By Howie Severino
James Pecpec can’t find a girlfriend, Erica Pecpec doesn’t want to go to college. But older Pecpecs contented with life in the barrio bear the name proudly, and are confounded by this recent shift in meaning. After all, in old Ilocano pecpec means “full”, as in a basket brimming with fruit. And a Pecpec ancestor was a revolutionary who fought with Gen. of Batac. But most of us Pinoys know the modern meaning of “pekpek”, and we can’t blame James for seeking our help in trying to change his surname through Batac’s municipal court. Otherwise, with the teasing he gets outside their barangay, his name chains him to the farm.
My former teacher, Ching Cheekee, sent this text:
I had a classmate in Laoag named Carmen Bayag. She got married to someone surnamed Estrellado.
In my high school e-groups, the docu started a comical thread. Dicky Herras:
A Colonel (or is it General) America, when he was still a lieutenant, at first refused his promotion to the next rank (captain) because, he said, he may lose the respect of his men… My wife Yvette’s high school class had a Ms. America, a Ms. Africa, and a Ms. Austria. Not that there is anything particularly strange about those names, except that whenever they do a roll call, they get applauded. And if that wasn’t enough, after their names had been called out in succession, their whole class would break out in song – “We are the world, we are the children…” Even at their graduation ceremony. Well, I’ve gotten used to being called “Dick” anyway.
Robbie Casas of Baguio:
I suddenly remembered a teacher my friends from Bauan, Batangas had whose name was Ms. Labatiti.
Eric Barro, who now lives in Idaho:
I had an officemate in the Philippines whose last name was Bayag-na. They were from
. The standing joke was that she would get married to a guy with the surname — Titipa.
Jim Ayson sent these beauties:
a) Agnes Masikip (our batchmate in ADMU)
b) Edgar Allen Pe and Jonathan Livingston Sy (ADMU alumni).
c) Louie Bate (if he left the Philippines for the US, he’d be Mister Bate just the same). Our college batchmate.
d) Rommel Kennedy Polotan, high school batchmate – named after the unlikely combination of Field Marshall Erwin Rommel “the desert fox” and . Nevertheless the clincher was always his surname, during attendance we would always shout “beer! beer!” in response to “Polotan”.
Before we met the Pecpecs, we spent time with the Bagongahasa clan in Paete, Laguna, where two generations have been debating the option of changing their name legally. Whatever their differences of opinion, they all agree that it does have recall. But when I asked them if Gloria Arroyo would win any elections if her name was Bagongahasa, they also agreed that she probably wouldn’t. (Then again, despite her ordinary married name, she still had to use extraordinary means to win her last election)
Some of the single women in these clans hope to marry their way out of this purgatory. Jim’s friend Agnes Masikip, however, may actually complicate her life if Mr. Right ended up being James Pecpec. She probably would not choose to hyphenate her name, as in Agnes Masikip-Pecpec.
In our documentary, we interviewed Bongbong Marcos, who is also Ferdinand Jr. who told us about the burden of his nickname while studying in England (I guess that’s also why my friend Boying became Ben in San Francisco), proving that not even president’s sons are immune to teen-age taunting. We learned some significant trivia too (wait, is that an oxymoron?): before the Spaniards gave them their current surname, the Marcos clan was called Tabucboc. Hmm, Ferdinand Tabucboc… would history have been different?
Our episode also highlighted some memorable place names — Barangay Baliw and the town of Sexmoan,(later changed to the less notable Sasmuan). This moved the architect and heritage advocate Richard Bautista to email me the following pictures:
In Cagayan de Oro, this is not an ad for a sex toy.
Welcome signs to an anatomical sounding barangay.
My father excavated a family trip from the 1970s:
This reminds me of the time when we went to
, in Amish country. What it meant at the time was a crossing of two roads. I had my photograph taken underneath the sign, but the photo shop refused to develop that particular shot.