I was able to attend two baptisms around Christmas time: one is for my cousin's baby - Sean (Dec 19) and the other is for my dad's "loyal" trabahador's baby - Amador (Dec 25). These two occasions unsettled me - I often refused to look at poverty straight in the eye because its ugliness kills inspiration.
I refused to be moved and to empathize because I saw the poor as objects of assistance and pity. Not as subjects themselves who have stories to tell. Allow me to contrast the two baptisms (Sorry, no pictures of Amador's bapstism) while making kwento of what happened in Sean's.
The baptism of Sean was held in a separate chapel exclusively reserved for baptisms with his own priest - a family friend of us for more than 25 years. Amador's baptism was free of charge, but he shared the occasion with 40+ babies, with a priest whom they just met.
Sean was wearing a baptismal outfit worth six thousand pesos from Rustans (ridiculously expensive if you ask me!), while Amador wasn't even wearing the right baptism clothes because there was a print in the middle of his off-white shirt.
This is Luke, Sean's cousin and my nephew, being held by my uncle. I just have to include the picture below because of the contrasts between age and their expressions.:)
After Sean's baptism, the reception was held in Craving's Shangri-la where the whole expense was more than ninety thousand exclusive of the lechon, photo booth, additional decorations, manager's tip...
... while after the baptism of Amador, the Ninongs, Ninangs and the guests just went home because the family can't even afford a simple pancit and chicken handaan:(
This is my mom carrying Sean.
While this is my brother... gulping down... what seems to be... desserts!!!
I'm sorry but they forced me to take a photo of themselves (mom and sister) in front of the Shang Christmas tree.
Back to my story: You have to know that I was invited by my dad's laborer to his son's baptism because he wanted me to be one of the godfathers. My yaya who has been with me since I was one year old is also a godmother. I personally accepted the role because the laborer has been with us for more than a decade and it's probably one of the ways that I can minimize the extreme inequality that's actually very evident but people refuse to be moved. I don't know yet how but I value my role as a godparent and I'll probably do my best to rear this child in whatever way I can.
The Christmas Holidays have definitely showed everyone the wide gap between the poor and the rich. On one end, you can see people in Greenbelt 4 with handful of Prada and Louis Vuitton paper bags. On the other side was this family I saw in Ortigas celebrating their Noche Buena on the road under an umbrella while their kids try to stop raging cars, begging for something to eat.
I got tired of our Christmas celebration this year. It was kinda dry for me because I guess we are all used to opening gifts or receiving more shopping money during the holidays and it has been like that for the past 20 years. Even though I was more generous this year with my gifts, something is still missing.
Maybe it's really like that - inequality calls us to act, but more often than not, our actions aren't genuine. We give to others to satisfy our egos.
Christmas reminds us to be selfless - like Christ himself. Easier said than done because we have to let go of the "I" in each of us. Letting go of our egos clears our vision to see the poor as subjects and not objects which boosts our sense of self whenever we give to them. I think if we can accomplish this letting go of the self, that's when we can be more true to our actions - making us really capable of loving our neighbors.
Merry Christmas everyone!:)