I received today another invitation to a baptism, it reads: “I, Chery May, invite you to come and join me to witness my christening on the 27th day of April, 2011, 10:00 a.m. at Saint William Cathedral, Laoag City.” I am asked to be a godfather to the cute baby whose photo appears in the invitation, together with an image of Hello Kitty.
I have made it clear to my friends that I am uncomfortable being a “ninong,” given the serious responsibilities attached to it. I am not referring, dear karikna, to the customary gifts during Christmases and birthdays, but to the guidance I have to provide, and this is the most important function of a ninong, on how to grow up a good Catholic.
How can I be a credible witness to the Catholic faith when I am in the middle of a campaign for the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill, a vital piece of legislation that the Church, using medieval logic, vigorously opposes? How can I help usher a young soul to a faith that still considers homosexuality as a natural anomaly? And how will I explain to an adult Cherry May all the hypocrisy in an institution rocked with scandals of every kind?
It is not, however, easy to turn down invitations to ninonghood because, in Filipino culture, such has great implications in the social context more than in the spiritual realm. Refusing to be a ninong can be insulting to the refused, and the reluctant godparent may find himself a few friends poorer. Good thing that I am not a politician, and have no intentions of seeking any elective post, not in the near future, and neither in the most distant tomorrow. And so I can say “no, sorry, can’t be a ninong.”
But how do I say no to the parents of Cherry May? Luz, the baby’s mother, is the daughter of Manang Gloria, our beloved househelp. I am already ninong to the children of two other daughters of Manang Gloria. Should I again accept this invitation, Cherry May would be the third. I must have been doing something good that the Valencia siblings would always want me to be a godparent to their children. Indeed, they treat me as family, in the same way our family considers Manang Gloria as our own. They trust me, and how could I refuse their invitation and be a snob?
So, maybe I should go, even if only to the second half of the affair. “Reception follows at Rosewell Hotel, San Nicolas,” the pink invite indicates. There I will go, and greet Leo and Luz on the important event in their child’s young life. There I will dine and, hopefully, drink. I will have my picture taken with other guests. I will take part in the fun and revelry. But in the middle of it all, I will whisper in Cherry May’s little ears:
“Dare to live dangerously, little child, and dare to defy.”