NEW YORK CITY – In a letter sent by Archdiocese of New York to the Philippine Consulate of New York a few months ago, Archbishop Timothy Dolan told the Filipino-American community that it does not approve of having “Simbang Gabi” pre-Christmas masses outside a sacred worship place – such as the consulate.
But community leaders here say there is no stopping the 26-year-old holiday tradition of Christmas gatherings at the historic Kalayaan Hall in the Consulate.
Their solution: to replace “Simbang Gabi sa Konsulado” with another Filipino Christmas tradition called “Panunuluyan sa Konsulado.”
"Panunuluyan" is the Filipino version of the Mexican Las Posadas – nine evenings to commemorate the biblical account of Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem, culminating in the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger.
Instead of having a mass, the second part of Panunuluyan sa Konsulado is an advent meditation facilitated by Father Patrick Longalong.
“It’s really a big deal to have the Panunuluyan here in the Consulate in New York. We could say that the Filipino Christmas tradition is not just limited to the celebration of Simbang Gabi,” said Father Patrick Longalong.
Last year, the Archdiocese of New York questioned the holding of masses at the Consulate after an unnamed member of the community questioned the holding of Simbang Gabi outside the Catholic Church.
A spokesperson from the Archdiocese told Balitang America that based on Catholic Canon Law, masses are prohibited outside the confines of the church’s holy ground.
Longalong said, “There is wisdom in gathering the Filipino Community in the Tristate area together to pray, especially during Christmas. It reminds us of our Filipino Catholic and Christian identity, that there is no separation between our faith and what it means to be a Filipino.”
Panunuluyan sa Konsulado is ongoing nightly at 6 pm ET until December 14.