A Big THANK YOU From Ze Birthday Girl

I didn’t want to eat up a huge chunk of your news feed to post a mile-long status so I figured I’d put it here instead. Hope you take a couple minutes to read through.

I just want to express my sincerest, most love-filled gratitude for everyone who took the time to greet me through  Facebook/IG, text messages, Viber, photos and collages.

I promise you, I was either grinning from ear to ear each time my phone would beep with a new notification, or I would tear up because I was so touched by your words and effort. Secondary love language ko kasi ang words of affirmation, so your words and expressions really meant a lot. Whether you really know my birthday or you just saw one of my posts of FB reminded you, I truly appreciate you taking the time to greet me. God bless and keep you all, my loves!

Birthdays, while joyous occasions, can also cause the celebrant the tendency to wax nostalgic and sentimental about getting older. I like to think we all grow just a tad bit wiser as we age, and I like to think that I did.

If there’s one thing the previous year really taught me was to love myself first. Three, four years ago, a lot of my self-value was still hinged on other people’s opinions. Even if outside I was all putting up a strong, take-no-bullshit facade, inside, I was still a bit of that lost girl, craving attention, craving acceptance.

I spent a big part of 2014 just getting to know myself more. I relished my solitude. I spent a lot of time in recluse, foregoing a lot of activities to stay in at home, do stuff by myself, at times almost to the point of appearing anti-social. I learned more and more not to be scared of being alone. I was alone, but I wasn’t lonely.  While I had the love of my family and friends and God, I realized that my happiness does not rest solely on other people. They can’t make me happy if I wasn’t happy with myself.

As I celebrate another banner year and enter 2015, I’m not going to make any fantastic resolutions or promise to undergo any drastic changes. My only goal is to make everyday just a wee bit better than the last. As my FB cover photo says, in the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take. I’m sure 2015 won’t be perfect and I’ll probably do some more blunders, but well, those things come with the territory, right? They come with taking risks. And I can only pray that whatever outcome those choices bring, they’ll make me tougher than I already am.

So, cheers to my 32nd and God give me strength to face the work week again! 🙂

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Dating Been-There-Done-That

Ever met or dated a guy, and after a while, you get that feeling that everything seems oh-so-familiar?

1. When a guy texts you at 2AM to “just hang out.” Block the schmuck completely especially when he starts the message with “Ei” instead of “Hey.” What, he’s too lazy to key in an extra letter?

Remember, nothing good ever happens after 2 AM.

2. When he tells you you are the most interesting, one-of-a-kind girl he’s ever met and he just wants to spend all of his time with you. Alone. Just the two of you. In out-of-the-way, far-flung places where there’s very little chance you’ll bump with people he knows. Because you’re just so damn precious and unique he wants to keep you as his best kept secret… especially from his girlfriend.

As a good friend – who seems to attract married or attached friends like a magnet – loves to put it: “Gagawin pa kong spare tire. Bakit kasi kukuha-kuha sila ng owner-type jeep kung gusto naman pala nila sa Ferraring pula sumakay.” Pak.

3. When he invites you over to watch DVD’s at his place. While drinking. At night. When everyone else is away. And he gives you directions instead of actually exerting effort to pick you up. And oh, while you’re at it, can you bring food as well?

If you don’t see that train wreck coming, then my dear girl, you deserve to be hit.

4. When you’ve just met and gone out on exactly one date, after which he constantly send you text messages  to know you whereabouts. Like all the time. He also stalks your Facebook check-ins and tagged photos from your friends. He’ll flood your chat inbox with constant, “Eat ka na? Where ka na? Sleep ka na?” and acts jealous when you don’t reply right away. Suddenly he’s everywhere, like all the time.

It’s a toss between flattering or borderline stalking.

5. When you become the ever dependable tropa, that wise sage he consults regularly as he tries to get over his ex. You’re there when he rants and wants to rehash every little detail to find out what made their relationship go kaput and why the hell is she dating a new guy now? Until eventually, he starts mentioning her less and less and shows more and more interest in you. And then you kid each other, like why don’t we just go out? Like, crazy right ha ha.

