BY NINO MANAOG
Neil Romano. Donna Bella. John Paulo. Raphael Francis. Maita Cristina.
I wonder how my cousins and my brother think—or feel—about their names.
Each of them was given two beautiful names, but they would just be called one name—either their first or their second name.
In fact, they have also been called other names.
Neil Romano (born 1969) later became Neil. But affectionately, to us he has always been “Áno,” a diminutive of Románo.
From Donna Bella (born 1973), they chose Donna. But then again, it has always been “Nang-nang”—with her younger siblings, too, being called Ding-ding, Kling-kling and Don-don, who have since called her “Manangnang”— most likely from “Manay Nang-nang”.
Also, John Paulo (born 1978), named after the pope, became only Paulo—but fondly now, “Pau.”
Raphael Francis (born 1980) became Francis. But fondly, too, he has always been “Pangkoy” to us.
And Maita Cristina, born 1985, yes, on a Christmas Day, became simply Maita, cleverly drawn from that of our lola, Margarita.
So why is it that despite the two names given to people, there is always one active name that replaces them—most likely the one that their parents or their folks chose or still gave them?
Of course, there’s a story behind each name—about how they were named but I’m sure there’s a juicier story of how they were also nicknamed—or how that single, active name came to be and has been used ever since.
Did you notice that only in Mexican soap operas—and later Filipino telenovelas—can we hear two names being seamlessly, rather dutifully, used when they are addressed, as in: “Maria Mercedes,” or “Carlos Miguel” or “Julio Jose?”
“Mara Clara.” What did you say—“Maria Clara?”
Of course, there are exceptions. Take the case of Von Carlo. Or Sarah Jane. Or Lyn Joy (Wow… I cannot think of a sweeter name than this.)
But each of these two-name names is already too short to be cut further or even dropped. In fact—easily they can be turned into one: Jennylyn, Genalyn, Ednalyn. Julieanne. Maryanne. Carolyn. Carol Lyn?
Or Larryboy. Or Dannyboy. Dinosaur (from Dino Sauro?)
So is it for brevity, then? After all, I think that first names are tags (as in katawagan and therefore pagkakakilanlan) of persons, so does it really help that they are short, as in monosyllabic? The shorter or the faster the register, the better—is that it?
Nowadays or maybe even in the past, some have been given three first names or more, as in Jose Francis Joshua.
Allen Van Marie. Francis Allan Angelo.
Maria Alessandra Margaret.
Why? They are so named most likely because their parents would want to honor their folks—aunts, uncles, grandparents, and great-grandparents by giving them a string of their names.
In the case of some Jose Felicisimo Porfirio Diaz, a.k.a. Bobong, who was named after his uncle and great-grandfather, we could easily guess what happened here. The kilometric name just didn’t really sit well—probably pissed his other folks off, who then argued with his parents but luckily agreed and settled for a simpler one: Bobong!
How about Jose Antonio Emilio Herminigildo? Sounds like two persons already. Takes a lot of effort.
So why do parents name their children the way they do? How do they (come to) do it? Are they inspired by their heroes? Idols? The stars of their own lives?
Personal heroes? I already said that. So, there.
Parents name their children based on inspiration—to immortalize not only their origins, their parents but also their aspirations and ideals.
Then again, some of them name their offspring to immortalize only themselves: Romeo Agor I, Romeo Agor II, Romeo Agor III, etc. Just like royalty.
But seriously, I admire how people in the past were so beautifully named—by being given only one name:
Why is this name so beautiful? It doesn’t evoke sadness. Neither does it invoke anything unattractive. It doesn’t mean a lot of things but itself.
Of course, it means something based on its origin. But I choose to look past its etymology and just see it as it is.
Why do these four-syllable names sound so beautiful? They’re not magical; they’re just beautiful to hear. They do not mean a lot of things but themselves.
They’re just perfect.
Each of them has four syllables so that when you say them, they sound like two names already in modern parlance, each with two syllables.
So while some parents worry about giving their children two or three names or even more, I think that they overlook the beauty of giving their children one, single name. As in:
Rosita. Or Zenaida.
Really here, simplicity is beauty.
Hearing these names or reading them on the page, I seem to hear or feel the wish of the parents when they so name their child with just one name, as if to speak of their only wish for them in life.
It’s like: one name, one wish—only goodness and nothing else:
Mercedita. Zarina. Maida.
Carmelita. Belinda. Elisa.
For me, giving them more than one name means something else altogether. “Maria Teresita” sounds overdone. “Luz Imelda” might work—sounds good—but not as plainly as just, “Imelda”. Then, honestly, “Roberto” or “Francisco” sounds better than “Francisco Roberto”. I don’t know why.
I also wonder why a four- or five-syllable name sounds strong. Intact or solid. Strong-willed.
Bersalina. Bienvenido. Aideliza. Plocerfina.
And why do these names with three syllables sound so wonderful? Macário. Terésa.
Wait, Tibúrcio. Dionísia. Glória.
Why does it sound like poetry? Soledád. Like beauty? Rafaél.*
(To be continued)