Belldandy, Genghis, and other Fabulous Filipino First Names

Belldandy as Power Rangers Operation Overdrive Drivemax Megazord

We received a link from a reader who thought that Ernie was kidding in this conversation with Rosemary about Filipino names but realized he wasn’t when she saw this link featuring a Filipina girl named Belldandy whose parents dress her up in cosplay outfits.   What kind of parent names their kid Belldandy?”   A Filipino parent of course!  (And also a manga fan, as Belldandy is a character in the manga Oh My Goddess!).  Filipino parents are famed for creating all kinds of crazy first names and nicknames.  I have a first cousin named “Ludwig” and another named “Lyndon Johnson.”  One Filipino who wrote for 8Asians is named “Genghis.”

So how did this name craziness start?  It started when the Philippines’ Spanish colonial masters converted Filipinos to Catholicism. Filipinos took up religious names, but in a rather random kind of way.  “They arbitrarily adopted the names of saints and this practice has resulted in the existence of thousands of individuals having the same name,” complained Spanish Governor-General Narciso Claveria. “I saw the resultant confusion with regard to the administration of justice, government, finance and public order, as well as the far-reaching moral, civil and religious consequences to which this might lead.”  In 1849, he sent out a catalog of acceptable names for Filipinos to use.    Some lazy local administrators simply named every person in a village with the same last name.  Other administrators had everyone in a village have the last name starting with the same letter.   As a result, many Filipinos have the same last name.  If you have the same name as a criminal (a common occurrence), you have to go through a lengthy process and carry with you a note from the Philippine National Bureau of Investigation saying that you are not the criminal with the same name.

To avoid this problem and to grant their kids have at least some individuality, Filipino parents have no qualms about coming up with, well, “atypical” first names.  This story from the Wall Street Journal talks about a man named Hitler Manila who has sons named Himmler and Hess.  Apparently the names didn’t go over well with some Germans.  A favorite is technique is to combine names, mentioned in this article from the BBC, resulting in names like Luzviminda (from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao – major regions of the Philippines) or “Jejomar” (combining Jesus, Joseph, and Mary).  I had a friend with the name of “Alvi”, from her father “Al” and her mother “Violeta.”

Does this tradition live on in Filipino-Americans?  Well, yes and no.  Yes, as my brother named his daughter “Kira Nichelle” after Kira Nerys from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhuru in the original Star Trek series.  No, as I suggested naming my son Valen Kosh (from the Babylon 5 TV series), but The Wife vetoed that idea.
h/t: Catherine for the Belldandy Pointer

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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