What’s in a name
By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
“What’s in a name? A rose by any other name is still a rose.” This famous quotation was taken from William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet where Juliet said “… That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” spoken by Juliet, in defense of their love with Romeo. They belong to feuding families. Of all the girls and boys that they met, how unfortunate that they had to fall in love with one from the enemy camp. But such happens and such makes the story for plays and movies.
Our name is our identity. The right to a name is a basic human right.
In traditional Igorot society, we go by only one name and that name shows your lineage. And lineage defines you. It is not enough, though, just to know your name. Like when I introduce myself the first time in the ili, it is not enough that I say my name is Penelope or Penny (especially as it is a foreign name, even my apelyido), I have to tell who my parents are, my grandparents if necessary, and from where. People will then “accept” me, if they see my connection with them. They will say “Aa, anak obpay Simon sik-a. Datako am-in.” Or “Am-ammok si amam.” Or “Dakami am-in kenda inam ay Lukana.” When we started having children, my husband and I decided that our children have Igorot names. So when my son says “Sak-en si Adamey” to somebody from western Mountain Province, it almost always evokes a connection and belongingness. “A, datako obpay amin. Ngadan mi sa.” You see, our past had been marked by tribal wars and belongingness was insurance. In those days, travelling outside the village was a great risk. So with the Igorot names as security, sons and daughters were allowed to leave the village. Wherever they are, parents know that their children won’t be left alone. Isn’t that wonderful! Now, where did your name come from?
From the name, the conversation would go deeper and wider around relations and traits and behavior of those relations. Soon you will discover a lot of things you didn’t know about your parents and your relatives and others in the village. And then you will realize that you are not just an individual – you are a part of a web of amazing people in a vibrant community and environment. That helps build belongingness, solidarity in the family and community. For the individual, it helps build self-esteem, trust and confidence.
It could be, though, that, your name evokes the opposite in some people like what happened to Romeo and Juliet. And like what happened to Jesus, whose naming we just celebrated last January 1. When Jesus spoke of the good news in Nazareth where he grew up, people there were amazed but unbelieving saying “Is not this Joseph’s son?. Joseph, the carpenter?” They belittled manual work, just like a lot of us do today.
In present society, though, this attachment to names is the foundation of political dynasties and economic classes. Thus some children have to get out of the village to be able to flourish and shine. Isn’t that a bit sad?
Presently, Igorots have adopted western style naming so we have many names – “first name”, “middle name”, “family name”, “nickname”, “alias”- so much so that there are a lot of problems in birth certificates. Mary and Joseph didn’t have any naming problems as the angel Gabriel said to Mary early on “ You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.” (Luke 1:31). For us mortals, parents have about nine months to think of a name. Be ready with a name for a girl or a boy- unlike the angel, ultrasound machines can make mistakes.
I often hear elders (well, those older than me) say that our name is one sure thing that we pass on to our children – “tawid” – so we need to protect it. Just like other indigenous cultures, we, iBesao and iSagada, have a traditional naming ceremony called the “gobbao” or gobgobbao” where the newborn is given a name. The name given is not just the fancy of the mother or the father but carefully selected from the lineage of either parent- a grandparent or relative who has great qualities that they want passed on to the child. Thus early on, in the selection of a name, there are already prayers for the future of the child and these are reiterated and enriched in the “gobbao”. The “gobbao” starts early in the morning and is capped with a meal- that’s a lot of hours spent by the family as a group praying for a bright future of the child. Such an occasion also strengthens family relations, and also affirms belongingness. Such strengthens one’s support system. So you won’t be surprised if in indigenous society, there is no such thing as depression. As the child grows and knows the story of his/her name, then the more he/she would value where he/she comes from. And how wonderful for that child to hear from people that she was named after a lola who is an industrious farmer or he was named after a lolo who is an honest official and did not get rich from grease money.
My youngest daughter just gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who is given the name Ena Kinta- a fusion of names of her grandparents who are very industrious (ehem). We welcome her to wonderful Mother Earth. Congratulations to the parents, Damme and Dan! May we all take care of our names. A BLESSED NEW YEAR TO ALL!***
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14