Beyond pamasko: The primary role of ninongs, ninangs is not to give gifts

December 24, 2019 - 3:44 PM
Christian baptism
Technically speaking, only one sponsor or godparent is needed for a child's baptism. (Josh Applegate via Unsplash/CC0)

The message of a viral Facebook post of a “ninang” or godmother of 30 godchildren posted two years ago has a lasting resonance every holiday season.

Dyanne Jordan Montiero posted screenshots of her conversations with parents of her godchildren who are soliciting gifts and money and accounting for the times she skipped sending them.’

In her post, Montiero explained that she does try to set aside monetary gifts and other presents for her dozens of “inaanak” despite being in financial straits, but she suggested that the essence of Christmas and being a godparent may be forgotten.

“Hindi po ako bangko… Nagninang po ako para mag-guide sa kanila habang lumalaki. Hindi para maging financer,” Montiero wrote. (I am not a bank… I became a godmother to guide children as they grow up, not to be their financier.)

"KUMARE"Ako, hindi po ako tumatanggi magninang. Kaya nga ang dami na ng inaanak ko. 30 na yata. 😅 Naglalaan ako kahit…

Posted by Dyanne Jordan Montiero on Friday, December 8, 2017


What Monteiro wrote is consistent with the teaching of the Christian faith about baptism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, for one, spells out the role of the godfather and the godmother to a baptized child:

“Their task is a truly ecclesial function… The whole ecclesial community bears some responsibility for the development and safeguarding of the grace given at Baptism.”

This “grace” from baptism is that of faith, and so godparents are responsible first and foremost to assist parents in ensuring the child grows in faith while growing up.

In fact, not everyone is qualified to be ninong or ninang. Chosen godparents must be “firm believers.”

For the grace of Baptism to unfold, the parents’ help is important. So too is the role of the godfather and godmother, who must be firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized—child or adult on the road of the Christian life.”

Reminding Christians that the technical term for a godparent is a “sponsor,” priest William Saunders writes in Catholic Education that ninongs and ninangs are even required to make a Profession of Faith in the child’s name and bear a heavy responsibility of instructing the child about the church’s teachings “especially if the parents failed in this duty.”

Citing Canon Law, Saunders counts two main qualifications of sponsors:

  1. Must be at least 16 years old.
  2. Must be a Catholic who has received the sacraments of holy Eucharist and confirmation, and “leads a life in harmony with the faith and the role to be undertaken.”

And what makes a person unqualified to become a ninang or ninong in the Catholic Church? According to Saunders, it is when he or she is:

  1. A parent of the child.
  2. Being penalized canonically such as excommunication.
  3. Not Catholic or a Catholic who has not yet received the sacrament of confirmation and the Holy Eucharist.
  4. Does not practice the faith or professes beliefs or opinions or lifestyles contrary to the church’s teachings.

Those who are Christians that are not Catholics are technically not qualified to become sponsors at a Catholic baptism. But they can be a “Christian witness” to the sacrament along with a Catholic godparent.

There is also no need to have several sponsors for one child. “Strictly speaking, a person only needs one sponsor for baptism—male or female, but may have two sponsors, one male and one female,” he writes.