And when you two finally do go out, the rest of the world shakes its head and sits back to see how long this rebound thing will last.

6. When a guy you date occasionally texts you where you are and when you reply and ask him the same, nada. Well, now he sure knows where NOT to go, eh?

7. If, after an amazing, romantic night out on your first date, the bill arrives and he’s suddenly busy fiddling with his phone or he doesn’t even offer to at least to split the bill, pay the whole dang thing and walk away. Fast. Don’t look back.

8. When a guys has too many mobile phones or phone numbers. Unless he’s a cellphone dealer or sells load. Same goes for multiple Facebook or IG accounts, often not under their real names. Unless the rest are fan sites or fan pages… which can be get pretty dubious if he’s not a celebrity.

I guess when you start romping around the dating scene really young and fast, you also learn the lessons and mistakes harder. You’ve seen the scene, dated the players , the older ones, the young ones and everyone else in between. And when you’re a single mother, you’ve definitely had more of your fair share early on, but thankfully, you grow up, wise up and move on.

As Cuba Gooding’s character in Jerry Maguire, football player Rod Tidwell, so succinctly put it when his agent (Tom Cruise) asked him for advice on dating a single mom (Renee Zellweger’s Dorothy Boyd):

“Single mothers don’t date. They don’t date date. They’ve been to the circus, you know what I mean? They’ve been to the puppet shows and they’ve seen the strings.”

Don’t get me wrong. If you enjoy the above-mentioned dating scenarios, good for you. Just remember that while spending a bit of time in the circus (or jungle or hell, whatever metaphor suits your dating experience) is fun and kilig and painful and enlightening, at one point, you have to get out. You have to stop dating the jugglers who pass you around like a ball, the clowns who just fool around with your feelings, or that incredible man who eats fire and glass shards who just burns and cuts your tired, little heart into tiny, smoldering pieces.

 

*This post was inspired by several funny conversations and observations. If you are one of those old, bitter single women such as the author of this piece and her equally cynical friends, do share your dating deja vus in the comments section. Happy circus-ing!

The Write Way

The year twenty-fourteen is winding down to its last few days and pretty soon, my social media feeds will be flooded with posts looking back on the year that was, and counting down New Year’s resolutions.

I only have one major to-do for 2015: start writing again. I haven’t written anything more substantial than a grocery list in almost a year, and after scrolling through several blogs lately and feeling an inexplicable ache, I realized I had pretty much given up on the one thing that has always brought me comfort in the past.

Writing.

If I were to compare this year with the few that preceded it, it was – for lack of a better description – uneventful but exhausting. It was devoid of any major changes, sensational happenings, dramas or heartaches that made the previous years more (cringe) memorable.

But for some reason, it was so dang exhausting. I wasn’t dating anyone but I felt so emotionally wasted from being giddy one moment, then down in the dumps the next. It didn’t dawn on me until my best friend gave a simple yet sound advice a few weeks back.

“Wag mo masyado dibdibin lahat.”

And then I realized just how much energy, thought and emotion I was pouring into my work that I was getting physically and emotionally tired. I tried to hide it behind perky smiles and colorful Instagram photos and apps-made motivational quotes, but half of the time, even I wasn’t buying it myself. Which was kinda scary because I didn’t want to turn into a bitter, burned out hag.

So, I won’t wait until next year. Right now, I’m gonna get off my tired, lazy bum and revisit my go-to outlet whenever I’m feeling anything. I’M GONNA WRITE AGAIN. Probably the first few pieces I’ll churn out will be total garbage so please pardon me and just block me the heck off.

But I won’t stop writing.

Perhaps I’ll finally learn to drive even if just an automatic and write about it.

I’m going to try to stop saying “no” to invites all the time because the I-have-too-much-work-to-do” excuse is just lame. And I will write about it.

I’ll drink my vitamins and milk religiously and achieve the weight I’v so longed for and write about it.

I’m gonna be more patient with people and try not to bite their heads off whenever I’m in a foul mood, and if I feel like punching someone in the neck, I’ll just write about it.

I will devote more time for my quiet time, my VG and church and maybe, just maybe, do get that small group at work off the ground, and write about it.

