Breaking Stereotypes: Modern-day Ninong and Ninang Duties


The Filipino Christmas celebration is largely characterized by the dazzling lights of parols, the Catholic celebration of simbang gabi, the figurines of the nativity, the lively music of carols, and the overall joyous atmosphere that pervades every street. Such is the reason why Christmas is a season worth the wait. Moreover, many Filipinos, especially little children, look forward to Christmas, for it is the season when they can receive tons of gifts from their relatives and godparents. The presents are either monetary or in-kind that serve as an aguinaldo. The term has a Christian background that symbolizes the act of gift-giving done by the three wise men to newly born Jesus. The tradition eventually became part of ninong and ninang’s duties that sadly only became their general duty. However, there is a deep meaning that surrounds the practice; Filipinos are starting to lose the essence of this tradition as generosity becomes synonymous with obligation. This is especially true for the role of ninong and ninang, who are beginning to get recognized by Filipinos as someone required to present gifts to children. But on the contrary, this should not be the case because, like the tradition of aguinaldo, the role of ninong and ninang has a deeper meaning than just giving gifts to kids during Christmas. This Bria article then aims to impart the real essence of being a godparent by identifying ninong and ninang’s duties.

Read the article: Bria House and Lot: Celebrating Christmas, The Filipino Way

What is a ninong and ninang

Before we can fully dissect the role of godparents in our lives, we must first understand what being a godparent entails. The practice of godparenting or having ninong and ninang can be traced back to the Spanish tradition of co-parenting. This co-parent has the responsibility, together with the birth parents, to attend to the needs of the child. In extreme cases, should the biological parents pass away, and the child became an orphan, the godparents assume the responsibility of nurturing the child. This also explains why the parents address the godparents as kumare (from comadre which the ninang) and kumpare (from copadre which is the ninong).

Godparents are usually chosen in events such as baptism, communion, confirmation, or wedding. They are selected in this manner originally to serve as principal sponsors and witnesses to the event. However, its ability to form connections led its essence to wane to something that is used to further political or social affiliations. Not long after, godparents started to become identified as someone who would give gifts to their godchildren during Christmas.

How godparents are perceived today

The connotation that godparents are required to give gifts at Christmas led to a stigma for how ninongs and ninangs are perceived. Those who had the wrong perception of the practice often equate and choose ninong and ninangs on account of popularity and wealth. Other people would even try to recruit as many godparents as they can so that their children can have a long list of people from whom they can receive their gifts during Christmas. There is nothing wrong with giving gifts during Christmas. However, when it borders on greediness, then it starts to become a problem.

Unfortunately, such is the practice today, and it led only to corrupt the beauty of the tradition. There would be times when godparents would scramble to prepare their presents and withdraw money from their own bonuses or savings to conform to the stigma. In some cases, your ninong and ninang would hide from you and your family to avoid giving a gift for this Christmas, which sometimes also causes a strain on the relationship of your family. Those godparents are also shamed as someone who always hides from their godchildren, often becoming the butt of the joke every season.

In order to break into this stigma, one should first realize that there is nothing wrong with denying an invitation to become a godparent. Filipino tradition tends to see it as a bad omen whenever someone declines this offer. Indeed, being offered to become a godparent is truly a humble and fruitful experience. However, one must understand that becoming a godparent is taking on the same responsibilities of becoming a parent yourself, albeit in a light manner. Being a godparent means that you must have the capacity to serve as a moral, spiritual, and emotional guide to your godchild. Before you accept the role of ninong and ninang, you must first think if you can handle the real responsibilities that comes with it. It is not about affiliation, financial gains, gifts, or other reason that only teaches your child to be greedy. Having this kind of mindset will be a good start to breaking the modern-day stereotype of how ninongs and ninangs are perceived in Filipino society.

Becoming a godparent

Besides, the Catholic Church laid out the very specific requirement for accepting the role of ninong and ninang. After all, the tradition has its roots in the Catholic heritage we had from Spain. Thus, not anyone can simply be a godparent. This contradicts the notion that everyone can be your ninong and ninang. Someone with a different religion or an atheist cannot be one. The basic requirements to become a godparent are as follows:

  • Must be at least 16 years of age
  • Must be a Baptized Catholic
  • Had received the Sacraments of Eucharist, Communion, and Confirmation

Not meeting these three already makes someone unfit to become a godparent. However, if you have managed to meet all these requirements, then you must understand the duties of becoming a godparent to your godchildren.

Nowadays, the role of godparents as coparents is no longer encouraged so that parents can wholly accept their responsibilities towards their children. Thus, the current and true role of our ninong and ninangs are not as sponsors but as primary witnesses to a covenant being made with God. This is the reason why they are needed in events such as baptisms, confirmations, and weddings. As parents choose a godparent for their child’s baptism, they consider someone that inspires and bring a good influence on their child. The ninong and ninang should serve as someone that the child can look up to as a model.

Understanding these large responsibilities does not mean that you are not allowed to give gifts to your godchild. It does not hurt to always give gifts every now and then, especially during Christmas, wherein the real spirit lies in generosity and giving. However, godparents should not feel compelled to give gifts. They should still keep in mind the real reason why they became godparents in the first place. Only by then will we be able to break the stereotypical view behind the ninong and ninang’s duties.

Read the article: Best Christmas Gifts for Kids 2021


Keeping in mind the real essence of this tradition also paves the way for embracing the real spirit of Christmas. As you may know, Christmas can sometimes be a bit of a stressful season because of the lot of preparation that comes with it. Fortunately for you, Bria Homes also has an article that can help you embrace the -BER months spirit much livelier by referring to the article below.

Read the article: Embracing the Spirit of -Ber Months: Early Christmas Preparations Done by Filipinos

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