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PHOTO BY DONNA MARIE SEVILLA People gathered around several tables to pick up a taste of Filipino cuisine in small bites of puto, cucinta and biko.

People gathered around several tables to pick up a taste of Filipino cuisine in small bites, such as steamed muffins and sticky rice cakes.

A Brampton church introduced a Filipino Christmas tradition Sunday evening.

Rev. Romeo Tolentino of St. Marguerite d’Youville Parish  said he was approached with the idea of an evening mass from some of the Filipino parishioners . Evening masses, also known “Simbang Gabi” is held for nine consecutive evenings and followed by a light meal of traditional Filipino food.

“When they realized I’m a Filipino priest serving in their parish, they said, ‘Father, could you establish a Simbang Gabi here because we never had one in Brampton,'” he said.

Simbang Gabi started in Mexico before it was brought to the Philippines by Spanish missionaries. In the Philippines the mass is held at 4 a.m, while the Brampton church is holding it at 8 p.m.

“It’s probably good for everybody because if you’re working from let’s say, nine to five, at least when you come home, then you get a chance to prepare to come to mass and celebrate with everyone who values this tradition of us Filipinos,” he said.

Simbang Gabi committee member Jess Aguas said that choirs from other churches came to sing for these masses and three of the choirs are from St. Marguerite d’Youville.

Some of the songs were traditional Tagalog – the dialect spoken in the capital of the Philippines – carols such as “Ang Pasko Ay Sumapit.”

“The goal of the entire committee is to inspire the community about the Filipino tradition that we’ve kept since the 16th century. To bring back the tradition in the hearts of the Filipino community and also to share it with others,” said Aguas.

Disability consultant Liz Leo said the church should have Simbang Gabi again in the future.

“I come to the church regularly and I had missed a few masses. I wanted to come tonight to participate, to see what it’s about,” said Leo.

Leo said she enjoyed going to Simbang Gabi for the first time.

The last day of Simbang Gabi commonly ends on Christmas Eve. It is called Misa De Gallo, which means “Rooster’s Mass.”

Because of Christmas Eve masses, the Brampton church will have Misa De Gallo on Dec. 23.

Tolentino announced that he is looking forward to the last day and has invited church goers to bring food for a potluck meal.