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What's In A Name
by Amado A. San Mateo
father of Jesus, Renato and Lani Rose
and grandfather of Joseph Carlo and of Gregory Mateo
Indeed, what’s in a name?
At first blush, one might say,--“Nothing to get excited about”.
Oh, really ? Think about it … Nothing can be more personal and in your face !!!
For indeed, your name is you, … Or is it ?
Who is the REAL you ?!
Have you ever been asked by a friend why your name is “Amado” and not “Bartolome” ? Not likely, unless you are my “tukayo”. But kidding aside, why in heaven’s name would anyone ever ask me that ? It is as if he is scolding me for having a name which I don’t deserve, or else I deserve a better one ! (“Better” meaning one that fits me better.) Now this raises the question of whether there is really an “appropriate” name for each person. I suppose a proper “survey” might show if there is agreement on which name should be given; but save this for another day.
For now, being asked a very personal question, I don’t know if I should be offended or what. Well, when jolted with such an earth-shaking question, I somehow turn analytical rather than emotional; I interpret the question thus - “Why was I not named after San Bartolome whose feast day (August 24) is also my birthday ?”. I will thus be assuming that he knows my birthday… But let it go at that. For if he can ask such a personal question, maybe he really knows me well enough to know my birthday. He obviously knows of the practice (at least among some Filipino “Roaming” Catholics) of giving the name of the patron saint whose feast day (“name day”) happens to be the person’s birthday. (Was it the Spanish Governor General Fr. Claveria who invented this practice, whereby given a person’s birthday, the Spanish officials would automatically know his given name and vice versa ?) Furthermore, they assigned family names (surnames) based on geographical location; thus, people coming from the Ilocos provinces were given surnames beginning with the letter “Q”, like Quitevis, Querubin, Quitoriano, etc. The Bicol provinces got the letter “O”, thus Olaguer, Olaquivel, and so on. This ingenious practice made it also easier to track down people once their names were identified, for people in hiding, changing the name would certainly help (even for a while), as in the case of Dr. Jose Rizal (whose name should really have been Jose Alonzo Mercado after his father Francisco Mercado and mother Teodora Alonzo). Of course, it also simplified the matter of assigning Christian names upon baptism.
But we are straying too far from the original question – why is my name Amado rather than Bartolome ? And while we are trying to answer that question, we might also ask the same question in the case of my tukayo, Kuya Amado (Ybuan) whose birthday is also August 24. Quite a coincidence ! – unless his parents were also using the same calendar as mine. And this brings home the question to the door of those who really should be asked- my parents and his (or whoever picked our names for us). Did they perhaps have something against San Bartolome himself, or just the sound of his name ? I don’t know about Kuya Amado’s case, but in mine, I can guess that my parents must have thought that “Bartolome” is too long (with 4 syllables- too long to say, and with 9 letters-too long to write!), knowing the practical people that they are. Nothing personal to the saint, I’m sure; rather, a long name would be difficult for a young student to handle in school. (And this is borne out by the short names we got: Amado, Ruben, Linda, Amor).
But I would like to think that name length was not the only basis for these choices. With my own name, it is reassuring that I am “beloved” (Amado). Otherwise there is nothing remarkable about my name. And since I really did not know of any other Amado at that time, there was no role model as far as name was concerned. Instead, the challenge was to make a name for myself (not that it was a conscious effort on my part, but it just felt good when my name was mentioned approvingly rather than in rejection). And when that happens, my name rings true! For imagine if Inay would shout my name in disgust—what a contradiction in terms!
Now in the case of our brother Ruben, his name is “biblical”—son of Jacob and traditional eponymous ancestor of one of the tribes of Israel—(straight from Merriam-Webster). It’s good that I did not know it then, else I would have been green with envy. All I can say is he really lived up to his name—for now he has a tribe of his own.
Our sister Linda—“beautiful”—started out as Erlinda as far as I could remember. I don’t know exactly why “Er” got chopped off, but I tend to agree with that decision because, whereas “Linda” is an assertion of beauty, Erlinda sounds more like a question “Er…Linda?”. So that was a wise move. Furthermore she is also the lucky one—three sons in a row means good luck.
