation receives communion, the choir will sing Emanuel, Paglamig ng Hangin, and Di Ba’t Pasko’y Pag-ibig.

The recessional hymn will be Pasko Na, a happy song which rejoices in the birth of the Infant Jesus.

To cap the jubilation, everyone will be treated to arroz caldo (chicken porridge) and pansit bihon (sautéed rice noodles) after the mass. Food is absolutely free for everyone courtesy of Father Angel, the Legion of Mary, and their generous donors and sponsors.

On regular Sundays, about 500 to 600 parishioners attend each of the three scheduled masses at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. On the evening of the Simbang Gabi, more than 2,000 people squeeze themselves into the church and the small parking lot in the churchyard.

People usually come one hour early in order to find a seat inside the church. Those who come late stand outside the church and listen to the mass through loud speakers.

Don’t they complain? No; they’re first in the queue to the arroz caldo!

Simbang Gabi Schedule (8:00 p.m. nightly)

1. Dec. 15, Monday. Church of St. Anthony of Padua, 25 Woodlands Avenue 1. Bus No.
912 or 912E (Berth 12). Contact Francis/Tony at tel. no. 97461255/91052930.

2. Dec. 16, Tuesday. Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea, 10 Yishun Street 22. Bus No. 804, alight at 2nd bus stop. Contact Lorena/Vivian at tel. no. 97414646/93226438.

3. Dec. 17, Wednesday. Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 24 Highland Road. Bus No. 24, 60, 70, 76, 103, 136, 147, 156, and 317.

4. Dec. 18, Thursday. Church of Christ the King, 2221 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 8. Bus No. 22, 24, 135, 159, 162, and 853. Contact Ving/Allan/Robert at tel. no. 92278043, 96548467, and 93853396.

5. Dec. 19, Friday. Novena Church, 300 Thomson Road. Bus No. 54, 143, 162, 167, and 851. Contact Rey/Sarah at tel. no. 90863457/90762186.

6. Dec. 20, Saturday. Church of St. Francis of Assisi, 200 Boon Lay Avenue. Bus No. 502, 174. Contact Yolly/Alda at tel. no. 94876534/81893796.

7. Dec. 21, Sunday. Church of St. Michael, 17 St. Michael’s Road. Bus No. 13, 23, 26, 31, 61, 64, 65, 66, 107, 125, 133, 147, 853, 857, and 985. Contact Father Angel at tel. no. 63920592.

8. Dec. 22, Monday. Church of the Holy Trinity, 20 Tampines Street 11. Bus No. 8, 17, 18, 28, 34, 39, 59, 292, and 518. From Tampines MRT, walk towards Simei (2nd crossing). Contact Zap/Marie at tel. no. 82881025/94783985.

9. Dec. 23, Tuesday. Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, 31 Siglap Hill. Bus No. 2, 7, 24, 25, 26, 28, 30, 32, 33, and 854. Contact Lyn at tel. no. 96569968.

10. Dec. 24, Wednesday. Church of Saints Peter and Paul, 225A Queen Street. Bus No. 7, 14, 16, 36, 106, 111, 131, 162, 167, 171, 401, 502, 518, 700, 700A, and 857. Contact Jenny at tel. no. 62563163.

Father Angel Luciano, CICM and images of Simbang Gabi.

Father Manoling Francisco, SJ and one of his compositions.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Going home for Christmas? Get travel exit clearance now.

Get travel exit clearance early, POEA tells returning OFWs
POEA News Advisory
November 4, 2008
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration advises overseas Filipino workers returning to the country for the holidays to have their overseas employment certificate (OEC) or travel exit clearance processed early to avoid the holiday rush.

Administrator Jennifer Jardin-Manalili said returning workers should avoid flocking to the POEA office in Ortigas immediately after Christmas and New Year’s Day as this results to long lines at the Balik-Manggagawa Processing Center.

To avoid the huge crowd, Manalili suggested that returning OFWs secure their exit clearance instead at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) nearest their jobsite even before their
flight to the Philippines, or as soon as they arrive in the country.
Workers going to the provinces may also get their exit clearance from the POEA regional offices nearest their residence. The POEA offices are located in:
1. Baguio City
2. Tuguegarao City
3. San Fernando City, La Union
4. Clark Field, Pampanga
5. Calamba City
6. Legaspi City
7. Tacloban City
8. Iloilo City
9. Bacolod City
10. Cebu City
11. Cagayan de Oro City
12. Zamboanga City, and
13. Davao City.

Manalili said OFWs may also use the OEC courier system that is available online at

Nevertheless, all POEA offices nationwide will be open on December 22, 23, 24, 26 and 29; and January 2, 2009; considered as peak days, to process exit clearance of returning workers, Manalili said.

