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Notes on Family Names: If Muhammad Ali was Filipino, would his name be Celso Arcilla?

(Last Part)

Time and again, even beyond the Spanish era, one intermittently sees the importance of a correct family name.  Tsinoy families, despite their economic gains, dealt with the derisive Intsik tag once and for all by filipinizing their family names or by appropriating Filipino last names, rechristening with the illustrious last name of the ninong sa bunyag or padrino sa kasal, the baptismal godfather or wedding sponsor. Limaco, a landed gentry of Biñan, Laguna, is the filipinized version of Lim Aco. Such filipinization, to my mind a karmic remuneration of sorts, is seen today in the family names Limjoco, Quizon, Cojuangco, Syjuco. My own family has a number of Tsinoy "sub-branches", kinapotan sa bunyag, baptismal godchild of the Patriarch Carlos and tinubong sa kasal, wedding godchildren of the Propagandist Tomas Arejola during the Spanish era or his brother General Loduvico Arejola during the American Occupation, not related to us by consanguinity but by the affinity and the expressed kinship of our ancestors long ago. The Paccamarras of the Partido area has a similar Tsinoy sub-branch, not related to them by blood but cherished as kin nonetheless.

San Lorenzo Ruiz, also known as San Lorenzo de Manila, is another Tsinoy christened with the socially-acceptable last name. On the eve of his beatification, various Ruiz families of Manila were convened in a high mass by the local Catholic Church, and later, in an assembly where they were sold wooden likenesses of the young martyr. Most gasped a bit when told of the price tag but gladly dug into their pockets after being told that the proceeds will go to the erection of a proper rebulto in a church yard somewhere.  Although most people in the assembly did not know each other from Adam, the gathering seemed like a large family reunion, jovial and affirmative, everyone expressing goodwill and affinity with the other, linked, at least on that day, by a familiar piety and a common family name.

It is not uncommon to see people fussing about their family names. The flamboyant Fritz Ynfante once appeared on TV saying, "Ynfante is the real deal, more regal than Infante" or something bratty like that, an indication that even the way a family name is spelled has some social connotation. Ces Oreña-Drilon, modish and always appropriate, in a reminiscence of her childhood in a TV feature shortly after her release from abductors, straight-facedly said, "Oreña means ihi, urine." Although the correct Spanish word is orina and not oreña -Or has the lexicon changed? Was the spelling adjustment meant to soften the terror of the Spanish orina?-  the happy admittance showed how attached people are to their last names despite, in this case, the unattractive inference. Because it connects us to things and people past, one's family name is inescapable, worn like a badge of honor or shrugged off, invoked each time we present ourselves or when we justify our foibles, why we are the way we are.

A professor has lamented the hispanization of our native names, saying we have lost our asian-ness in the process. This, he said thoughtfully, has made the Pinoy the odd man in these parts, particularly when we rub in and play up "the only Christian country in Asia" bit which has, in no small measure, alienated us from our geography, an area brimming with people professing to Asian and Eastern religions and who are, curiously enough, less baffled by issues of identity and less angst-ridden, bringing to mind the mindlessness of people who brag because they are tall or fair-skinned.