Monday, March 9, 2009

What's in a name?

Perhaps the next difficult task lined up for new parents after welcoming a child into this world is selecting the perfect name for the new member of the family. I haven't been a parent yet but I imagine that task would be fun.

Though most of the time confused and can't make up my mind, I always have fun deciding what name to give my pets. (When I finally had a dog which I named Andy - yes, that's him on the picture - I realized that having a pet is a form of parenting, so I was thinking I could insert this here. You adopt a pet, but actually, it's the pet that adopts you. Humans are made to believe that we are parenting the animal but it is actually the animal who's parenting us. Bottom line: Having a pet is a form of parenting, and it is up to you to decide who gets the role of parent and the role of child.)

When I was younger, I had cats named Kitty, Sir Oliver and Pringles, and for me I couldn't be proud enough then for baptizing them myself. Those names somehow gave them a sense of individuality apart from being named the usual Miming/Ming-Ming/Mingkay, names that my late grandmother would love to call all of them. Once Miming/Ming-Ming/Mingkay dies and a new cat comes along, then we have a new Miming/Ming-Ming/Mingkay. The generic name usually comes in handy specially when they are fed. Just call out Miming/Ming-Ming/Mingkay, and the whole feline family in the house - Papa Cat, Mama Cat, and the kittens - would come to you. Their names would however become different when my grandmother would catch them trying to snatch a portion of the food served on our dining table. Instantly they would be baptized, Limbarok(!), my grandmother's signature expression, one that she used when she is annoyed or mad. The name or expression just slides out of her mouth as easily as a knee jerk. I never got to ask her what it meant or where the word originated but I knew that the cats, after hearing that, would probably prefer a generic name of Miming/Ming-Ming/Mingkay running along their families for generations. That would certainly sound sweeter than Limbarok(!), never mind that it is recycled.


Now that I got you smiling, about my story of pet names, watch yourself smile even more if you were to name your own baby. Or in the case of those who are already moms and dads, perhaps the decision of choosing a name for your little angel was one of the sweet agonies you had to go through as a parent. For the mother, it may be one of those agonies in life which always made you smile each time you remember it, but perhaps only second to what you had to go through before that, which we call labor and delivery. (Or mothers, was that sweet agony, indeed? You've come as far as ten hours of labor and you're yelling at your obstetrician because the Demerol isn't helping at all and you're asking her to give you that epidural anesthesia just when your cervix is fully dilated?) The pleasure and liberty of giving a name to the offspring bears so much weight because it will be the 'mark' by which the child will be known all throughout his life.


Just last week, I read about unusual baby names. If you would think that Alka Seltzer was hilarious enough, how about having CircuncisiĆ³n (Circumcision) for a name? Last January, a father was separated from his baby, because he decided to name him Adolf Hitler. Other unusual names include Perfecta HeroĆ­na (Perfect Heroine), Usmail (as in USA Mail), Usnavy (as in USA Navy). Winter Breeze, Metallica, and 4Real would also be included in the list. Then there's Abacus, Anemone, Burr, Cadence, Canyon (whoa!), Quantico, Schwantika, Ursa, and Tamarind.

Now the Filipinos won't be left behind. I have a lot of friends with interesting names like Majal Tagumpay who has a brother named Ibon Bayani. Majal is a musician by heart and by profession so she named her daughter Nasa Huni, which in English means in tune. I have a childhood friend name Youreallylove. Yes, really! I also had schoolmates whose surnames are their first names at the same time, they were all lovely girls named Jamora Maria Jamora I, II, II and so forth. My aunt's got a nephew too who has his mother's maiden name as his first name. I thought that was really cute but I could not do that to my own son, if I had one, or else he'll be nicknamed 'nes, aside from being always the last one to finish in writing class. Now who would not forget the juniors who are (un)lucky enough to take the names of their fathers. Their names could indeed make a mark in this era where Paquito (that's my father's name), Vicente (sorry Prams!), Vicencio, Tranquilina, Candelaria, etc. are almost never an afterthought amidst an overwhelming number of choices with Adam, Joshua, Jaden, Zachary, Ava, Alexa, Isabella, on the top of the list with a lot more.

But there is this one habit of Filipino parents in giving names to their children that is unprecedented in any part of the globe. No, I am not referring to the "h" that most Pinoys love to insert in their names, wherein Jun becomes Jhun, Tata (a favorite Visayan nickname, probably because it's unisex) becomes Thata. It's the habit that somehow Filipino fathers got addicted to and that is to "feminize" their masculine name so that they could somehow achieve immortality through the names of their daughters. So you would know that Rudylin's father is Rudy, Junylyn's or Jhunilyn's father Jun or Jhun. But the rule does not apply though to Jennylyn, right? Okey, her mother is Jenny.

This attempt at achieving mortality though did not turn out that very good for a 20-year old teacher in Toril, Davao City, who was abducted last Wednesday, March 4, by unknown armed men. Her dead body was then fished out in an irrigation ditch a few days later in Carmen, Davao del Norte. She was tortured, raped, and stabbed to death. The victim's name is Rebelyn. Yes she is a rebel's daughter. She is the daughter of Leoncio Pitao a.k.a Commander Parago of the New People's Army.

Her death has recently sparked clamor and triggered anger, among Davaoenos, most especially. A ruthless and needless act against the innocent daughter of a father who has found refuge in the mountains.

Her family holds the “evil, vicious men from the military intelligence group,” accountable for the crime. A ruthless crime against a daughter who chose to stay in the lowlands and never thought of the option of also finding refuge in the mountains like what her father and her brother did. What the heck. She was going to be a regular teacher in the school where she works in in a few months time. Her life revolved in her profession. Her routine was basically home-school-home which unfortunately made her an easy target for those cowards.

Seems like the strategy here is to find your way to the father, you have to go to the son. In this case the daughter. Those who thought of this are probably scratching their heads right now. That is, if the impact of the crime they committed ever hit them hard on their faces. It was a very poor attempt at being biblical.

Politicians are promising for an investigation, an in-depth probe of her death. But that is all they can do actually - promise. The following morning you'll wake up and find that this issue is overran by issues of sky-rocketing prices of gasoline or basic goods, or by the war between a GMA-7 Executive and Annabelle Rama. De ba Roopa?

Lately, the topic on how Rebelyn came to be named that has never been brought up in the papers. But most people in their hometown believe that she was abducted because she is a rebel's baby girl. Because she was her father's daughter. She was supposed to celebrate her 21st birthday this month, but on her birthday, her body will be lying still on the casket, while her soul will be roaming around the earth. That day when she's supposed to be dreamily wondering about what took place 21 years ago, will never be seen by Rebelyn. May her soul rest in peace and may justice be served.

I am sorry that this entry had to end in a sad note but sometimes I just could not find a way to sugarcoat this reality. I just could not, and would not. It doesn't take away the joy of naming a baby or a pet though. In this girl's case, her name just simply had an obvious link to the convictions and ideals of his rebel father, which Rebelyn undoubtedly immortalized with her death.


(Photo: That's Andy, my baby, in the house of his adoptive family, the Montebons. He was three months old in that pic.)

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