What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.”

–From Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare

I got inspired to quote from Shakespeare, after reading an article which appeared recently on Philippines Today. The article is about a recent mess at the 1st Philippine Festival held in Tokyo last month. Read all about it in the website.

I’m fascinated with Pinoy names. I often wonder what goes on in each parent’s mind as he or she decides on a name to give a baby. Some prefer the oldies but goodies – sticking with the usual baby names that are commonly used, like Paul, Peter, Elizabeth, etc. Some prefer (not often with success) to combine the names of the parents, resulting to usually ridiculous-sounding names. I had a classmate in elementary who was named “Pergelyn” – a combination of “Perla” and “Eugene.” She had an older sister who was named “Pergenette.” One of our teachers absolutely hated her name, and even told her about it in class. A friendly advice to would-be parents: if it sounds ridiculous, do your child a favor and don’t force it!

Some resort to naming their children with the same initials. For instance, my mom found it cute to name all three of her daughters with names starting with the letter “K.” The reason? So that we would be known as “The Three Ks.” Kapisanan ng mga Kikay sa Kangkungan. πŸ˜› I also have cousins who were all named with “J” names.

When it was our turn to name our baby, we decided that we will stick with Filipino names only. It’s not because we want to be nationalistic or that we want others to get the impression that we are an eccentric couple who want to make a political statement. No, we’re not that ambitious, thank you very much. Combining our names was out of the question (Epiferine? Kathefanio?). So we took a cue from our surname, “Bagarinao,” which happens to be an original Filipino name, just like “Sacdalan” or “Dimagiba.” We therefore decided to give our baby an original Filipino name as well. We chose “Kalayaan.” A friend of mine, who is French (Hi there, D!), found the name really beautiful. He said it sounded like one of those names in the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) book. A name for an elf perhaps?

When my mom heard about it, she was downright furious. Are we out of our minds, naming our baby like that? One of our friends actually commented, “Ba’t di na lang LIBERTY?” Hmm. Does Liberty sound better than Kalayaan just because it’s in English? I beg to disagree. “Ok lang kasi nasa Japan kayo. Pero pag umuwi na kayo ng Pilipinas…” someone remarked as a last-ditch effort, as if to save us from making one of the biggest mistakes of our lives. I was both amused and outraged at how fellow Pinoys thought so little of Filipino names, thinking that it sounds so “baduy” or outdated, or whatever. Ladies and gentlemen, there’s only one reason why we named her with a Filipino name. Because she is one. When she goes into the world “out there,” people will take one look at her name and know that she is a Filipino. The Japanese name their children with Japanese names. So do the Chinese, the Indians, and Indonesians. Why can’t we do the same?

On a lighter side, I myself am guilty of making jokes about Baggy’s name. He happens to be named after his father, Epifanio Sr, as you can tell from his name, Epifanio Jr. But I bet you didn’t know that his mother is named “Epifania.” Perfect. Three Epiphanies, just like the three Magis.

I looked it up in the dictionary, and here’s what I found:

Epiphany
a. A Christian feast celebrating the manifestation of the divine nature of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi.
b. January 6, on which this feast is traditionally observed.
2. A revelatory manifestation of a divine being.
3.
a. A sudden manifestation of the essence or meaning of something.
b. A comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization: “I experienced an epiphany, a spiritual flash that would change the way I viewed myself” Frank Maier.

Just now, I am experiencing an epiphany myself, it’s giving me goosebumps. January 6 happens to be our wedding anniversary. I married Epifanio on the day of Epiphany. What a perfect coincidence!

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12 Responses to What’s in a Name?

  1. Sonnie says:

    Asians are particular with the names they give to their children. It’s more than pamahiin, but something is spiritual behind a name.

    Koreans and I think Chinese change their names when they convert to Christianity. Jews or the Israelites are very particular also with the names.

    As for me, I gave my kids’ names based on our circumstances that time and in honor with God.

