Health And Family

What’s in a name?

HEART & MIND - Paulynn Sicam - The Philippine Star

It was one of those weeks — of deadlines and forgetfulness, and in the background, a bitter soap opera that unfolded live before our eyes.

A deadline had to be met for today’s event — the awarding of 12 outstanding women in the nation’s service, the product of the triennial search mounted by the TOWNS Foundation Inc. TOWNS, which stands for The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service, proudly welcomes Xyza Bacani, Carmina Bayombong, Clarissa Delgado, Reena Estuar, Karla Gutierrez, Samira Gutoc, Gay Jane Perez, Patricia Ann Prodigalidad, Stephanie Sy, Bai Rohaniza Usman, Chiara Zambrano and Geraldine Zamora to our ranks. They are an exciting bunch of amazing women achievers, culled from a list of 65 nominees and I had to make sure everyone’s name was spelled correctly and matched the right photo in the souvenir program.

Since the inception of TOWNS in 1974, there are now 178 TOWNS women of various ages representing excellence in a wide variety of professions. Tonight’s event honors the 16th batch of awardees that in 1974 included such powerhouses as the late Senator and diplomat Leticia Ramos Shahani, Dr. Perla Santos Ocampo and Supreme Court Justice Flerida Ruth Romero.  There have been athletes, artists, designers, scientists, journalists, doctors, agriculturists, lawyers, doctors, civil society leaders, civil servants, businesswomen, diplomats, counsellors and even a poet or two.  Tonight, several winners bring to the TOWNS membership, expertise in the new and exciting world of Information Technology.

The task for TOWNS done, I attended to the visa requirements for a trip I am taking. I meticulously observed every rule in the website — use only A4 paper, prepare a day-to-day itinerary, submit a bank certification, PSA issued birth and marriage certificates, etc. I submitted them, with full confidence, last Wednesday.  Everything was in order, the receiving clerk said. He was about to give me the green light when he reviewed my papers one last time and noticed a discrepancy in my name — between my birth certificate and my passport — and other official documents in between. 

Déjà vu! This had happened to me before, but I had forgotten. My birth certificate reads my name, in my father’s handwriting, as Marie Pauline Paredes, born on July 6, 1946. But three weeks later, when I was baptized, my name was written in my baptismal certificate as Marie Paulynn Therese Paredes. Oh, Parents, what have you done?

Through the years, I carried Paulynn M. (for Misa, my mother’s maiden name) Paredes in school and my early employment, until marriage changed it to Paulynn P. Sicam and now my preferred fully-spelled-out Paulynn Paredes Sicam.

Sorry, ma’am, the officer told me kindly. These papers cannot be submitted without an affidavit explaining the discrepancy. Groan. Here it was again, my multiple names, coming to haunt me.

Back at home, I found in my files, two affidavits from the ’70s and ’80s that I had to issue to explain my differently-spelled names. I may have needed it when I applied for a passport or a visa, but I had forgotten. I could understand the need for it in issuing a passport, but one would think that a valid passport, which cannot be issued without a valid birth certificate, would suffice to be issued a visa.  

My birth certificate is another matter. I have the original, but when I applied for a certified copy of it online, the response was, there is no record of it at Manila City Hall. When I called the statistics office for an explanation, I was told the City Hall went up in flames in 1950 and all the files therein were destroyed. But I could reconstruct my birth certificate if I went personally to City Hall and applied. Heavens, no. I don’t want to deal with the bureaucracy, if I can help it. Besides, at my age, I thought, I wouldn’t be needing it anymore.

I may have spoken too soon. My family will have to deal with the bureaucracy on my behalf one last time when I die. I hope when that happens, my latest Affidavit of Discrepancy notarized last week will suffice to affirm my identity so I can rest in peace. 

Meanwhile, on live television, siblings attacked each other physically and verbally at their father’s wake and beyond, and became the topic of conversation everywhere — kasambahays in the neighborhood, amigas having lunch, cab drivers and their passengers, sellers in the market, workers in offices and malls, subdivision guards — everyone I encountered.  Even those who consciously tried to avoid the topic found themselves drawn to every detail and judging the persons involved. It was shocking but initially entertaining, but ultimately exhausting, disgusting even. People wondered why no one among the protagonists seemed to care enough to protect their family name.

What’s in a name? The week just passed has given me a lot of food for thought.


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