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Political Dynasties in the Philippines: In My Opinion

Next year’s Philippine midterm elections are fast approaching and it paints an all too-familiar image once again: candidates that are ei...



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JR Lopez Gonzales 10:00 PM 0

Naming, as the saying goes, is the earliest act of creation. When we create something, we use a label for it to be identifiable and distinguishable from others.

That’s why each time a person tells you that they just had a new-born baby, we immediately ask for the little tot’s given name. And this privilege is especially reserved for the parents. This does not hold true only if you’re Lam-Ang. Secretly cringing if the name doesn’t sound right is, but optional

You see, this simple act is extremely important because our respective names will become who we are. And whether we like it or not, these series of letters will have a huge impact on how our lives will eventually turn out; it may actually provide the je ne sais quoi to our otherwise monotonous existence.
Scientific name: Phaseoulus lunatus.
Everyone has a story on how their names came to be. You were probably named after a flashy president’s wife, your mom’s telenovela actress, or after your dad’s favourite element in his high school chemistry class. Some have generic Pinoy names, while some have unusual ones; and others prefer their aliases like Mohagher Iqbal.

My name doesn’t sound odd. In fact, JR is very common here in the country. My name just looks odd on paper. You see, my brother and sister have two first names: Jasper Ian and Celeste Mae. I, on the other hand, have two letters: JR. Just those two letters stingily joint to form that thing called “first name”.  As if it isn’t odd enough, it was the attending midwife who suggested the name to my parents; to which they acceded.

In the Philippines, it is impossible not to have acquaintances named Mark, Joy, or Ann. We have a bunch of Michaels, Johns, John-Michaels; or Michael-Johns. We, Pinoys, also have this habit of repeating names for nicknames. One senator is named Bongbong while the vice president is called Junjun. You probably rubbed elbows with a Mac-Mac, Jan-Jan, or Ling-Ling – all of these names are recurs just in case you did not hear it on the first try.

As time goes, our naming system evolves with it. Gone were the days when we christen our kids with names like Ciriaco, Procopio, or Manuelito. Possessing these names now, gives the name-bearer, first class tickets to Ancient Filipino history. That is why, more parents are getting creative in choosing their child’s name. As an example, I have a high school buddy named “Xyrilloid”. Yes, that’s X-Y-R-I-L-L-O-I-D. That’s probably worth a hundred points if it landed on “Triple Word Score” in Scrabble.

We, Pinoys, also have delightful family names that go with our distinct first names. Our foremost pugilist, Manny Pacquiao’s last name is from the Filipino word, “pakyaw” which means wholesale. Indeed, he “wholesaled” most of the Mexican boxers. A certain Lucky Chan may make us think of a person who does not possess a six-pack abs. Some last names, amazingly, fit one’s profession. Take the recent bar exams passer, Christian Apollo Lawyer – he’s already a ‘Lawyer’ even before passing the licensure exam!

You see, our history is responsible for this: the Chinese, the Spanish, and the Americans all contributed to this smorgasbord of Filipino family names. And this can be traced in 1849, where the Spanish released the Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos.
During that period, Governor General Narciso Clavería, noticed that the early Filipinos do not possess last names. The one personal name became insufficient as an identifier for tax, and census purposes; thus the concept of the surname catalogue for the Indios.

The Spanish Government then had drawn up a list of approved names from which our ancestors came to choose. This explains why most of the Filipino surnames are borrowed from Spanish, from the calendar of saints, or from retained but Hispanized, pre-colonial names.

Our present system was adopted from the American “three-fold” pattern: given name, middle name, and surname or family name. And this current naming scheme gave our parents more leeway in choosing the kind of first name they felt like giving to their hapless offspring.

Having lived in the Lanao area, I also found out that the Maranao parents may opt to use the father’s first name to serve as his child’s last name. In the Iloilo province, on the other hand, an ingenious system was devised by the Spanish colonizers. You may recognize a person’s hometown by knowing the initial of his or her surname. If it starts with an “M”, as in Morales; he probably came from an “M-town” like Miagao. If your family name is Gomez, your lineage may probably be traced back to the town of Guimba. Truly, the Pinoy family names are much differentiated from those of Vietnam or Korea where Nguyens and Parks abound.

But whatever the system of naming is, one thing is constant: names are a great deal for Pinoys. And the same couldn’t be any truer for domestic politics. In this side of the globe, name recall is very important.

Having a famous family name may help you win a political office – even without much experience. If you are married to a famous celebrity, your chances for bagging that win in those senatorial polls will be brighter than that of the average Juan dela Cruz. That’s why our streets are displayed with tarpaulins of our dear politicians; in order to bore their names into our psyche.
Our names establish our existence. Whether it has something to do with a kind of life we’re going to have, our name gives us character. Just think of the comedy gold of the “FEU surname wars”, or those ordinary people having celebrity namesakes at “Humans of New York”. Names will always be part of our being.

While some people may not be totally happy with their unusual names that they have it judicially changed, most people accept it. May it be Teofilo, Xenocrates, or JR, most of us simply choose to live with it.

And there will always be that moment when someone calls your name – no matter how cringe-worthy it may sound – it becomes sweet music to your ears. Just like in a song, the message is still more important than its title.

Blogger's Note: This article of mine appeared on GMA News Online last 17 April.

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