I’m going to get a head start on that 15-year reunion stuff I’m supposed to spearhead and write about it.

I will strive not to snap the next time someone makes another comment how I’m not getting any younger and having a boyfriend is the only way to ensure my true happiness and prove my worth as a woman. I might as well just write about my impending old maidenhood, yes?

Heck, maybe I’ll go on that date my boss has been setting me up with for the longest time just so I can say I’ve tried to go on a blind date at least once in my life, then write about it.

You know what they say about the pen being mightier than thee sword? Well in my case it’s going to be my laptop’s keyboard. And I’ll slay the blues and doldrums by putting them into word and sentences.

So here’s the deal, 2015, I am going get a life and let the world know about it in all it’s painstaking and gory details.

Yikes.

 

Day 5: Beaming Birthday Beki

Today I say a huge prayer to God for another year in my life. Another year to learn, love, laugh, cry, earn, stumble, get up and spend time with my family, friends and even meet new people. More of you Lord this year!

These three made me flash those (not-so) pearly whites today:

1. Second day of delicious brewed coffee and bacon, plus another brekkie fave of corned beef with onions and potatoes. Yum!

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Power birthday breakfast!

2. A powerful message at church to start the year right, and give us strength for this week’s prayer and fasting. Lifting to You my and Your children’s faith goals this year, Lord!

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

3. Birthday dinner at local Japanese eatery Eat-Sumo Terihaus since all of us were in the mood for some maki and bento boxes, then pistachio-cashew ice cream courtesy of Mama. Double-yum!

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At magkakatabi magkaka-size hihi!

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Happy birthday to me!

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It’s our fave flavor!

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Also teaching my mom how to use Camera 360 para kahit nasa States, wit oily fez!

Follow the sun, birthday girl!

Three years ago, I still had some of that quarter-life crisis angst, the incessant desire to change and the lack of discipline to really do so. I was turning 28 and I was feeling 28! I think I spent the day wandering aimlessly at the local mall and had a facial, then wrote a post where I vowed not to change. Or change slightly, I’m not quite sure now. Here it is anyway. Birthdays do have that tendency to put the celebrant in a nostalgic yet panicky mood. Suddenly, I feel I’m running out of time, what the heck happened to my life, I’m not ready to get older, blah blah blah, cue shriek and scream and foot-stomping. Prior to this birthday, I don’t remember much how the previous ones went, I guess. A couple of the usual handaan sa bahay (I never got one of those resto kiddie parties) then the latter ones are all jumbled in one drunken haze. Yikes.

Two years ago, right about this time, I was preparing to pose a month-long challenge to myself, and post in on Facebook as my birthday shout-out: to give up drinking for a full 31 days. Back then, it was real challenge because my weekends were normally spent doing errands by day, then hanging out at the local bar or some officemate’s house getting drunk silly. Long story short, some of my most horrifying memories, meltdown and relationships were influenced by alcohol, so at the ripe old age of 29, I vowed to get a grip on this nasty habit.

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I succeeded on the one-month liquor embargo, and actually managed to quit drinking almost completely for the remainder of that year. I say almost because I had at least one more embarrassing alcohol-induced meltdown before I was finally able to conquer this one heck of a persistent demon. But yeah, now I don’t prowl the streets anymore clamoring for a drink like a vampire hunting for blood. And I know better now than to chase down emotions with a shot of tequila.

A year ago, I greeted my big 3-0 with a night in town with my two sisters. It was a quiet but lovely evening of shopping, Japanese food, coffee, tea and cake, and some rare sisterly bonding. I spent the next day with family and just relaxed. I was able to finish off a list of 30 big and small stuff I vowed to do before hitting the milestone age. If you’re curious what are those things, read it here, 30 Before 30.

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Tonight, I spent it watching “The Croods” with my daughter Ging, drinking another cup of brewed coffee so I can stay up until midnight, whereupon I would pat myself on the back for surviving another year, and thanking God for staying with me all throughout. I’m more excited about my daughter’s birthday next week. One more year before she becomes a teenager and I start fretting more about her future.