With Amor we have a very special case indeed. She is our youngest and she has the shortest name as well. Our names both have the same Spanish root “amar” (to love). But in her case she carries a deep family secret, only to be revealed on these pages. Hopefully, this will not come to her as a shock--she was a love child!!!
Now, before I get accused of “teasing the bunso” (a habit of mine which is hard to give up after all these years), let me hurriedly explain. All I remember was that Inay and Itay had a big fight, not the common “skirmish”. So Inay left home to go to Lola Gonday’s (to cool off, I guess). As expected, Itay went to get her back, and of course, as expected, there was a big reconciliation…and the rest is history (or should I say, Amor!)
Only two of the six children got somewhat longer names. Herminia, our eldest, who claims she started out with an even longer name “Hermosisima” (Spanish for “the most beautiful”) was only too happy she did not end up with it ! It’s too long to say and too long to write (and perhaps she also doubted if it is really true! – just kidding, Ate). Thank God our parents did not get carried away! Now in the case of our brother Virgilio, he started out with the name “Alejandro” after our paternal grandfather from whom he probably got his “Bombay” looks. Some relatives will probably remember him by the nickname “Alex” way back then. It is not unusual, by the way, for young kids to be given a “temporary” name while waiting to be baptized, especially if they are not baptized shortly after birth., as is the practice in our family. This also affords a “trial period” so to speak during which the name can be tested for “fit”. It’s hard to tell if our brother would have been happier sporting the name of our grandfather Lolo Andoy; what I remember is our mother only called him Virgilio when she was angry with him. The rest of the time, he was “Totoy” (a name of endearment for a little boy) and it stuck. By the way, our sister Herminia somehow also got stuck with her pet name “Nene”( also a name of endearment for a little girl). Could it be because their names are too long ?
In the case of the families of our parents, most names were long. Perhaps that was the fashion of their time. In our mother’s family (Almoro), the children were Crisostomo (“Momoy”, who passed away as a child), Cresenciana(our mother, Sencia), Conrado (Dodo), Damian, Juliana (Juling), Amparo (Faye),Marciano (Cianing), Carlos (Carling), Bienvenido (Benny), Mauricio (Maury), Rogelio (Ojit) and Reynaldo (Enyboy). Half of the names in our father’s family (San Mateo) were long— Salvadora (Doreng), Marciano (our father, Ciano), Leonora (Liling), while the other half were shorter— Maria (Maring), Pilar (Piling), Andres (Mañec). Perhaps, the preference was beginning to shift to shorter names even then. It is not clear to me how their names were selected except for Andres(my Tio Mañec) whose name matches the calendar name for his birthday, November 30(same as Andres Bonifacio). I can’t tell if he was named after the saint or the hero. But knowing how close the family is to the Church (my father used to be a “sacristan” when he was a boy; Tio Mañec, even up to now sings in the church choir), I won’t be surprised if he was named after the saint. Yet he is known better by his boyhood name “Mañeco” later shortened to “mañec” (accent on the second syllable), derived from “manyika” (or doll), or “mannequin”, for he had the looks. Here is a case of the “perfect fit” and the boyhood name that stuck! And talking about names that stick, we still call Tio Mañec’s wife “Tia Baby”. Is it because her name Concepcion is too long? Now in the case of his only brother Marciano (our father), his name is very popular among the San Mateos (and even among the Almoros), extending even to the younger generations (you may check the family tree if you don’t believe me).
But would a parent intentionally choose ugly names for his children?
A “kumpare” of mine gave atrocious pet names to his children, bordering on slander—e.g. “Bugoy”, “Butchiki”, “Bungal”, “Ngongo” etc.
“Why on earth?”, I asked him. His explanation was steeped in deeply- rooted custom. According to Filipino belief, evil spirits envy children with nice names, thereby exposing them to potential harm, against which they can not defend themselves. When they are old enough, they can “shed” their ugly names. (The chance they take though is that these names might stick!) As for the psychological effects of carrying such pejoratives, who knows what harm they may inflict on the self- image of a growing child? Fortunately his children all grew up well adjusted and successful: it might have worked in their favor (or at least they were able to overcome it). Perhaps it also taught them humility early on.
