*repost of my column in the June 12, 2011 issue of Cordillera Today
That first time, I was seated at the stage left side of the “Presidential Table,” among the other godfathers. Nope, it wasn’t a Mafiosi meeting, rather a wedding reception. I was in my late twenties and my friends, fellow theater artists who were once students who sort of had their on-the-job-training as stage managers under the theater group I founded, thought that despite my relatively young age then, I deserved the honor of being their ninong sa kasal.
While I cherished my honorable seating arrangement, I did envy my wife who was seated among friends and were laughing their heads off perhaps gossiping about this or that bridesmaid, I had no idea, I was busy answering my seatmates’ queries about Viagra and hypertension, which I answered with a polite, “I’m sorry I have no idea.” I really didn’t then – “then” being the operative word here. Though I still have no idea about or need for the blue pill to date, I do have some knowledge about hypertension now.
Since then I, and my wife too, have been regulars in many a wedding invites' billing as godparents. And more often than not, if members, current or former, or even just acquaintances, of our theater group, Open Space, decide to tie the knot, we would be asked to be godparents.
I am extremely honored every time I am asked to be a godfather because I’m just almost always broke, and ninongs, specially in weddings, are expected to outdo one another with the “blessings” they bestow upon the newlyweds: a kitchen showcase (a mere rice cooker are for pansies), the latest model refrigerators (forget about that ref-looking rice dispenser), the biggest LCD TV (non-flat screens are bad for the eyes), or at the very least a fat check. I have attended a reception where an emcee announced how much each ninong and ninang gave the newlyweds, and with each announcement that exposed how a particular ninong gave more than the other, the “outdone” ninong wouldstand up and write a new check, or pull out wads of cash, to “redeem his honor.” I was a ninong in that reception, and I gifted the bride and groom with stage management services. Nice. In another wedding, I gifted the couple with photography and videography services.
But in more than one wedding, my gift was, well, being there – on that day. And to date.
Because, and this isn’t to simply come up with an excuse for being cheap, or at least not being able to even remotely match my co-godparents’ endowments, I, in all honesty, believe as a godparent, whether to a child at his baptism or to a couple at their wedding, that I’m not expected to be there only on that one day where I get to wear a barong Tagalog and leather shoes. As a godparent I expect to be expected to be there beyond the reception and the toasts. I know of a friend who "fired" one of their son's ninongs for never showing any interest in their son's development as a child.
I will try to find time to have that serious talk with an inaanak sa binyag who’s taken an interest in being a gangster; to help patch things up with my mga inaanak sa kasal who are going through a rough patch; confront that husband whom the wife suspect of infidelity; and help remind another wife about why she fell in love with that artist in the first place.
I write this as a couple is wed some 300 kilometers away from where I am. I was supposed to be there, but couldn’t. Simply, and quite frankly, I’m broke at the moment and couldn’t afford the trip. I regret not being there on this day. But that’s ok, I have their whole lifetime, for as long as I myself am still around, to be there for them. That’s one of the risk they took when they asked me to be their ninong.