The sound of church bells is echoing and the cool breeze of December is here to embrace us. This means, it's time for the faithful to attend novena masses before Christmas comes.
The nine-day “Simbang Gabi” or “Misa de Gallo” is not only a famous religious practice but also one of the favorite Christmas traditions of Filipinos. The wondrous beauty of the churches, the lively Christmas songs inside and outside the church, the delicious Christmas delicacies around, and the gleeful faces of the people you will see make fighting with the cold weather and the urge to sleep early all worth it.
Most importantly, the main essence of Simbang Gabi is to prepare our hearts for the nativity of Jesus – the true celebrant of the season. So, as Simbang Gabi approaches, PhilSTAR L!fe listed seven churches that you must visit as a perfect sanctuary for your preparation and prayers for the season.
Beaterio St., Intramuros, Manila
If you are fond of the vintage beauty of Intramuros, then you might be already familiar with the artful church known as the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception or "Manila Cathedral."
The shrine is considered “the Mother of all churches, cathedrals, and basilicas of the Philippines.” That is why it is one of the prominent churches in the country that is frequently visited by Filipino people and tourists for Simbang GaIt features Neo-Romanesque architecture, solemn ambiance, valuable statues and relics, as well as stained glass windows. While the church's officials have yet to announce its schedule for Simbang Gabi, it has previously celebrated the mass every 8:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. from Dec. 15 to 24.
Redemptorist Road, Baclaran, Parañaque
The National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, or popularly known as the Baclaran Church, is not only famous and vastly visited for its Wednesday devotion (Baclaran Day), but is also a famous sanctuary for the Filipino tradition and devotion when Christmas approaches.
The church's modern Romanesque design, detailed decors, serene mass, and vast number of devotees will move your heart and awaken the spirit of Christmas in you. This shrine’s ambiance offers you a perfect venue for prayer and devotion and a place to unite with thousands of Filipino whose hearts are also preparing for the jolliest day in the country.
Prior to the pandemic, the church has been celebrating Simbang Gabi every 8 p.m. from Dec. 15 to Dec. 23 and at 4 p.m. on Dec. 24. Visit its Facebook page for updates on this year's schedule.
Basilica Minore Del Sto. Niño De Cebu
Pilgrim’s Center, Osmeña Boulevard, Cebu City
One of the churches that have long been deemed a must-visit for Pinoy Catholics is Minor Basilica of Sto. Niño in Cebu. The church has the child Jesus as its patron, which means visiting it for your Simbang Gabi is perfect as you are preparing for Jesus’ birth.
It is famous for being the oldest church in the country, having been initially built in 1586 by Fr. Diego de Herrera. Since then, the church has survived two fire incidents, with its iconic image of black Sto. Niño surviving every catastrophe.
The church is also visited by thousands of pilgrims and Catholics, especially during Simbang Gab that is usually scheduled at 7 p.m., 4:30 a.m., and 6 a.m. from Dec. 15 to 24.
Session Road, Kabayanihan Baranggay, Baguio City
With the cool breeze and fog of Baguio, its popular church on top of the hill—the Baguio Cathedral of Our Lady of the Atonement—is surely one of the must-visit churches for your Misa de Gallo devotion.
The rose-colored cathedral is picturesque especially at night, complete with Christmas decorations and lights. It is one of the most photographed tourist attractions in the City of Pines so make sure to snap away, especially by its crucifix outside, right after attending Mass.
The shrine has yet to announce its Simbang Gabi schedule, but it has previously held masses every 5 a.m. from Dec. 16 to 24.
Diocesan Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of the Abandoned
J.P. Rizal cor. V. Gomez Streets., Santa Elena, Marikina
The glowing beauty of the Diocesan Shrine and Parish of our Lady of the Abandoned in Marikina, especially during the Christmas season is one of the reasons why you must add this Church to your Simbang Gabi to-go plans.
The Church has Baroque-style architecture, large-scale ceiling paintings, as well as intricately designed altar and facade. Aside from its physical beauty, the serenity and faithfulness of many believers are one of the wondrous qualities of this church — a perfect place for meditation and prayer.
Parroquia de Santa Maria Magdalena
CWW3+294, Tanggulan St, Kawit, Cavite
One of the churches you must visit outside Manila for your Simbang Gabi devotion is the Parroquia de Santa Maria Magdalena located in Kawit, Cavite.
Apart from being a safe haven for those who want to spend a serene time with God, the church is a sight to see—from the altar and facade to the lively Christmas decorations and lights.
Quezon Boulevard, Plaza Miranda, Quiapo, Manila
Another remarkable church in our country is the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, famously known as the Quiapo Church. This church is one of the most famous Basilicas in Metro Manila and is visited by thousands of Filipino devotees coming from different regions, believing in the miracle of the Black Nazarene.
During the Christmas season, the church is decorated with stunning decors and lights and is also surrounded by numerous vendors selling well-loved Filipino kakanin, Christmas gifts, and religious items that make the spirit of Christmas much alive in everyone.
Last year, Quiapo Church held Simbang Gabi every 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. from Dec. 15 to 23.