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The art of naming Filipino children

/ 05:18 AM January 31, 2019

Quite a number of Filipino men sport first names like Socrates. In Lingayen, there’s Archbishop Socrates Villegas; in Cebu, Talisay Mayor Socrates Fernandez; and, in Daanbantayan, policeman Socrates Bacalso. Apparently, many Filipino parents are conversant with the Greek philosophers, hence this penchant to christen boys with that name.

None seem to christen their sons Plato, probably because a Plato Villegas, Plato Fernandez and Plato Bacalso would, as young boys, be the laughingstock of their schoolmates who’d throw plastic dishes at them, yelling “Eto na si plahto!”

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It’s not only ancient Greeks who’re admired in this country, but also fictional figures. Anna Karenina Salgado is communications officer at Cebu’s new airport.

Cebu always takes its politics seriously, especially by City Councilor Lollipop Ouano-Dizon. I think she was once interviewed by journalist Mussolini Lidasan.

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A recent graduate from a law school in Cebu can be sure the diploma he’d hang in his future law office will be truly eye-catching: attorney Wrynzler Wynken Toni Timbal.

Indeed, colorful Filipino names abound everywhere. When I lived in Hong Kong, Jethro Tull de la Cruz was a consular staffer handling visas for the overseas Filipino workers. I doubt he also ran a rock band, but I believe he was a distant cousin of Robespierre Bolivar in the foreign office in Manila.

Who would not be charmed by Queen Elizabeth Pacquiao, whose father has not only impressed the sports world with his boxing, but also Filipino parents who admire his imagination for bestowing a royal name on his offspring?

Manila’s film world boasts of actresses with monikers like Empress Schuck, Cherry Pie Picache and Princess Punzalan. Male actors include bit player Ketchup Eusebio and star Dingdong Dantes.

All this makes me wonder if we Filipinos today live in godless times. I ask this because I grew up in the old days when parents named their children after saints, believing a child would be protected by their particular saint. So girls had names like Consuelo, Lourdes, Rosario and Teresita. Many like me were given two saints’ names, like Maria Isabel for double protection. Boys were named Antonio, Miguel or Pablo—certainly not Joseph Stalin Fagsao, the 2016 PMA graduate whose father admired that Russian dictator.

In the United States once, two Filipinos speeding on a highway were stopped by a motorcycle cop. Asked for his license, the driver explained that he was rushing his sick friend to hospital. The cop read the driver’s license issued to Angel Gonzales. Asking Mr. Gonzales what his companion’s name was, he was told it was Mr. Santos, first name Jesus, which Mr. Gonzales spelled out. Scratching his head, the cop decided to let them go. Having Jesus being steered by Angel was too much for that inquisitive American policeman!

Matters in the Philippines today have turned truly weird, as far as tradition is concerned, with heritage places being torn down and the proliferation of outlandish names. Yevgeny Emano is Misamis Oriental governor, Tootsie de Jesus and Benhur Tayag are prominent businessmen, Voltaire Domingo is an ace news photographer, and Keanu Reeves Bacasan is a 4-year-old schoolboy living in Benguet who recently received a donated backpack.

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I always enjoy the ballet in Manila, since my two young girls used to take lessons with teachers at the Cultural Center. Ballet Philippines, among the best in Asia today, has dedicated staffers like Aristotle Santos, Brezhnev Larlar and Mines Solomon.

As I grow older and have become a hypochondriac, visits to doctors are more frequent. In Cebu, I’ve consulted a neurologist named Dr. Apollo Sitoy, a brilliant man. Once, I accompanied a friend who consulted cancer specialist Popeye Abad Santos, then later a radiologist named Beethoven de Guzman (who I surmised was also a musicologist). Recently, I’ve been longing to have my teeth cleaned by dentist Charisma Cacho.

That old tourism slogan, “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” should really be renamed “It’s more colorful in the Philippines.” After all, it was former US President Barack Obama himself who described our President as “a colorful character” when asked to comment on being cursed by Mr. Duterte.

Indeed, having environmental lawyer Habeas Corpuz, scientist Isosceles Pascual, NGO chief Cleopatra Impresso, entrepreneur Euclid Cezar, Isabela official Jessie James Geronimo, activist Melchizedek Babilonia and many other folks with wonderful monikers, who’s to say the Philippines isn’t a colorful country?

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Isabel Escoda has written for the Inquirer since the 1980s. Her nickname is Betty Boop, given by her parents as an infant when that cartoon character was popular.

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