So in the tradition of getting nostalgic and panicky, as I turn 31… I promise not to make any grand declarations of a personality overhaul or sweeping declarations of things I’ll change. I just want to strive to do my best, to get up everyday trying to be a better version of what I was the day before. I just have to make sure I stay on a path towards my goals and walk in His light and sight. I will remind myslef it’s okay to be afraid of changes, but to still forge ahead even if it means I can be better. Some days I’ll fail, but I’m confident, with God’s grace, some days, I’ll make it.

I’ve been carrying this sentiment for a while now, but a line in The Croods earlier perfectly encapsulated it:  “Don’t hide. Live. Follow the sun. You’ll make it to Tomorrow.”

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Not to scare you guys or anything, but this is how 31 looks like taking a selfie and not knowing where to freakin’ look hahaha! Pagbigyan, birthday naman eh. 🙂

Day 4: Laughter Is A Bunch of Smiles With Audio and In 3D

After a good night’s sleep where I got to wake up late (no reviews for Ging today, yey!), I greeted the day with a goofy, sleepy grin and spent a good part laughing (with Ging, too).

1. For breakfast, I had thick bacon slices, sunny-side up egg, hot malunggay pandesal with butter and freshly brewed coffee. Glad I don’t have to do some post-holiday penitence at some gym something, hihi. Peace!

2. I started using this rich and fragrant shampoo from local organic brand Human Nature. My hair fall is really alarming me, and this product promises to strengthen hair and reduce hair fall. It has aloe vera so I certainly hope it does the job. I love Human Nature products, They’re a tad bit more pricey than mainstream supermarket brands, but compared to other 100% organic products, they’re a steal. Plus, when we buy HN products, we support the livelihood of our local farmers and producers. Check out their amazing products here.

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3. I rented some videos: The Croods, Evan Almighty, Despicable Me 2 and Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2. Blame it on Starworld for showing Part 1. So even though I’ve never watched the earlier movies and I dislike Kristen Stewart with a passion that surprises me, I watched and enjoyed the movie. I was even so caught up during the fight scene between the Cullen coven and the Voltouri that I tweeted Carlisle died, only to realize few minutes later it’s just a vision by Alice. Hihi. Buti na lang, sayang naman siya! Also watched The Croods with Ging and we had some pretty good laughs over the caveman family’s antics. We also had a few secret sniffles during the scene where Grug had to throw his family to the next cliff to save them from lava and splitting ground, and his headstrong daughter Eep refuses to leave him. But it’s all good because the movie ended on a happy note.

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Day 3: Smize, it’s Friday!

Wishing all work-weeks are like these: back to work on Thursday, then bam, back to that weekend feeling the next day. Haha! A girl can dream, right?

Still feeling pretty blessed I got to enjoy lots of vacay time and holiday off-time this year. I shudder to think of my past life doing night shift for a US-based account and feeling sorry I was taking calls in the middle of the night while my family had Noche Buena back home. I have such high respect for fellow BPO industry employees rendering work during the holidays. God bless you! Hang in there folks!

So even though I had to get up early again, I found three reasons to smize today!

By the way, the word “smize” was coined by the supermodel Tyra Banks during Cycle 13 of her show America’s Next Top Model , which means “smile with your eyes.” I’m not too fond of those duck-pouts I often see in selfies and photos, their eyes usually expressionless. I say if you gotta smile, your whole face should convey the happy expression, right? And since the eyes are the windows to the soul and all that jazz, I say if you gotta smile, smize! Better yet, Super Smize!

1. My former team, TimBu (with the special participation of my office BFF Mark Aclo) suddenly gathered behind me in the middle of me listening to calls and presented me with an early birthday gift. A surprise smize from me! And since I’m a definite candidate to flunk that marshmallow test, I couldn’t wait til my actual birthday and unwrapped my gift right away. I got a BDJ planner which I really wanted since it’s specially made for a girl plus there’s a lot of freebies and coupons. This is my second BDJ planner and I love it. I love that my anaks know me well and got me something I really love! Thanks a looot!

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Nakaw shot sa locker area during the first break. Thanks to my brow Mitch Llacer for the photo.

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Sweeeet!