Indeed, names can be a way whereby good values are imbibed.
And so, giving names can be a very serious matter indeed!
And this brings us to the names of our own children. Here I do not have to speculate anymore for I know exactly how we chose them.
Our eldest son got the name “Jesus” which I had been nursing since my bachelor days(even my wife did not know it then). Somehow, I like that name for there was no one by that name I knew whom I did not admire, so much so that I would not mind having it for myself. So here, we gave the name to our firstborn, not so much because it fits him, but more in the hope that he will be worthy of the name. But there was also another reason for the choice -by some strange coincidence, he was really scheduled to arrive on December 25 ! His second name “Amado” was really an afterthought (just in case he prefers it, or else he must use it because he is not deserving of the name “Jesus”).
So when he was in grade school, he used a rather well known name(at that time),”J.Amado”. This allowed him to write a shorter name, at the same time be easier to identify with his parent while in school. At home, we called him “Toti”(nickname for “Jesusito”) a childhood name that stayed on. So, family, relatives and old friends who have known him since childhood would call him “Toti”. He is “Jess” to all the rest.
Our second child’s name is also very special to us in more ways than one. “Renato” means rebirth(re-‘natal’) – a second boy in the family. But he was also named after a dear friend of mine in college whom I admired, who graduated as the lone “summa-cum-laude” of the entire l956 batch of the University of the Philippines to which I belong. To us, Renato holds a promise of “renaissance”, which even now is coming to pass.
Born in Australia, Renato should have had a proper “fair-dinkum” Aussie boyhood name, but we did not stay long enough for him to get one. Instead, we came home to the Philippines where he promptly got unofficially baptized as “Atoy”(local nickname for “Renato”). Living in a family compound with a lot of adults, he also got another name-“Buddha” from the elders who thought it fitted his roly-poly appearance. In school, classmates would give him various names – “Rene”, “Renat”,”Nato”, etc., and he seemed to welcome them all; we really did not get to find out which name he preferred for they would change as he grew older (as if he was in a constant state of renaissance!). When his nephew started to call him “Ninong”, he also got the more respectful name “Renato” to go with it. However, his friends now call him “Nuts”- that’s how it sounds anyway.
Me, personally, I would rather call him “Doc”, and the sooner, the better
After two sons, my wife and I were very eager to have a daughter. So, when Lani Rose came, it was really heaven for us ! In Hawaiian, the word for heaven or sky is “lani”. Having spent more than a month waiting for her arrival, we had a lot of time to see the tropical paradise that is Hawaii. We also saw “lani” everywhere we went, in fact, the hospital where she was born is named “Kapiolani”.
Her second name was really a requirement from Hawaiian authorities; but we also wanted to give her a second choice. After all, “Lani” would go very nicely with another name, just like the way it accompanies other Hawaiian words. The requirement states that only native Hawaiians are allowed to have local names; “haoles” (whites) and others must have a second and foreign name. “Rose” is our obvious choice – it came from her mother’s name “Rosalinda”(Beautiful Rose) and is short enough to go with “Lani”. Hence, our “bunso” is named “Lani Rose”(Heavenly Rose or Rose from Heaven).
At that time, we thought what a unique name she would have ! Strangely enough, since our return to the Philippines, we have learned that there are at least two other girls here whose names are exactly like hers. One was a fellow student at the UPIS and the second we saw among TV credits (both of them younger than our Lani Rose). So now, instead of being unique, perhaps she can claim to be the first !
Before closing, I can’t help mentioning that our son Jesus named his son(and our grandson), Joseph; and together with his wife Maria (Clara) they form what we all fondly call “the holy family” !
We are also very proud to mention that our second grandson, Gregory (named after the scientist - monk Gregor Mendel, father of genetics) who is the son of Lani Rose and her husband Steven Jay also has a very familiar second name –
M A T E O !!!
SO WHAT IS IN A NAME ???
QUITE A LOT !
Joy, Love, Hope, Wishes, Praises, Prayers, Memories,
Acclamation, Exaltation, Invocation, Celebration, Jubilation !!!
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