Just who the Hell are we!?

Back in college, I was known by my surname, Diego.

Turns out there was another Jonas in my college so to avoid confusion, I started using my surname as my first name. Besides, I thought being called Diego was kind of cool. It started getting weird after a while because my girlfriends called me Diego instead of Jonas, which sounded more like an order from a drill sergeant rather than a term of endearment from a significant other.

My family calls me by my little boy nickname, Jon-jon. That’ fine if you’re a four-year-old kid but becomes an embarrassment when you’re already past thirty. Childhood friends further shortened my nickname to just plain Jon, which was more acceptable to my ears.

When I became a DJ for a local community FM station in Los Banos, we took to the habit of calling each other by our call signs or air names even when we’re outside the station. Mine was Raven. Up to now, when we get the chance to meet, we still revert to calling each other by our old air names.

Most people nowadays know me as just plain Jonas, which doesn’t sound as bad as I thought it was when I was younger.

I used to envy my brothers and sister for having such strong and cool sounding names.

Ate Marichu is Maria Soccoro, Kuya Bobby is Salvador, Kuya Jun is Eduardo Sultan Diego, Jr., and I was just plain old Jonas. My mom says I was supposed to be named Francisco (because I was born on St. Francis’ Day, October 4) but, for one reason or the other, they decided on Jonas instead.

Plain old Jonas does have its advantages though.

Except for college, I was almost always the only Jonas in any group I moved in. You have no idea what some of the troubles some of my friends who have more “generic” names went through because of the commonness of their names.

It becomes worse when you also have a generic surname like dela Cruz, like my mom’s cousin (which they say is, technically, my grandmother…but that’s another story).

Her name is Juana dela Cruz (somewhat similar to John Smith), I kid you not.

The problem was somewhat solved when she got married and took on the surname of her husband.

So, I guess I have a lot to be thankful for my name. After all, I could have gotten it worse, don’t you think?

One of my uncles used to swear that he had a classmate back in college with the most unfortunate surname of Bagonggahasa (“just been raped” is the literal translation). To add insult to injury, the owner of the surname was also a girl.

I would have had my surname legally changed (as soon as I was of legal age…and if I was a girl) or gotten married and possessed my husband’s surname with a fury if it was me.

I was never able to find out if it was just a fanciful story told by my uncle or if it was in fact based in fact. It takes no great leap of imagination, however, the horror one has to go through with a name like that.

A good name is important because, unless you have money and an amazing lawyer, you’re probably going to be stuck with the one your parents will give you until the day you die.

Lots of culture (including pre-Hispanic Philippines) believed that picking a proper name is a very important act because they believed a name tells who you are and the virtues you possess.

Remember Malakas (strong) and Maganda (beautiful)?

It’s no mistake that some of our ancestors are named Marikit (pretty) or Matapang (brave). People back then are named for the virtues and quality their parents wanted (or hoped) they would someday possess.

So, new parents out there, name your babies well.

I know Sweet Honey Pie sounds so cute as you coo to your 1-year-old bundle of joy but think long-term for a moment. Do you think she can survive a name like that if she turns out looking like a hag when she grows up? Trust me, it does nothing for your kid’s confidence to be stuck with a name like that.

If you’re assured of beauty and great genes for your kid, then go ahead I say. Knock yourself out! It may even be great foresight on your part for the time when show business discovers your kid and takes her to the silver screen. The name alone promises great marketing for her career. I can see it now.

Metro Goldwyn Meyers present Sweet Honey Pie in Barely Legal Part 57.

Just avoid the more ludicrous names. If not for us then do it for your kid. You have no idea how it grates the general public to hear someone named called Sweet Honey Pie being called over a loud speaker or a Public Announcement system (“Sweet Honey Pie, come on down! You’re the next contestant on The Price is Right”).

A friend once told me a good test to find out if a name is acceptable or not.

Go to your backyard, open the door, and yell out “(insert proposed name here), kakain na tayo (it’s time for dinner)!” 10 times. If you can do this without feeling silly, breaking out in laughter, or going insane chances are it’s a pretty good name for your kid.

As for me, I’ve grown accustomed to my name and I think I’ll stick with Jonas for a bit (like I got a choice).

It’s still way better than being called Liberace.


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