2. Another person was all smiles when he got a planner today too! Our MO, Markus, was really happy he got the 2014 Starbucks planner he’d been hinting at for the last couple of months. Just a little thank you from your ASP ALIVE Family, boss!

3. Another smize brought to me by a pair of nude, shiny stilettos on sale at one of my fave shoe stores! I sure am glad I held off ordering online because I got these cheaper, the fit was amazing and it’s in the color I’ve always wanted. Perfect complement for my new turqouise and pink dresses that are just waiting for upcoming events this year – a wedding, a graduation, and even just for those I wanna-feel-pretty-and-fierce days at the office. Yes, matangkad na ko but I still wanna wear heels. Got a problem with that?! 🙂

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Got a pair with a more sensible heel length. I liked how the five-incher made my gams go on forever but I had to think more practically. I wanted to wear this more often without getting dirty looks from my, er, more petite co-workers. 🙂

Day 2: Happy To Serve

For January 2nd, my reasons to be happy to serve and work:

1. Back to work. Yeah it’s hard to get up when everyone in the house is still asleep, and it’s already past 6AM but the sky is still dark and there’s nothing better but to snuggle under the covers in this holiday chill, but someone’s gotta werk it! It’s feeling Monday on a Thursday with a new dress in my fave new color for 2014!

2. I’m almost done with all my e-mails and deliverables. Had some misses from December but vowing to improve on my opportunities this year!

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3. Ramen-date and catch-up chikahan with my maldita friend, Cy! Hope to have more bonding sessions with her and more success, happiness and love for the both of us this year. I can feel it, girl, let’s claim it!

Day 1: With A Smile

*I promised myself to stick to posting one every day and start the month/year right, but my laptop’s down again and the WordPress app in my Blackberry’s acting up again so I’m publishing three days’ worth in one go. 

Welcome 2014!

I know I haven’t posted in a while and I have to get up early for work tomorrow so i’ll make this brief. Also, I’ll post alter about my 2013 blessing-of-the-day album in Facebook. That was a year-long project I truly enjoyed and learned a lot from.

I can feel 2014 is going to be busier, crazier and will just push me to my limits. When blessed, I will be grateful and gracious. And while I will call upon all my strength, patience, friends, families and God to help me in times of need, I will still remember to be thankful – and smile. For real.

I’m no science expert and I don’t know which of these has more traction, but I read that contrary to popular belief, it actually takes more muscle to smile than frown. While they say the actual number of muscles used to smile or frown varies since people smile or frown differently, the minimum number of muscles to smile is at least ten, and to frown about six muscles. They say that while smiling uses more muscles, since we tend to smile more, the muscles we usually use are in better shape, hence, it requires less energy and effort. Well, I’ll believe anything if it will get me and more people to smile!

The Bible says worrying is a sin, but I still often fall trap to it. Scowling, frowning, maybe even crying at times soon follow. Then the wrinkles, eyebags and just an overall haggard look develop as well. Yuck. Not something a soon-to-be thierty-one-year-old wants for her birthday.

So for the net thirty-one days of my birth month and the first month of an awesome year, I will find at least three reasons to smile everyday. No matter how crappy my days was, no matter how many worries or struggles, I’m confident God will never run out of things to make His daughter break into a grin.

Today, January 1st, these reasons were:

1. My family, the Atienza’s and even Kuya Ige’s Tito Makoy dancing it up to Kuya Ige’s new Xbox after our traditional New Year’s Day lunch. One good proof of technology bringing families closer (and sillier!) together.

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Nganga and Tito Makoy have a showdown!

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It’s Nuki and Ige doing it all school with Vanilla Ice!

2. My daughter’s wacky poses. She’s at that stage where she feels a bit awkward in pictures. In this day and age of selfies, Ging is not keen about having her mug shot.

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3. Getting kilig watching 27 Dresses. I’m not a fan of Katherine Heigel but gosh, James Marsden is hot. And of course, I’m a sucker for rom-coms, especially those with wedding scenes. Yihee.

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And so before I snooze off, I leave you with these iconic lyrics and pray that for this month, this year, you’ll also find reasons to smile.

