Thursday, February 21, 2008

Name game

This is something I wrote back in 1997, when I was doing a column called “Matter of Fact” for the Manila Times. It got published in the February 27 issue, soon after the 11th-anniversary celebration of the 1986 EDSA uprising. I reprint it here because it’s EDSA anniversary time again, and for another reason that is better explained in a postscript.

By Jose F. Lacaba

Manila Times
February 27, 1997

The name game

EDSA babies--children born during the four-day people-power uprising of 1986--had their 15 minutes of fame at last Tuesday's 11th-anniversary celebration of the event. Not surprisingly, a number of them bore the names of EDSA's principal players.

By one count, at least nine EDSA babies are named Corazon, after Cory Aquino. Seven carry two variations on Juan Ponce Enrile's first name--Juano and John. But Fidel V. Ramos and Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan get only one namesake each--Jopen Fidel and Honnashan.

Is that scorecard an indication of popularity levels at the time?

Surprisingly, Fidel's cousin gets a better score than Fidel. Two boys who came into the world just before Marcos hightailed it out of Malacañang will forever bear the ignominy of going by the name of Ferdinand. They must have been born to loyalist parents.

Two others are named after a noble abstraction, Liberty. And one, the star of the EDSA '96 show, who was chosen to light the freedom flame, is called Edsa Rose.

Through the centuries, historical events and cultural trends have often set new fashions in name-giving. “For many children of the '60s,” authors Nathaniel Wice and Steven Daly note in Alt.culture: An A-to-Z Guide to the '90s--Underground, Online, and Over-the-Counter (Harper Perennial, 1995), “one parental indiscretion means a lifetime laboring under a name like Dweezil, Chastity, or Justice.”

Hippie parents begat, in the words of Wice and Daly, “perfectly nice kids with weird names” like River, Winona, and Uma. (Yup, Phoenix, Ryder, and Thurman are counterculture babies.)

EDSA, though, doesn't seem to have spawned too many imaginative or hero-worshipping appellations, judging from the reported list of 23 names. Maybe the uprising happened too quickly.

There were 550 participating EDSA babies, according to one report. By what names have the remaining 527 been christened? Is anyone out there named Ninoy, Agapito Butz, Jaime Cardinal, Veritas, Radyo Bandido, or Uzi?

Maybe I just move in different circles, but it seems to me that the First Quarter Storm of 1970 and the struggle against martial law inspired a lot more names not commonly seen in baptismal registries.

I know a number of twentysomethings, both male and female, who are named Malaya, usually nicknamed Aya. Note that the FQS gave birth to Malaya but EDSA brought forth Liberty. That means two sets of street parliamentarians speaking different languages.

You can immediately tell if someone is a martial-law baby or the child of FQS activists when that someone answers to the name Makibaka, or Demo (short for Demonstrasyon or Demokrasya), or Rebo (short for Rebolusyon).

I have a goddaughter named Roja (Spanish for “red”), a godson named Fedayeen (the Palestinian word for “guerrilla”), and nieces named Miriam Mendiola, Emanwelga, and Amir (the Arabic word for “commander,” from which came the English word emir).

Tagalog names like Lualhati and Bayani, once popular in nationalist families, haven't enjoyed a revival. FQS veterans prefer coming up with new ones like Maningning, Banaue, Mithi, Hiyas, Alab, and Tagumpay.

The pantheon of leftist role models has also bequeathed names like Karl, Vladimir, Lenin, Marlenin, Mao, Chi Minh, and Norman (after Norman Bethune, a Canadian doctor apotheosized by Mao Zedong). I've even met someone actually named Karlmarxist.

More nationalistically inclined leftist types have named their children Amado Bonifacio, Crisanto (after Crisanto Evangelista, founder of the first Communist Party of the Philippines), and Lorena (after woman warrior Lorena Barros).

It isn't just babies whose names give away their parents' militant past. There are even, believe it or not, taxis named Lenin, FQS, Freedom, and Kalayaan.

Obviously, some former street marchers have gone up the social ladder. As driver-operators, they have graduated to the status of entrepreneurs and members of the national bourgeoisie.

Those taxi names, by the by, are culled from my wife's unusual collection. Her hobby of late, while riding in the front seat of our old heap, is monitoring the incredible nomenclature produced by the boom in individually owned taxicabs.

The names fall into several categories. FQS belongs to the political, but the religious, being less likely to attract the attention of government agents, seems to have more adherents, with taxis named God's Grace, God's Glory, God's Servant, God's Sheep, God's Touch, Jesus on Board Godspeed, Heart of Jesus, D'Lord's Army, Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Hope, Psalm 21, and Deuteronomy.

Among the other categories: people (Zaira & Zabrielle, Ahkong & Ahkang); places, which could be countries where owner-operators were once overseas contract workers (Bahrain, Osaka); dates, their significance known only to the owners (June One, 21st of September); family (Six Brothers, Mater et Filius); literature, sometimes in fractured forms (McBeth, Othella, Alvatross); transportation (Road 'R' Us, Wheels and Hubs); high technology (Bits & Bytes, Zybernetics); anatomy (Tumbong, Tarugo); vices (Fundador, Cuadro de Jack); and miscellaneous (Nameless, Whatever, Makuletski).

More space would be needed to give justice to this subject. My wife's personal favorites are Nik-Nik, Nicnoc, Noc-Noc, Nikmik, Buniknik, and Mik-Mik.

There's also a taxi surnamed Lacaba. It sped by so quickly that my wife missed its first name. I can assure you it doesn't belong to me.

My own favorite is Brod Pit Taxi. That's probably owned by a fratman who thinks he looks like Brad Pitt. I am instructing my siblings to stop calling me Kuya and to address me henceforth as Brod Pete.

POSTSCRIPT, February 21, 2008:

For some time after the above column came out, I was addressed by friends and officemates as Brod Pete. But then, not long after the above column came out, along came Bubble Gang comedian Isko Salvador, who also took the name Brod Pete for one of his personas, so I dropped my email address and went with kapete, which in the past decade went through three email addresses—the now defunct and, and the still current

Ka Pete was a jocular appellation that originally came up after I wrote a script called Bayan Ko: Kapit sa Patalim (1984), but it didn’t really catch on among my friends until I started using it as an email address.

And now, I have been reliably informed, Isko “Brod Pete” Salvador also has another TV program where he goes by the name Ka Pete. TV has a wider reach than the print media, so is it time for me to say goodbye to my own Ka Pete handle, even if it’s already etched in the blogosphere as a result of this kapetesapatalim blog that I have just started?

Maybe it’s time for me go by the name used by my journalism students and by my current officemates, who have all knighted me and are calling me... Sir Pete.


Carlos Conde said...

Salamat naman at may blog ka na, Bos Pit! -- Caloy (

karlomongaya said...

Sir, thanks for reprinting this article online and giving everyone the opportunity to read it. =)

It reminded me of my own name and that of my younger siblings (Alya Simone, Andre Sandino) - also the sons of my titos and titas. Many of their names had the same initials. Karlo Miguel, Karlo Maiel, etc. Meanwhile, in the University, we had a Lean, Mara Rev, Ken Mark, Mark Lenin, Joe Mark, and Emman.

Once again, much thanks! =)

Karlo Mongaya

Rachel said...

Sir Pete! May blog ka pala! Sini secret mo ha! Bwahaha!

Ka Pete said...

Hindi ko naman sinisecret. Hindi ko lang pinagsasabi.

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