What’s in a name, 2

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Saturday, January 11, 2014


(A former UN colleague e-mailed that he resent a 2011 Sun.Star column because it startles visitors about what we take for granted.
Here it is.--JLM)

A British Broadcasting Corp. reporter and a businessman from England wrote, nine years apart, features on unique Filipino names which we take for granted but stuns foreigners.

“On my first day here, I was served coffee by a smiling girl named BumBum,” Kate McGeown of BBC recalls. “I did a double-take. But if it’s a joke the whole country seems to be in.”

Matthew Sutherland agreed in the Obsever. “The secretary I inherited, was called ‘Leck-Leck.’ Filipinos are fond of repeating names, like: Lenlen or Ning-ning. They’re refined by using the ‘squared’ symbol as in Mai2.”

“How boring to come from the UK, full of people named John Smith. How wonderful to land in a country where imagination rules.. ‘Welcome to the house of Sin,’ the late cardinal would chuckle as he ushered in guests.”

Everyone here has a nickname: Babes, Lovely, Precious, etc. Former senator Panfilo Lacson has a doorbell name: “Ping.” They’re used in combinations like: Dingdong.

“The President’s name is Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino,” McGeown adds. “(These) names are Spanish, Hebrew and Chinese. His nickname is the only part truly Filipino: Noynoy.”

Former president Joseph Estrada is known as “Erap.” Spelt backwards, Erap becomes “Pare.” That means mate in Aussie.

Then, there’s the randomly-inserted letter “H” names. “It results in creations like: Lhenn, Ghemma, Jhimmy. That gives a touch of class.”

Filipinos cluster names for children, say Jun, Joy, Joyce and Jo-Anne. Luzviminda splices Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. And Jejomar melds Jesus, Joseph and Mary -- and is also the vice-president’s name.

The Philippines is a melting pot of different cultures. An 1849 colonial decree, mandated everyone to have a surname. Thousands were christened Marias and Joses. “With the Americans came names like Butch and Junior.

The Filipino-Chinese community is caught up in this game, as seen in Edgar Allan Pe, and Van Go. So have Filipinos when they become US citizens, reports a an Internet feature.

“Gregorio Talahib becomes who else? George Bush! That’s who. Tomas Cruz is recycled as Tom Cruise, while Remigio Batungbacal becomes Remington Steel. But Maria Pascua prefers Mary Christmas.

Thus, Juanito Lakarin took the name of Johnny Walker, while Esteban Magtaka picked Stevie Wonder. Leon Mangubat flicked through the sports pages and chose Tiger Woods.

Filipino maxims on names are linked to integrity, notes the authority on our proverbs: UP professor emeritus Damiana Eugenio. “Can we go to market with our once respected name?” Aklanons ask. A good name is better than wealth, Ilocanos and Boholanos say.

“Pinoy is what Filipinos call each other, a term of endearment,” author Gilda Cordero Fernando writes. “You’re Pinoy from Pilipino just like you’re tisoy from mestizo or chinoy from chino.

“It’s a nickname just as Minoy is from Maximo, Tinay from Florentina and Kikay from Francisca. But now they’re Maxi and Ben and Tintin and Cheska.”

So, no one raises an eyebrow that Boxer Manny Paqaio named his two girls Queen Elizabeth and Princess. Ay, lintik!

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 12, 2014.

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