Monday, November 17, 2008

2 Winners from Riyadh

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The Filipino community in Riyadh received from the Philippine Embassy its Press Release No. APV 82-2008 dated 09 November 2008. The press release announces the 2008 Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organization Overseas.

We are printing below the full text of the press release.


The Embassy of the Philippines in Riyadh is proud to announce that two (2) Filipino expatriates in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, whom it nominated for the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) biennial search for the Year 2008 Presidential Awards for Filipino individuals and Organizations Overseas, have been chosen to be among the awardees.

In a facsimile message dated 05 November 2008, the CFO informed the Embassy that Messrs, Alexander Edades Asuncion and Joseph Ilag Magdalena were among the 31 successful awardees from a total of 122 nominations received by the CFO from 29 countries. They won the Banaag Award, an honor conferred on Filipino individuals or associations for their contributions which have significantly benefited a sector or community in the Philippines, or advanced the cause of overseas Filipino communities.

Mr. Asuncion has 30 years of overseas experience. He was conferred with numerous awards for his outstanding service to the Filipino expatriates in the Kingdom, notable of which were the Bagong Bayani Award, Filipino Hero of the New Millenium and the Hall of Fame of OFW Achievers. He is not a lawyer nor has legal background but he has comprehensive knowledge of Saudi Labor and Workmen Law, which he used to give valuable advice and support to compatriots who are engaged in labor disputes at no cost. He used to be a correspondent of Arab News, one of the leading daily newspapers in the Kingdom, wherein he imparted legal counseling and labor assistance and reached out to all OFWs in the Kingdom.

On the other hand, Mr. Magdalena's status and achievement as one of the successful entrepreneurs in the Kingdom is a kind of Cinderella story. He rose from the ranks of ordinary OFWs using his creativity, innate talent, perseverance and patience to reach higher echelon where he now belongs. He is the General Manager and investor of one of the biggest groceries called "Pinoy Supermarket", which is gradually building up branches in the Kingdom. With his position, he helped the government promote all kinds of Philippine products and has been a consistent supporter and benefactor of the programs and projects of Filipino community organizations, individuals and the Embassy. His generous financial contributions to the Filipino community through the years without asking for anything in return, earned him the respect and admiration of the Filipino expatriates as well as the Saudi nationals. Despite his accomplishments though, he remains simple, humble and within reach to people of all walks of life.

Messrs Asuncion and Magdalena will both be recognized during the awarding ceremonies tentatively scheduled on 09 December 2008 at the Malacanan Palace in Manila, Philippines.

The complete list of awardees is as follows:


1. Association of Philippine Physicians of America - New York
2. Enverga, Tobias Jr. - Toronto
3. Filipino Women's Association United Kingdom - London
4. Stichting Kapatiran - The Hague


Catholic Medical Mission Board - New York
Children"s Chance CT - New York
Heetens Helpgood Center Philippines - The Hague
Ligier, Lauraence - Paris


Asuncion, Alexander - Riyadh
Berberabe, Patricia - New York
Carandang, Angeles - Chicago
Casambre, Sr. Mary Aida - Hongkong
Derpo, Esperanza - Abuja
Filipino Korean Spouses Association - Seoul
Garcia, Lamberto - New York
Ho, Eleanor - Taiwan
Magdalena, Joseph - Riyadh
Muzones, Santiago, Jr. - New York
Noblejas, Dr. Antonio - Wellington
Overs, Lilian - Toronto
Philippine Community of New South Wales - Sydney
Philippine Nurses Association of America - New York
United Filipino Council of Hawaii - Honolulu


Besa, Amelita & Dorotan, Romeo - New York
De Leon, Bayani - New York
Esguerra, Carlos - New York
Hizon, Federico - Singapore
Pelayo, Libertito - New York
Ramos, Dr. Teresita - Honolulu
Villarin, Engr. Nilo - Washington

We extend our heartfelt congratulations to the winners and non-winners as well. Please continue your noble endeavor. This list once again proves Ninoy Aquino when he said: "The Filipino is worth dying for".

Monday, November 10, 2008

Esperanza Derpo: Outstanding OFW in Nigeria

There is a saying that goes, “The best man for the job is a woman.”

We, OFWs in Nigeria, are pleased to inform all kababayans that our Barangay Nigeria Chairperson, Engr Esperanza Derpo has been chosen by the Presidential Commission on Filipinos Overseas as one of the recipients of the Banaag Award for the Year 2008 Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organizations Overseas.

