Closer Than a Brother
Updated: Sep 3
From a belief in the Middle Ages about birds finding their mates to the celebration of Lupercalia (purification from evil spirits, release of health and fertility) in ancient Rome, February has always been considered a month to celebrate love. In order to Christianize the pagan festival, February 14 became a day to commemorate martyrs named Valentine.
Throughout the years, people have created various commercial opportunities to celebrate romantic love every February. Gifts, jewelry, flowers, chocolates, cards, vacation getaways, hotel promos for stays and dinners are a few examples of what are available in the market to express romantic love. There are also other types of love that may not get much excitement but are equally significant.
Two peas in a pod
While working on Muntinlupa City’s centennial coffee table book in 2017, I was able to interview several World War II veterans. Tranquilino “Tangke” Nofuente and Isidro “Idong” Nofuente both stood out. It was heartwarming to watch the nonagenarian cousins help each other settle down for the interview and photo shoot. As they regaled us with war tales, it was obvious that they were very close and fond of each other. Born and raised in Cupang, Muntinlupa, the Nofuente cousins farmed and fished together in pre-war time. When the Japanese invaded the Philippines, both joined the Hunters ROTC Guerillas of Muntinlupa. Tangke and Idong underwent the “enlistment” process which meant being abducted, blindfolded, and made to confess that they were guerillas. Able to withstand the test, they soon joined the ranks of the revolutionaries.
Unfortunately, Tangke was caught by the Japanese and for the first time in their lives, the cousins got separated.
Narrowly escaping execution, Tangke together with other captives broke out of prison. Soon, he was once again reunited with Idong. After the war, both men felt it was time to settle down. Since most of their neighbors in Cupang were their relatives, they decided to find future wives in Paco, Manila. The newly married couples settled in Cupang, a few houses from each other, where they reside to this day. Tangke and Idong told me that they don’t ever want to be apart from each other. They will always be together no matter what.
Bound in love
David was a shepherd boy who because of his great faith and courage in God found favor in the eyes of King Saul of Israel. David, using a slingshot, lobbed a single stone to the forehead of the giant Goliath killing him instantly. King Saul had a son Jonathan who was drawn to David because of his character.
Jonathan loved David as he did himself and as some translations say “their souls were knit together.”
Their friendship was so great that Jonathan helped David escape King Saul’s assassination attempts when the King had become jealous of David’s popularity. David, when he became king, restored to Jonathan’s last living descendant, Mephibosheth, all the wealth of his family and gave him a permanent place at the king’s table.
To love a friend
Philia (φιλία, fil-ee'-ah) is a Greek word for love showing deep friendship developed between those who fought side by side on the battlefield. “It was about showing loyalty to your friends, sacrificing for them, as well as sharing your emotions with them.”¹
In today’s Facebook era, it's easy to accumulate friends by clicking or tapping the “add friend” button. Out of the hundreds or thousands (for some) of friends that you have, how many express philia?
Is there devotion and loyalty between you and your friends like Tangke, Idong, David, and Jonathan? Do you share your inmost feelings with all of them? Would you show loyalty and sacrifice? Will there actually be a friend you’d willingly give up your life? On the flip side, how many of your friends open up to you, show loyalty, and will die for you?
Philia is not easy to find because it is cultivated through shared experiences especially in difficult times. When things are good and everything is fine, many people will celebrate with you. When the going gets tough, unfortunately, many people get going. Those who stay have philia and are the ones you can truly count on.
My most loyal friend
I may not have a lot of friends but I have a few friends whom I know will stand with me in the roughest times. Most importantly, I have this friend who has not left my side even though I failed him many times. I’ve broken many promises but he is patient with me. I’ve been held back with fear and panic but he has gently coaxed me out of them. I’ve argued with him and lost. I know reasoning with him is futile but he lets me do it anyway because he knows I need to let off steam. He celebrates my triumphs and shows love and compassion when I need it. He’s been loyal when I was not. Above all that, he made the ultimate sacrifice when he gave his life for me so I can live an abundant and eternal life. He did not remain dead but was resurrected. He is in heaven now and will soon return for me and his other friends. Jesus Christ is not only my friend, but He is also my Lord and Savior. He gives me meaning and purpose, and because of Him I not only experience philia but also the unfailing love of His Father.
You too can have Jesus as your friend. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you and get ready for a friendship that compares to none.
Next week: Keeping the Love Alive
¹Krznaric, R. (2018, August 14). The Ancient Greeks' 6 Words for Love (And Why Knowing Them Can Change Your Life). Retrieved February 6, 2019, from https://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/the-ancient-greeks-6-words-for-love-and-why-knowing-them-can-change-your-life