The Godparent Effect

I ask for forgiveness to those who may find this offensive, but I started writing about as a sort of warm-up before another topic I wanted to write and I sort of got carried away. By the time I finished I realized I have written an entire essay. So it would be a shame not to share it, all this grumpiness…

I was explaining to a Muslim Indonesian friend this concept and found it very hard to do so I decided to write it down, and I hope you bear with me on this rant of a post.

Your Inaanak in English means your God-children; the word “anak” means “your child” and the “inaa-“ is a verb tense, sort of meaning to make. So you basically take the task or the action of being surrogate parent to a child, more traditionally on its baptismal. I know that like in the US, you can be God-mother/father to one certain child, and in most cases the child of your closest friend, and you are chosen because you are expected to stand as a second or support parent to these children. Now in the Philippines, you can be asked to be God-mother/father to an infinite number of children, and a child may have as much as 20 to as many God-parents his/her parents wants. This invitation is extended when a baby is Christened into the church, and in our country they say it’s bad luck to say no when you are asked to be Ninong or Ninang (Filipino term for God-father/mother).

Its connection to Christmas is that come the holidays, each Ninong or Ninang is expected to give their inaanak, a gift (also during their birthday). So you see the deviousness in this custom, as when your child has 20 or more Ninongs or Ninangs, he will be expecting a number of gifts. And because it’s unlucky to say no, you may find yourself being the proud, albeit reluctant, Godparent of A LOT of children. I have friends who have 100…

This is why you often hear of jokes back home of God-parents to be hiding under their beds or tables pretending not be home when their army of God-children come knocking at their doors during the holidays – which is of course at times not just funny but happen in real life.

One of the things I hate most about this concept is that prestige comes with the Godparents. For example, Manny Pacquiao, world-famous boxer is affectionately known as Ninong or the Godfather back home. Not because he is the second parent everybody wants to have but because he’s the rich guy who hands out wads of cash to everyone like a Godfather during Christmas…

So sometimes what happens is that it becomes all about connections, the worst is never you mind if you have never heard of the parents, some friend of a friend of a friend of your mom had a kid and heard that you have been doing well in life so presto, you are honored of being their new baby’s Godparent. This is whether you like it or not, whether you are aware of their existence or not.

So another common situation is that you attend a family gathering for example one Christmas, and they shove these kids at you (ones you have never seen in your entire life), telling you that you are their God-parent. They look up to you their eyes misty with hope of what present you have for them or how much newly minted bill will you take out from your wallet.    


What I hate about this most is that many of the children will never understand the true meaning of having God-parents, instead only have the idea that the more God parents they have the more gifts they will get during special occasions. I find that sad, and a little bit wrong… Imagine seeing a child and he looks at you like an ATM or Santa, and worst imagine their disappointment when you have nothing to give.

Never mind that you are an outstanding citizen of good character and values, one that you worked hard to build so that such a child may learn from you and follow in your footsteps, but come the special occasions you are the stingy God parent who forget about them, or the pathetic one who has no money to give or buy cool presents with.

On the flip side, some parents really just have lots of really good, close friends and having the Filipino attitude of being too nice, just doesn’t want to offend all their other friends by not asking them to be their kid’s God-parent. But in my opinion, if they really are your true close friend, I am sure they will understand that you need just one set of God-parent, the one set who you would want to adopt or at least help your child should God forbid you die, or is unable to be parent to him or her.

Let’s say you just really wanted to make sure your child just has a lot of other God-parents to guide him/her in life. That you, really don’t expect them to give a gift every birthday or Christmas. But would you really think your friends would be able to look you, especially your child in the eyes when you see each other and know that they have been neglectful of their gift-giving responsibilities?

The best you can do is make sure your child understands the true meaning or concept of having God-parents, and should your child be able to grasp this, I go back to my point in saying why have so many? And again, if your bountiful friends are genuine friends, they’d be second parent to your child, official God-parent or not.

I know I sound like such a scrooge, but this is the truth, and this is just me and as kids today say – keeping it real. I am the proud God-mother of six kids that I know of, children whose parents I share a bond with and truly care about, and had the basic requirement of being parents who I actually know and have met. I really don’t care about it being bad luck to say no. And to be honest my being away, is already killing me with guilt of how much I owe these six kids, so imagine my dread if I had actually had 100 God-children.

This morning my Mom asked if I would like to be Ninang to my baby cousin, and I said yes, because one, I know her parents, and two, her 10 year-old big brother is another cousin I just adore, and would’ve really wanted to be his Ninang but was not asked when he was born so I can pass that love to little Mary.  

To be honest I am afraid that after this post, I may never be asked to become a God-parent again. But again I just want to be honest, and perhaps maybe this way, people will think kindly before considering me as their child’s God-parent. I hope that they I understand that this kind of thing is not about having lots of presents or prestige or saving face, asking this of a person is a truly big responsibility one that must be taken seriously and considered quite deeply – if not for them but most importantly for your kids… anyway I’m just saying…





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