This article first appeared in the May-June 2003 issue of Smart Parenting magazine
When I was pregnant, after two ultrasounds, I still remained clueless as to whether I was having a son or daughter. All I knew was that I would name my child after the two guardians I would ask to watch over him or her: Archangel Michael, my favorite angel, strong and commanding; and the Blessed Virgin Mary, role model of all mothers, to whom I prayed everyday. But I was prepared to go either way: Miguel Maria for a boy and Mikaela Mari for a girl. And so came my little angel’s name—Kylie, or Mikaela Mari.
How important is the decision of what to name your child? Very important. A person’s name is part of his identity, of his relationships, and is something he will carry with him for the rest of his life.
The Gift of a Name The first thing a parent gives her child, aside from nourishment, is a name. This name, recorded in baby books and government records, signals the arrival of a new life, a new individual. The name a parent gives her child can signify what the parent may wish for him, what she dreams and aspires for her child to become or be blessed with.
Many children are named after saints, angels or Bible characters because parents hope that these children will grow up imbibing the piousness or benevolence of their namesakes.
Other parents so idolize their favorite actors, athletes, politicians, musicians and other pop or historical icons that they christen their children with the hope of passing on the same beauty, fame and fortune to them. Of course, there are millions of patriarchal parents around the world who want their sons to be like their fathers, hence all the Juniors, II’s, III’s, IV’s, etc.
A child’s name may also be a symbolic gift, chosen by the parents because of the meaning it carries, a meaning that they wish their child would grow to personify. My childhood friend named her son Victor because it means “winner” or “victorious.” Ligaya Corazon, which means happy heart, was named as such because she brought so much joy to her family.
Combinations and contractions of parents’ and grand-parents’ names or other identifiers may be the parents’ way of putting their “stamp” on their child, to let the rest of the world know that “this is our child, a product of our love.” This tradition sometimes produces the most unique names. Reynelia is a combination of Reynaldo and Cornelia. Munba Carizita is a combination of Muntinlupa, Rizal, where her mother was born, and Calatagan, Batangas, her father’s birthplace.
Think of the Future Shirley Adiviso, Ph.D., a sociology and psychology professor at St. Benedict’s College, shares an important advice on what to consider when choosing names for our children. “Think not only of today, because today will become the past for the child. Choose names that the child can carry well into the future,” she says.
Many parents choose names after trends, events or personalities popular during the time of their child’s birth. Makibaka, or Maki for short, was named such because she was born to nationalistic parents during the Marcos Era. Many of those we know with names such as Filipina, Diwa, Malaya, Mabini, and Maharlika were also born to patriotic parents during the 1st Quarter Storm. And what about friends named Rainbow, Star or River who were born to hippie parents during the age of Flower Power?
There are parents with such a sense of humor. In my alma mater, there is the famous story behind the names of the Racela brothers. Olsen was named such because he was born on All Saint’s Day; Nash because he was born on National Heroes Day; and Wally because, well, walang okasyon (no occasion or holiday).
When we decide to give our children more unique or unusual names, Adiviso reminds us that we should consider how these names sound not only to ourselves but also to our children and to our children’s future friends and family. Human relationships usually start with the exchange of names. There are children who grow up to become insecure because of the mockery and ridicule of their names. Parents should be wary of names, given or pet, with potential or real negative associations. Many boys suffer the pain of bullying and teasing by their peers simply because at the age of 10 or 17, they are still being called Mak-Mak or Bentot. Buchichay may have been cute when you’re a chubby, adorable toddler, but not when you’re a few years shy of your “cool” and “belonging” teenage years.
A lot of names we hear now are actually contractions or substitutes of people’s real names that they try to hide because in modern society they sound baduy. Gil is Guillermo; Teddy is Teodoro; Gerry is Gertrudes; Carrie is Caridad. Some people’s most closely guarded secrets are actually their given names.
Who We Are Our names, given or nicknames, have a way of defining our identities and shaping our relationships. Strong-sounding names conjure up images and stories telling of strength of body or of character. Artistic names almost require that their owners hold paintbrushes or speak poetry. Unusual names may be a person’s source of proud uniqueness or undeniable shame.
Our names sometimes precede us, and set the expectations of people around us. Be it so simple or so fancy, a name is not just a name. It is a gift to us wealthy in meaning and lasting until our last day.
In choosing the names to bestow upon our children, let us remember that these names are not just a means to distinguish child number one from number two, three and so on. Our children’s names are gifts symbolic of our hopes, reflective of our foresight, and affirming of their unique and cherished identities.