The Banaag Award is given to Filipinos and foreign individuals or associations for advancing the cause of Filipino communities overseas or for supporting specific sectors or communities in the Philippines.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will personally hand-out the awards in a special ceremony tentatively set on 09 December 2008 at the Malacanang Palace.

Barangay Chair Esper is now on her 4th consecutive year of leading the Philippine Community in Lagos, Nigeria.

Throughout her leadership, Chairman Esper (as she is fondly called here) has rallied the Filipinos in Lagos (living, vacationing, or just passing by Lagos) to come together and build a strong community in Nigeria. To date, the PBSN Filipino community is one of the most vibrant and cohesive communities of expatriates in Nigeria.

Chairman Esper has ushered a new type of Filipino community, a more close-knit and more active community. The PBSN clubhouse is the meeting place of Naija Pinoys every Sunday, and the place to-be every first sunday of the month for the Family Day gatherings. The ‘Family Day’ was a brainchild by Chairman Esper to strengthen the ties, not only among Filipinos, but also to other nationalities as well.

OFW association

The PBSN, in cooperation with the Philippine Embassy, was founded in 1973 to formalize an already existing organization of Filipinos residing in Nigeria. Its foundations lay on the ideals of uniting Filipinos all over the country in the spirit of nationalism and friendship, while fulfilling a social responsibility to the host nation, Nigeria.

Charity Projects

In 2005, the Filipino communities in Ikeja, Victoria Island/Ikoyi, and Apapa hosted three separate fund-raising events for the Dept of Labor and Employment (DOLE)/Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA)’s project: “Classroom Galing sa Mamayang Pilipino sa Abroad (CGMA). Its proceeds helped put up more classrooms in remote areas of the Philippines.

PBSN also donated the proceeds of its 2006 Independence Day celebration to mudslide survivors in Leyte.

To acknowledge the graciousness of the host country, PBSN has organized as its pet charity project the Kiri-Kiri Initiative. It adopted a primary school in Kiri-Kiri, Apapa, Lagos area and provided financial and educational support to the pupils. The PBSN is represented by Mrs Veronica Bernas-Snoxell on this project.

Philippine Representative

Small World International Event, Lagos.For three consecutive years since 2006, the PBSN has been warmly welcomed in the Small World Event, the biggest fund-raising event in Lagos organized by an international community of Lagos Joint Women’s Groups. Philippines/PBSN is among the 27 countries featured in this annual event in Lagos.

The PBSN also serves as an envoy of the Filipino community of Nigeria to visiting Philippine officials. It has received Esteban Conejos, Under-Secretaryfor Migrant Workers Affairs in his 2007 visit.

Recently, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes and his team, who were invited by the Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) for the Lagos Economic Summit, were also received by PBSN officers and members.
PBSN Chair Esper Derpo receiving a Plaque of Appreciation from Amb. Masaranga Umpa and Vice-Consul Randy Arquiza last 2007 Independence DayLast 2007, the Philippine Embassy through H.E. Ambassador Masaranga Umpa awarded the organization for its cause-oriented projects and active role in the betterment of Filipino communities in Nigeria. It has, likewise, recognized the remarkable leadership that PBSN Chairperson Esperanza Derpo has exhibited in the organization’s various endeavours.

Welfare to Members/Kababayans

Coordination with the Philippine Embassy for consular matters or for assistance to some distressed OFWs, is a service the organization offers, not only to its members, but to all OFWs who sought its aid. Throughout the years, the members are rendered aid for the death of an immediate family member. At times of financial need, a ’soft loan’ may also be acquired by a registered member.

 Sundays Videoke at Caverton ClubhouseIt is under Chairman Esper’s leadership that the Filipino community in Lagos acquired its permanent clubhouse, hosted at Caverton Helicopter Staff House in Ikeja, Lagos. Gracious OFWs donated billiard tables, dart boards and sing-along equipment. It is now the permanent gathering place every Sunday for Nigeria OFWs in Lagos.

After more than 20 years in Nigeria, the PBSN community has grown in numbers, and evolved into a hybrid of Nigerized Pinoys. Each year, it meets a widening scope of social responsibility unfazed. Despite the changing of the times, it has upheld the ideals it has been founded on.

Congratulations, once again, to Barangay Nigeria Chair Esperanza Derpo.

Mabuhay ang mga Naija (Nigeria) Pinoys (Filipinos)…

The Philippine Barangay Society in Nigeria (PBSN) - serving Nigeria OFWs since 1970’s.

