By Jim McDonald
A back strain in early July disabled me several weeks. When news of my infirmity reached some Filipino brethren, I received a note from the wife of a friend expressing their prayers for the return of my health, adding that “your children” are concerned about you.
Few preachers go to the Philippines without acquiring several adopted children along the way. Once he is home he will be deludged by many letters from brethren he met and in the course of corresponding with some of them will be “adopted” as their father for so will they address him, signing their letters as “your son.” There are many reasons for this, perhaps such provides a sense of comfort that they have an American “father” who is concerned for his “children’s” well being. This affection for their American “Dad” will be expressed by giving their own sons the name of their “grandfather.” It is interesting how many preachers introduce me to their sons whose names I immediately recognize as that of preachers who had visited their islands in bygone days.
Nor is this affection “one-sided.” It is difficult not to become emotionally affected by the hospitality, sincere affection and needs of these brethren. I know personally several Filipinos who have had American benefactors for many years who have seen them through their hard, hard life; even helping them to send their children to college. I will not divulge the names of these brethren. I doubt they would want that. Their help was private and unheralded, given out of love and compassion, unknown to man but seen by God. This “adopting” as parents is not simply con-fined to preachers who visit the isles. Often some brother or sister acquires the name of some needy Filipino family and continues their “one-time” gift into a continuing correspondence and help. The result? They also acquire Filipino “children” and “grandchildren” whom they have never seen save through the myriads of photos sent to them.
“My children” who were mentioned earlier, are the son and daughter-in-law of a dear friend of mine. When I arrived in Manila in 1995 my friend announced his son would shortly be married. “When?” I asked. The date was not certain for the family had determined that I should be one of the “compadres,” a sort of godfather to the couple. But my schedule was hectic. When finally I arrived back in Manila five to six weeks later unscheduled and ready to return to the States on the earliest possible flight, I gave little thought to a wedding. My principal concern was re-turning home! But my friend’s desire was not to be denied. In one day’s time the wedding was arranged and my last night in the Philippines was spent attending a wedding.
Unlike in the United States, it is the groom and his parents who shoulder the wedding expense. Aside from that, weddings are not a great deal different there than they are here. They decorate, not so much with flowers (although such are present) but with ribbons and banners. Once, in addition to ribbons, many bundles of garlic were hung here and there. These had been there during our entire seminar and had been “eyed” by nearly all since garlic is widely used, a staple in the Filipino household. The garlic was to be a gift to the wedding guests, after the wedding. It proved to be a distraction for many guests were more concerned with getting the garlic than watching the bride and groom. When the OK signal was given at the end of the nuptials, much snatching and grabbing took place as nearly all the guests got “into the act.”
The bride and groom alternately stand and sit (two chairs are provided for them) and a group of brethren sometimes sing. There may be several speakers and prayers. Solemn vows are made by both, and the groom usually kisses the bride at the conclusion of the ceremony. Once the ceremony is ended the compadres sign the marriage license and other guests are given opportunity also to sign as witnesses. A sort of “kitty” is made among among the wedding guests and presented to the happy couple.
We saw our first wedding in Ilocos Sur on our first trip to the Philippines in 1993. In that instance the couple being married was older. They had lived together for a number of years and had two or three children. When they became interested in the gospel, the brethren told them, “First we will have a Filipino wedding and then we will have a Filipino baptism.” And so they did!
In the instance of my “children” the service was lengthy but impressive. Then the wedding party and all the guests were royally treated, or so they felt. The groom’s parents hosted an after-wedding meal at Wendy’s where all could enjoy their burgers, fries and cokes in genuine air-conditioning, a real luxury to a Filipino. And, although I could not always understand what they were saying, laughter and smiles are a universal language and according to that all the guests had a happy time and enjoyed themselves immensely!
Guardian of Truth XLI: 2 p. 14-15
January 16, 1997