My earliest impressions of godparents were those persons you see only when it is not Christmas.
As a result, my Christmas memories consisted of the Belen and the Christmas tree, the class parties and exchange gifts, the “Simbang Gabi,” the caroling, the school holidays, and the Noche Buena.
All of the above except the presence of ninong and ninang.
Instead, my ninongs were the Three Kings who, every eve of January 6 on their way to Bethlehem, would pass by the house and place their toys beside our shoes by the window.
“May mga footsteps nin mga camello digdi,” I’d excitedly tell my mother my discovery the next morning, pointing at the muddy grounds in the garden.
“Seguro digdi nag agi si mga camello ni Melchor, Gaspar, asin Balthazar.”
To most of my parochial school friends, however, Christmas meant waking up on December 25 with gifts from the universal ninong Santa Claus.
Apart from this, we also had other sources of gifts, and they came from our parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts.
But where were ninong and ninang?
On a more serious note -- and to counter the lighter atmosphere above on our proverbial ninong and ninang -- I’d like to say something about them.
You see, as I meditate in church today I cannot help contemplating on the responsibilities of godparents, especially my responsibilities. Although it was customary for us to give gifts to our “ina-anaks” during the Christmas season, our main responsibility, I believe, lies in mentoring and guiding our godchildren to live a good Christian life.
I have a few godchildren myself in the Philippines with whom I have lost contact. I do not know how their faith stands at this time, so I shall write only about what I know, and that is about the obligations of ninongs and ninangs. I realize now that none of my godparents ever gave me any guidance on living a good Christian life.
Why do I put so much importance on this Christian tradition?
Because Baptism is the first and most essential of the sacraments. Without it, we cannot receive the other sacraments.
A sponsor (ninong or ninang) represents the child and speaks for the child. The word comes from spondere, to make a solemn pledge. It is the sponsor who requests baptism for the child who as yet cannot speak, and makes that solemn pledge to live a good Christian life. That is a morally binding pledge. Why?
Because baptism is a rebirth, and a godparent automatically becomes the spiritual parent of the child; that is, they contract a spiritual parental relationship with the child.
That itself assumes certain spiritual obligations; for example, the role to serve as proxy for the parents in case the latter fail to live up to their part as models of Christian living.
Another is to look upon the ina-anak and provide for them the proper spiritual assistance when necessary.
Indeed, the godparent’s role does not end but rather begins after the ceremonies. Sponsors have the obligation to look after the spiritual welfare of the child whom they have sponsored.
If we godparents only saw this, we will be truly playing our solemn role as official representatives of the people of faith. We would be worthy of the honor to be the first to welcome and introduce our ina-anak to the Christian community.
Mano po, ninong; mano po, ninang.
A Merry Christmas to all.