What’s in a name?

Posted by Abdel Kadz on Friday, April 11, 2008 with 9 comments

“Eeh kadiri to death!”

I could only sigh a smile when I heard the girl sitting adjacent from me blurted out while she was fidgeting over her spaghetti. She and a friend were chatting about the thriller flick they just saw at the cinema. The fact of the matter was they probably didn’t know the tall, dark, and never-mind guy (he-he) a couple of feet’s breadth away is Kadiri in real life. I listened to them intently. Had Alfred Hitchcock got to live today, he would have taken these girls as scriptwriters for his big screen productions as both were totally engrossed in narrating the movie albeit both saw the same. Suddenly, it shifted to that part where the serial killer sliced off the man’s head. “Kadiri!!!” they both said in yucky unison as they stood up and dashed off towards the lavatory.

As I sat there with the same smile plastered on my face, I couldn’t help but deduce about the state of others like me who were borne into this world with attention-grabbing surnames. Did they feel the same way as I did when I heard those two high school students mentioned mine as some sort of punchline for effect? Who wouldn’t? Sometimes, when you are not in the mood, you can say something surprising, almost invoking. But most of the time you are left musing on a corner, snickering at the derision that was just thrown at you even though how indirect it may have seemed to be. And mind you, I have heard and seen it all. Let me cite a circumstance of how notorious I claim to be: The Bank Scene

“Kadiri?” says the teller. How come she has to blurt it out too loudly unlike the other depositors before who got called by their first names? Maybe a top secret just turned loose that she’ll explode like an A-bomb if she kept it from the other Neanderthals around. Instantly, the name takes its toll. Everybody turns head as they put a face to the name, then comes the suppressed snickers and the look of disbelief as if Count Dracula just found its way to the bank premises. Who in the world gets to be so (un)lucky? But I never dared blame them. Look it up in a Tagalog dictionary and see for yourself the word “kadiri” glaring at you like neon lights for your disposal. So what if I get to carry the most popular surname (he-he) around? I know there are far grosser and funnier surnames that at one mention will instantly be instilled in one’s mind such that when all of that person’s front teeth are missing, he will easily recall the name. But ours is probably at the top of the hit-list. Who wouldn’t remember a national figure?

I still remember my late grade school days when the “Huwag mag-Yosi, Huwag Kadiri” campaign of then-DOH secretary-now-turned-senator Juan Flavier clicked with the masses. My sister once told me that she was too embarrassed to go out of the classroom when the Mascot, Yosi Kadiri himself, went to their school to educate the students there about the ill-effects of smoking. I would probably have felt the same if I were in her shoes. I was at that stage of my human existence when I was beginning to feel conscious of myself, of how I act and speak, of what others think of me. And to make matters worse, Yosi came. I remember how I used to turn my ID so that my boldly printed name would not be facing the person in front of me whenever I was aboard the jeepney. Yes, I hate to admit it, but I was embarrassed to be carrying the name around.

“What’s in a name?” wrote William Shakespeare once. Will it make you what you are today? If your cognomen happened to be Bango, will that be construed to mean that you exude the most amorous scent? How about Muta or Buli (I know some out there has either of these for surnames… and yes we share the same sentiments)? Will you be carrying morning stars or parading the enormity of your gluts around? It’s all too simple logic to me. And how about those Spanish-sounding surnames (I don’t have anything against them, though)? Will that mean that they are different from you and me? Hey, we all share the same anatomy unless of course if you have two antennae drooping from your forehead.

Your name doesn’t make you; it is you who make your name. Often, those who have politicos for parents or showbiz personalities for relatives brag about their superiority over others. They get the easiest jobs even though they’re underqualified, get people to kiss their feet, basically do anything they want. “Hindi mo ba alam na anak ako ni…” so goes a line from a movie. How pathetic some people can be.

I could have my name changed to Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt had I wanted to. Just the mention of it will send electrical impulses through a girl’s spine. But not today, never. It’s my lifelong identification as a humanoid in this oblate, blue planet I call home even though I have a bristly-haired, bulgy-eyed chain smoker for a family mascot.

I was woken from this state of mental deduction when the two high school students came out of the john and were walking towards the door. I beamed a smile at the girl whose gaze was fixed on me. I was totally embarrassed when she raised her left penciled eyebrow. Good thing no one noticed how I hid my face in shame in the Puzo book I brought with me. When I decided to leave, I noticed that the girl, who probably thought I was some presko dimwit, dropped her school ID. I picked it up and thought of giving it to one of the waitresses in case she returned. As I was about to hand it over, I glanced at the name. I sighed a smile to myself. She would have been next to me on the hit-list.

Sidenote: Originally appeared on The Synapse, circa 2002.
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