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From Bong Bong to Monelle

  • From Bong Bong to Monelle 1 of 9


    Celeb baby names like Shiloh, Suri, and Apple bemused the gossip rags, but the stars' kids' tags can’t compete with those from my family’s homeland, The Philippines.

    As a Filipino-American, the names in my community always puzzled me. How could a lola (grandma) get away with being called Baby? What was up with singsong titles like Bong Bong? Why was my mother's cousin given the otherworldly handle Nemrac?

    Over the years, I hobbled together a taxonomy of Filipino naming logic. If you're the kind of parent who doesn't want her son to drown in a sea of fellow Michaels, then take a hint from my culture's methods...

  • From Bong Bong to Monelle 2 of 9

    1: Create a portmanteau name

    Create a portmanteau name Monelle Palencia, 28, received a composite first name. “It's a combination of my parents' names, Ramon and Elsie,” she said. While she’ll never find a pre-made personalized keychain for herself, she never had to use her last initial to differentiate herself in the classroom. Same goes for Greia (from parents Gregorio and Leila) and Julman (from grandparents Julian and Manuel).

    If you want to mix family members’ names, keep euphony in mind. Monelle has a wonderful sound to it, the operatic “moh” ascending to “n” down to a soft landing at “elle.” Thus, the combination of, say, Connor and Emily doesn’t fly as Normily. Try Corly or Remy instead.

  • From Bong Bong to Monelle 3 of 9

    2: Commemorate a hero

    Commemorate a hero Jason Mateo, 30, used the surname of Filipino freedom fighter Andres Bonifacio as his son’s middle name. Why choose this historical figure? Said Mateo, “He’s a revolutionary, he’s a poet, he’s a romantic, he’s a writer.” For such a parent, bestowing a heroic title on his child carries with it national pride and shows the world the qualities he holds dear.

    It’s not quite so for Americans who, according to a piece in the humor magazine McSweeney’s, name their girls after presidents and accidentally destine their daughters for stripperdom. Madison or Kennedy, anyone?

    Veer away from commanders-in-chief and, as Mateo did, stick to personal role models. Stephen Colbert has an eagle, ice cream and bridge named after him, but has the nation spawned baby Colberts?

  • From Bong Bong to Monelle 4 of 9

    3: Represent where you're from

    Represent where you're from “One [Filipino] composite name that has become popular is Luzviminda, taken from the three main regions of the Philippines: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao,” said Sarah Toms for the BBC News.

    Though the girl’s name Brooklyn became almost as popular in 2010 as the borough itself, Americans rarely look to their mailing addresses for appellations. Get creative and shout out your neighborhood; Marina (San Francisco) and Chelsea (New York and London) come to mind. Truncate city names to get Chi from Chicago or Francisco from the city by the bay. Just don’t name your daughter Paris.

  • From Bong Bong to Monelle 5 of 9

    4: Opt for a nickname

    Opt for a nickname Venessa Manzano, 32, founder of The Filipino School of New York and New Jersey, knows an Iggy (Ignacio), Trixie (Patricia), and Nonis (Bernisse). Comic actor Rodolfo Vera Quizon, Sr. keeps it casual as “Dolphy.” Opponents of champion boxer Emmanuel “Pac-Man” Pacquiao hear his cute nickname and underestimate the punch he packs. In these instances, the tag fits its bearer.

    However, a bit of informality goes a long way. Comedian Rex Navarrete jokes, “Jong Jong, Bong Bong . . . You know, those ‘sound effects’ names.” WRITER EXPLAIN TK

    Go for original, not cutesy. Jas is more novel than Jasmine. For either a boy or a girl, Cam stands in for Cameron. Nix Lucas for Luke. And, bonus, the latter entitles his dad to unlimited opportunities for Darth Vader impressions.

  • From Bong Bong to Monelle 6 of 9

    5: Add your maiden name

    Add your maiden name My middle name is my mother’s maiden name. TK NAME. It’s a Philippine tradition that pays homage to one’s mother’s family (though it doesn’t bode well for protecting one’s bank account password).

    The surname makes a unique moniker for your new addition and often works for either gender. But if your maiden name gets so butchered at the DMV that you want to spare it from a birth certificate, shorten it to something sweeter.

    And by the way, having two last names is a much better alternative to having two first names; add “Lee” somewhere in there and, Mama, you’ve created an assassin. (I’m looking at you, Lee Harvey Oswald’s mom.)

  • From Bong Bong to Monelle 7 of 9

    6: Anagrams, anyone?

    Anagrams, anyone? My second cousin Carmen touted the nickname Nemrac. It took me years—years!— to figure out that it was just her legal moniker, backwards. A word-puzzle for sure, but also a sure-fire way not to blend into the crowd. Clever girl.

    While Nemrac may be too alien a name, Kaj is nice respite from Jack. The same goes with trading Zack for the more edgy Kaz. Aron is a gender-neutral alternative to Nora. And Eva, a classic name, takes on avian connotations when changed to Ave.

    If you care not about conformity, opt for some verbal acrobatics.

  • From Bong Bong to Monelle 8 of 9

    Complete Book of Baby Names Personally, I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to veer completely off the Complete Book of Baby Names map. After all, my religiously inspired name Grace has served me well from grade school to job applications. I’ll preserve my admittedly Anglo-sounding maiden name Bello as my children’s middle names, sure. And I’ll give my kids nicknames that will embarrass them in front of their peers Nathaniel and Brynn. I’ll opt for originality — maybe a literary reference, or something that ties him or her to my home, New York, or my motherland. But I’ll be damned if I name my son Bong.

  • From Bong Bong to Monelle 9 of 9
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