Behold thy mother; her name you bear forever

Yesterday morning, I received mail from a bicycle-riding mailman. It’s my copy of the latest issue of the AIM Alumni Leadership Magazine. Apart from the excitement about cool updates from AIM and its alumni, the mail label got my attention because it misspelled my middle initial. It should have been ‘B’, not ‘V’. I thought that the labels that AIM is using are seamlessly produced from out of its alumni database, which I’m sure contains correct ID info about me.

Although, I must say that there’s a ring of accuracy in the misspelling. Yes, my middle initial could be, or should be, V. Befuddled? Let me explain before you complain, using the words of the showbizlandia’s witty man, Joey de Leon.

I’m actually adopted child of my aunt and her husband. After my aunt had multiple miscarriages, the couple was blessed with only one biological son. That I think was the reason why it decided to adopt me. I’m sure my adoptive parents didn’t get disappointed, after all.

So I’m using my foster father’s surname, Calmada, not my biological father’s, Benavente. My aunt’s maiden name should be my last name and biological mother’s, my middle name–Vergara. Thus, the inch of truth in the mail label’s error. And thanks to that for I got to remember my real parents, whom I failed to meet face to face as parents and child, because my foster parents hid that truth from me until when I was 19 or 20 years old already. So sad because the only time I got to see the face of my real mother was when she was dead lying inside a makeshift coffin. Until now, there’s a longing for me to see the face of my real father even in a picture. And the conscious search hasn’t begun yet.

There are times when I wanted to write my name in full, as in my middle name is completely spelled. That is my way of remembering, and giving tribute to, my father. But that is kinda weird, because people usually emphasize the middle name to give tribute to their mothers.

I remember that I tried to do that–giving tribute to mothers–during my organization’s assessment-planning activity in 2003. When I facilitated a session, I gave an exercise wherein a participant was tasked to remember the middle names of his/her seatmates, after which I asked them in random for these middle names. Lesson from that exercise: It’s not easy to remember two family names of your colleagues.

I thought that the exercise was my way of instilling gender consciousness among my colleagues. Perhaps, they appreciated that. Although, I came to realize later that the exercise indeed was not really gender-sensitive because there’s no certainty that a person’s middle name is actually the surname of his/her mother. So I must have received a rating of E for that effort, don’t you think?

Haven’t there been efforts to change the Philippine personal naming system so that mothers, or women, for that matter, get equal recognition across all generations? I’m not trying to be wet blanket here. I’m just trying to propose two amendments. One, each person must bear two family names, each from his/her mother and father. (I observe that couples attempt to inculcate parity to their pre-schooler kids’ minds by having them memorize their full names only to give in to the men-biased system when they grow up.) Two, marrying women should not be given an option to change their family names. (Ladies, I believe that there sure are other ways to show love and respect to your men, right? Although, I’m flattered and proud that my wife is bearing my surname in some of her public engagements. I wish I could do what some Brazilian men do–adopt the surnames of their wives.)

Never mind the inconvenience of saying and writing long names, if that means our women will be given due respect forever. But then again, I wonder how I’d treat my real mother’s maiden name. Ampons surely share this angst.

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  1. I wish i had that support from my family ;after leaving a doomed unfaithful and embarrassing marriage. only to ask my family to help me; but no answer ever came, divorces papers came and i asked for the father to take full custody of child only to come back as joint custody. I had no love for the child. But knowing i didn’t want to struggle or the child to struggle cause of me.And the father knowing of this situation ever happened it was said during our marriage as well as in court .Wanted this treated as an adoptions. And to start my family now which i love very much ups and downs are no problem for me. I was too young when i had the first child and still there’s no regrets Till he walk in or it was an set-up between my now husband of 17 years and my child of 12 yrs. I still feel no regrets or want any extended family in formations lingering from my past of this child .My husband knows the embarrassing marriage i had. and knows my ex- and his family member went to school together and the set-up which i didn’t even notice him the 2nd time. I still stand behind my decision.

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