In the Philippines, godmothers play an important role in the lives of children. Together with godfathers, they are expected to bring gifts and goodies on Christmas Day, birthdays and other special family gatherings. The godchild will not hesitate to ask for gifts in case the godparent forgets.
But more than the bearers of gifts, godparents are considered part of a child’s extended family.
The extended family is an important social component for Filipinos. Included within the family extension are grandparents, uncles, aunts and godparents. And, in some cases, their words of advice are tantamount to those of the child’s parents.
Of all the people included in a child’s extended family, only the godparents are not blood relatives, yet they are looked upon as second parents.
One sponsor has earned that position in the life of Shiela.
“Monthly, I receive letters from my sponsor and we talk about life in general, her church and family.”
Shiela knows a lot about her long-distance godmother.
“She loves talking about her nephews and nieces, and, recently one of her sisters got married. I also get plenty of photos.”
Shiela has kept many of her sponsor’s letters, but some were taken by her mother when she left home to live in the province. Her parents have separated and now she is living with her grandmother.
Sheila’s sponsor knows about this and often encourages Shiela to be strong.
“She always encourages me by writing encouraging words. I really enjoy receiving letters from my godmother.”
Sponsored children from all over the islands are required to write their sponsors at least three times a year, and to respond whenever they get a letter from their sponsors.
Many of the children, like Shiela, write more than three times a year.
“I love writing to my sponsor, even if I don’t really have anything to say. I tell her about my life, my church and how happy I am here at the student center.”
Each child development center has its own style of distributing the letters.
In some centers, caseworkers deliver the letters to the children’s homes, while most give them out at the center during weekly activities.
“I get my letters usually during our lessons, but I often go to my caseworker to ask if I a have a letter, since I always anticipate that I do.
“It is important to write letters, for people to know each other and to share experiences, activities, ideas and so on.”
Country Director of the Philippines, Noel Pabiona, expresses,
“I hope that, at least once a year, sponsors will write their children.
“Exchanging letters really makes a difference. It creates a strong impact in the sponsor-sponsored child relationship and brings the two close to each other.”
Through the monthly exchange of letters between Shiela and her sponsor, the sponsor has ceased being just a sponsor. She is now her sponsored child’s second mother.
Shiela knows that her sponsor cares about her.
“I write to her about everything. She knows about my parents’ problems and that I am staying with my grandmother. I usually write her at home at nights and sometimes while I am here at the student center.”