Lift your head

Baby don’t be scared

Of the things that could go wrong along the way

You’ll get by

WITH A SMILE.

‘Tis The Season Of The Godparents

It’s that time of the year when most ninongs and ninangs suddenly give themselves a face palm and give their wallets a panicked look.

Case in point.

Just a little after the last payday, I caught an office mate mumbling to herself in the ladies room while making counting gestures with her fingers.

“What are you doing?” I asked with a smile while putting on mascara.

She heaved a deep sigh. “Counting my inaanaks (godchildren).How many do you have?”

“I think, four or five?  A couple live outside the country, I think so I haven’t really seen them. You?”

“Eighteen! What am I going to gift them this Christmas?”

And I was like, wow. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s just one of the norms in our Pinoy culture to have lots of godparents and godchildren, and the “pamahiin” that declining an invitation to be somebody’s kid’s godparent is bad luck (ergo, it’s forbidden!) doesn’t help either. Never mind that most godchildren and godparents only see each other at least once a year for that obligatory “pamamasko” and “aginaldo.” In some cases, even if they don’t see each other physically, the godparent has to live by an unwritten rule to still give pamasko to the child, often in cash form, coursed through the parents. I mean that’s the least the godparents can do right, given they barely know the child they vowed before God to treat as their own and rarely see them as well. Riiiiight, parents?

A few years back, I attended the baptism of my inaanak, Stravvos, who is the son of my close college friend and fellow single mom, Jaki. As we know, before the actual baptismal rites, ninongs and ninangs had to attend a baptism seminar, usually an hour or so before the main event. Godparents had to sit through a class discussing the purpose of baptism (words like “original” and “sin” are common, yes), the roles of godparents (and no, it doesn’t stop at signing up at the gift registry for the baptism gift) and all that jazz.

Since I’ve attended a couple (I godmother-ed my nephew Ige at the age of 14), including my own daughter’s, I knew pretty much what the catechist was going to talk about. I raised my hands and volunteered some answers when she asked around about the purpose of baptism (at least for Catholics, which as we were taught is to “erase” Adam and Eve’s original sin of eating the forbidden fruit), since most of the participants just looked back at her with a blank stare.

The catechist’s tone took on a more scolding tone when she relayed how most couples get as many ninongs and ninangs as possible, ensuring to get their own friends, their parents’ friends. She went on to add this also happens even when getting wedding sponsors. Ang haba ng listahan, lampas na sa form!

Sometimes, we don’t even get godparents we actually know or trust. We even ask friends we barely know because they seem well-off, coworkers or bosses so we’d get in their good graces, politicians and celebrities because well, they look damn good in paper and pictures.Sadly, she says, we lost sight of the real purpose of getting godparents for our kids.”Kaya siguro ang daming batang napapariwara sa buhay, sa dami ng ninong at ninang na dapat nagga-guide, ayun, iba-iba sinasabi, nalilito mga bata!” A bit of a stretch for me, but hey, she may have a point.

I have often wondered why ninongs and ninangs are called godparents in English. When she explained (and later, when I did undergo my own water baptism in a born-again Christian church), I understood. From the word itself: GOD-parents.

A godparents’s role, in many Christian denominations, is to provide spiritual guidance and godly counsel for the child in his or her life. They are to supplement the parents’ teachings of their faith or say, in cases wherein the parents stop believing in God or His importance in their kid’s life, teach the child themselves . Babysitting services, financial assistance and the likes are appreciated but not required of them. The non-secular view of a godparent still has something to do with the godparents having a presence or interest in the child’s life. Unfortunately, such is not the case in most godparent-godchild relationship.

I mean, I myself have not seen my ninongs or ninangs in years. I never really got to know them beyond the toys they gifted me in the past. When I had my daughter at 18, I took about eight or so of my closest girl and boy friends at that time to be her godparents, and now she only knows a couple of them: my high school best friend Chrys and my cousin Ate Aisa who lives down the road from us.

Even I am guilty of not being more present in the lives of my godchildren. I guess it is more convenient to comfort myself into thinking that the annual Christmas or birthday gift is enough, and my godparenting role stops there. But I should know better.