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Rifqi Gabriel: two names, two worlds

We were in Singapore last January, full of joy and eager to visit a newly born baby.

What had just been an ultrasound picture of a small heartbeat sent to us via Facebook nine months ago has now come to life as a healthy, bouncing baby boy. What a blessing and a miracle to our family. With our own eyes, we beheld him — a nine-pounder baby, born in Singapore to a Filipino mother and a Singaporean Muslim father.

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I realized that moment, upon seeing the baby, that grandparents will really experience a piece of heaven when they have their grandchild. It’s a different feeling, an unexplainable one. I knelt and cuddled the baby in my arms while my daughter, wife, son-in-law and our “balae” looked at us.

It was magical — a boy one month old on his lolo’s lap, without the tiniest idea about what went before and what may come after. A gentle cry was heard, and I felt my cheeks moisten as I placed him on my chest.

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In March last year, a wedding ceremony was held in Singapore, the wedding of my daughter to a Muslim. It was a different ceremony compared to a Catholic marriage. With only close relatives and a friend witnessing, we let go of our Christian traditions temporarily for that affair.

It was hard to accept giving my eldest daughter in marriage to a non-Christian; there was no priest, no choirs singing, no walking down the altar of the father with his daughter, and no Catholic blessing on their union.

But the ceremony was quite similar to the familiar Catholic vows. The husband was asked to love his wife as Christ loves His church, and the wife had to submit and be faithful to her husband, invoking Allah to be in their midst. The ceremony just lasted an hour, a simple, solemn affair.

I knew that love filled the air in that celebration as I watched my daughter and her husband laugh loudly while looking only at each other’s eyes. I lifted to God one of the most sincere prayers I would offer to Him — to eternally bless this new family.

My daughter became pregnant two months after, but got infected with a strong bacteria from the hospital where she works. She was in medication for several months, and was injected with an antibacteria drug twice a week for six months.

We were worried as she was far from us. Doctors in charge of her health were also worried, as she was newly pregnant when she caught the disease. It was a delicate situation, especially for her child who was only two months old in her womb but was already exposed to radiation, antibiotics and lots of medicines.

We prayed unceasingly, and our request was granted. On Dec. 23, two days before Christmas, my daughter gave birth by normal delivery to a healthy boy. He was named Rifqi Gabriel. Rifqi, a Muslim name, means soft-spoken; Gabriel, a Christian name, means God’s messenger. Two names, two religions, two worlds, but one great love.

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We stayed for two weeks in Singapore to become doting parents again. As my daughter was recuperating, we were the ones feeding the baby, changing his diapers and humming old lullabies to put him to sleep.

Someday, this boy will make his own star. We may no longer be around by that time, but he will be a good man, a holy man, full of wisdom and kindness in his heart.

* * *

Mario D. Dalangin, 64, a member of various church organizations, is ecstatic over his first grandson.

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