By: Maynard Flores
PBSN Information Officer

Maria Carlota Derpo
Editor, 2008 Independence Day Souvenir

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Obama nation

by Randy David
This article was originally published in Professor Randy David's column, PUBLIC LIVES, in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on November 8, 2008 (Manila time). He has given Barangay OFW his kind permission to re-publish this article. You may reach him at

He was, by any measure, the superior candidate: clear and eloquent where his opponent often mumbled and stuttered; cool and even-tempered even when the other would dish out sharp rebukes. Barack Obama projected a high-mindedness that made the veteran John McCain sound petty and insular. He was charming and attentive, where the latter appeared condescending and guarded.
Never cynical or arrogant, his confident retorts and measured replies to questions during the debates were always thoughtful and respectful. Even those who strongly disagreed with his views found him amiable. He was fresh and inspiring, where the other seemed stale and boring.
All these qualities are more familiarly summed up as charisma. Obama has lots of it, but he knew it wasn’t enough to win an election.
US commentators say America has never known a more focused and methodical politician. Nothing seemed to distract him. But that is also because Barack Obama ran a tight, energetic, and highly-motivated campaign.
Instead of hiring professionals, he relied on a corps of volunteers, mostly young people who could navigate the politically untapped world of cyberspace with ease. So disciplined was the campaign that the media could not get any inside story except from its authorized spokesmen. There were no leaks about internal rifts, resignations, apprehensions, or the onset of panic. Obama’s machinery hummed steadily and coherently until the last vote was counted.
Here is a politician who ran on a theme of change—change in the way politics is conducted, and change in the way government works. No better way was there to demonstrate the seriousness of this purpose than to radically deviate from the proven ways of raising campaign funds.
Campaign funds in US elections are normally raised by so-called “political action committees” (PACs) that represent the myriad private interest groups seeking to shape electoral outcomes. They hire professional lobbyists who make a living working the levers of congressional and executive power on behalf of corporate America.
John McCain relied almost entirely on this existing infrastructure of traditional politics. In contrast, Obama raised money directly from the voters who believed in his vision, appealing for individual donations of less than $200, while refusing any help from big corporate interests and lobby groups.
In this manner, he not only managed to raise more money than McCain, he also freed himself from the many restrictions on campaign expenditures that were attached to the usual sources of electoral finance. This allowed Obama’s campaign to dominate the airwaves, and, in the final stretch, to buy an expensive block of 30 minutes of prime time on US television to sum up the nature of his crusade for change.
Obama has set a high bar for all politicians everywhere in the modern world. But if one looks closely at his spectacular success, there is really nothing in his two-year trek to the White House that is new or magical.
I suppose it is possible for anyone with the right education to acquire the famous Obama demeanor through long arduous practice. But, if it is not anchored in character, it will surely come out as phony during unguarded moments.
Obama was effective because nothing he did seemed put on or studied. He made no effort to feign experience, even as he was aware that the record of government service by which many sought to test him is perhaps the thinnest among those who have aspired for the US presidency.
Neither did he offer virtuous innocence or naiveté, but only vision, dynamism, and hope in an uncertain world. Instead of the fear and paranoia of a post-9/11 America that George W. Bush had so viciously exploited, Barack Obama hitched his campaign to the awesome energy of an awakened popular optimism.
This has always been America’s strength—ungrounded hope, the driving force behind its boundless pragmatism. There is no theory of society or a philosophy of history here. Underpinning Obama’s program is a consistent problem-solving orientation founded on pure hope.
But foolish or not, the optimism that Obama has injected into American politics has already laid the foundation for a transformed society. The energy it has unleashed not only in America but in the rest of the world provides the kind of game-changing impulse that we all sorely need in this complex crisis-ridden era.
Few leaders have earned as much goodwill in an election campaign as Obama has. He stuck to the issues even when it was more tempting to trace America’s problems to the personal shortcomings and greed of its leaders. He spoke without resentment even while alluding to the historic injustices committed against his country’s racial minorities.
A few black leaders derided him for not being black enough, but he held on to the promise of the nation’s founders of a single nation emerging from the diversity of its peoples, united in the dream of an equal society.
This is quite different from the secular modernity of European democracy. In America, we encounter a large residue of frontier-type spirituality that thrives in small gospel communities. Obama traces his faith to such intimate churches, where members find themselves, in his words, being “summoned” and “moved” by a “higher truth” to “embrace a common destiny” and to achieve what had seemed impossible.
This unique blending of spirituality and secular pragmatism is expressed in the writings of William James. If the American nation has a homegrown philosophy, this is what it is, and President-elect Barack Obama has abundantly tapped into it.
(Barangay OFW sought to re-publish this article by Prof. Randy David because of the transformative change that the President-elect of the USA represents. It is the kind of change that we must seek as OFWs and as Filipinos. )