    My 9 year old sons’ name is Elhav– “El” (i.e. El Shaddai, Elohim, El Elyona Adonai) is the hebrew word God and “hav” is the hebrew word for gift. We prayed hard for a son for 5 years and indeed he was a gift from God.

    My 7 year old daughters’ name is Elgene. Gene was a variant of Genesis. Her name reminds us that God is the God of new beginnings.

  2. niceheart says:

    I am one of those who named my children with the same initials. :) I just couldn’t help it. My sister and I have the same initials, so do my husband and his siblings.

    I like your daughter’s name, and also your explanation of why you named her so.

  3. Toe says:

    Oh, I love your daughter’s name… Kalayaan. You are right… why can’t Filipinos name their children with Filipino names? Other nationalities do.

  4. lai says:

    the coincidence is too creepy. hmm.

  5. kathy says:

    @Sonnie
    Wow, what nice names! I love it when parents create names which are composed with different meanings. Do you have nicknames for your children?

    @niceheart
    Incidentally, my daughter and I have the same initials, too. So now I am thinking that maybe we can name the next one (if ever) “Katarungan.” Hehe. Nah, I’m just kidding. πŸ˜›

    @Toe
    Hi! Thanks. Yes, indeed why don’t we name our children with Pinoy names? Anyway, if you plan on doing the same, get used to getting incredulous looks from fellow Pinoys whenever you introduce your kid’s name. I always get a kick out of it haha. πŸ˜€

  6. rhodora says:

    i am reminded of maki pulido, news reporter of gma 7 who has “makibaka” as her real first name. her dad was an activist. (both her mom and dad are now prominent politicians in our province, Pangasinan). :)

  7. kathy says:

    i’ve heard of maki pulido, but i didn’t know her real name. interesting bit of information you got there. actually “maki” sounds Japanese, don’t you think so? a famous singer/songwriter named makihara is called “maki” by his fans. however, “baka” means “idiot” in Japanese!

  8. karen says:

    i love your daughter’s name.
    in my family the girls’ first names start with k and j with their middle names. so we’re all KJs :) . my only brother escaped from this, but then he was named after my dad– without the letter “o”
    i once had a coworker named algina. she pronounces it as “al-geena” but my coworkers pronounce her name “al-dyai-na.” i’m glad that wasn’t my name!
    i also know parents who “elaborates” the way they spell their children’s names. like xzyenna for sienna, gaverielle for gabriel. more of mispelling, don’t you think?

  9. kathy says:

    lol! Thanks for sharing karen. I didn’t realize that I haven’t replied to this comment yet. But hey, better late than never huh? :)

    In the movie “The 40-yr old virgin,” one of the girls there introduced her name as “Gina” but pronounced it as “Jaina.” πŸ˜€

    Oh, you said it…sometimes the names are so complicated, they are almost always misspelled.

  10. annamanila says:

    Awww .. this is such an interesting, funny, witty blog on names I am glad I hadn’t read it before I wrote mine .. siguro I would have thought twice before attempting my version. :) Kalayaan is beautiful. Actually thought of pinoy names for my children too .. but they simply wouldn’t go with my husband’s surname. Before I am tempted to say what it is … bye bye for now.

    And yes, please link me, as I have linked you. Will visit again .. and again.

  11. kathy says:

    Thank you anna! :) I loved your post as well. What a nice coincidence, isn’t it?

    Regarding names, haha, yes, I think I have some idea why you didn’t name your children with Pinoy names. :)

    Thanks for the link, and yes, I’m looking forward to reading your posts!

  12. Kala says:

    I was searching for articles about my sister on the net for a piece i am writing about my family and found your site. My name is Kalayaan – Kala for short – the sister of Maki ‘Makibaka” Pulido. I just wanted to say kudos to you for taking the risk in naming your child beyond what is expected or usual. In my experience, an original name presented more interesting encounters rather than negative ones.

    But really, the question should be why must Pinoy names be thought of as unusual? :)

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