Upon overhearing my sister Dolour say “rent-a-friend,” my ever-curious mind was instantly triggered. I can’t get my head off of the thought. It even haunted me during bedtime.
My fingers were itching to write.
I know houses are for rent, cars too, gowns, and just recently, bags and accessories also, but friends? This is something new and interesting.
Yet as I research more about this “friend for rent,” I learned that it has been a trend and a huge business going on in Japan for a couple of years now! There are actually rent-a-friend companies with 30 or so agents being paid to pretend! What a wower!
But why rent a friend?
I learned that Japanese are very much concerned on social status. Brides and grooms rent friends to attend their wedding just to impress their wife or husband-to-be and the rest of their genuine guests. With $150, a best man or a maid of honor comes in handy.
Some even rent colleagues and bosses. I was surprised why they do such — it’s because of the present recession where many Japanese lose their jobs. They tug along fake bosses just to make an impression of having a nice, decent job!
It’s the fear of belittlement and embarrassment as an unemployed. It’s pretty ironic why and how they could spend extra yens at the peak of their financial struggle. It’s pathetic to conclude that they still give “social status” a better rate than practicality, specially in these days of crises.
I don’t think I have the guts to fool my friends, specially myself in doing such acting.
They likewise rent cliques on different parties and social gathering. Japanese are fond of jamming with vidoeke, and with 15,000 yens, they have an instant sanguine friend to brag about. A little extra fee is charged when the phony friend sings or does a dance or a speech!
It’s interesting how they do this kind of business. The agents or the pretenders, if I may say, need to know at least enough about their “friend” and should answer every question the true friends will throw. One wrong answer or a dead air might ruin the reputation of the agent and the company he/she is working for.
My amazement intensified as I found out that “friends” are not the only ones available on the rack. Even “aunties,” “uncles,” “brothers,” “sisters,” even “mothers” and “fathers.” Name it, the rent-a-friend companies in Japan (which was said to have grown to 10) got it, in different ages and personalities!
But I was a bit saddened upon discovering some of their reasons why they rent such boguses: some divorced women rent “fathers” for their sons being bullied at school; some rent “uncles” to attend school soccer games as a number-one fan cheering his heart out for poor teenagers whose true uncles or fathers are absent on their championship game; some even rent “husbands” or “lovers” just to find a little solace in their sort of “loveless lives.”
This made me think of how lucky we are as Filipinos having a tight family bond. I am very blessed my family and friends were present on my celebrated days — on my 18th birthday, I had family and friends present more than I could ever ask for; on my wedding day, my aunties overseas even took a vacation to be there; my parents, as we were growing up, attended our school activities to show love and support. I couldn’t ask for more.
This value we put on family ties made a low divorce rate in t he country.
It is also amazing how we could find “family compounds” in almost anywhere in the Philippines; even Americans were amazed how up-to 100 people who are relatives live together in an array of houses.
Indeed, we are a family-centered country. And nowadays, with all the elements trying to dismantle and degrade the family, we should keep the knot tight.