Paging DFA: What’s a ‘foreign-sounding’ name?
Recently I requested my travel agent to facilitate my passport renewal. I got the surprise of my life when she informed me that, aside from my most recent passport and my birth certificate, I need to present my father’s birth certificate because I bear a foreign-sounding name.
What if I am not able to locate my father’s birth certificate? (He was born in 1915 and died in 1998.) Does that make me a non-Filipino?
I cannot be any other foreign nationality. I have lived in the Philippines all my life. Filipino is the language I use at home and with my friends. I speak English with a Filipino accent, not like the spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Is it because my family name “Po” is unisyllabic and therefore sounds Chinese? What about De la Cruz? Reyes? Espiritu? Santos? These are Spanish words, and therefore also foreign sounding. Are people with these surnames required to bring their father’s birth certificates too? If not, then this is a clear case of racial prejudice.
Or perhaps, the requirement refers to my foreign-sounding first name? (Why, some Filipinos even have “Washington” for a first name!) But what are Filipino sounding first names?—Noynoy? Bingbing? Dayday? Lingling? Kaykay? Meymey? Junjun? If the first name is the issue, I’d rather die an alien.
There are in fact very few names of Filipino origin, the popular ones at present being Macapagal and Ducut (which coincidentally do not carry a very flattering connotation when taken together).
I do not know a single Chinese word except for the meaning of “po” (or fu, meaning treasure in Fookien). But “po” is also a much-spoken Filipino word used to express respect when talking with elders. Using “po” also gives one the aura of humility, that is why it is always used by politicians. In fact, the use of “po” is linguistically uniquely Filipino.
My first passport was issued in 1971, and I have regularly renewed it since then. Since then, decades ago, my citizenship should have been established. Why do I have to go through this test of nationality now that I am a senior citizen? I humbly call on Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario (please note, his first and last names are foreign sounding) to correct this policy on “foreign sounding” names. Which is easy to do anyway. All it takes is a little common sense.
—GERALDINE L. PO,
c/o Popular Bookstore,
305 T. Morato Ave., Quezon City,
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