New year and Filipino names

HISTORY MATTERS - Todd Sales Lucero - The Freeman

The new year brings a sense of new beginnings and hopes for a better and brighter future. Unknown to most, these sentiments are sometimes embodied in the names given to children born around the first of January in many cultures. Given names are often overlooked by most historians as relevant tools in understanding a culture, but they tell us something about people’s behaviors and practices at certain points in time. An interesting and a reflection of Filipino ingenuity were names given to children born in the year 2020. At least 355 babies were given names that had the word “COVID”; 31 had Corona; and six were also given “Quarantine” as a name! Other funny but very timely names given in 2020 include Astra/Aztra, Lockdown, Pandemica, Zeneca/Seneca, Mask, and even Vaccine!

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) does not have published statistics about names given to babies born during the New Year, though they do release yearly infographics about common Filipino given names. The latest one from 2021 shows that Jacob, Nathaniel, and Gabriel were the top three most common male names given to Filipino children, while Althea, Angel, and Samantha topped female given names. Jacob was consistently part of the top three popular male Filipino names for the last three years, while Althea has been the top female given name for the last six years. Going through the 1924 birth indexes in the Philippines gives us a sampling of how many children were born in the new year and what the common given names were.

Here are some of the insights on names of children born on the first day of 1924; among Cebu’s towns, 42 have records from 1924 to give us a picture of the names a century ago. The towns of Aloguinsan, Barili, Carcar City, Cebu City, Pilar, Santander, and Tabuelan do not have January 1924 on their records. Lapu-Lapu City’s entire 1924 records have tight binding, making the names and dates unreadable. Moalboal has 1924 data but is incomplete and nothing listed for January, while Sogod’s 1924 records start only in November.

For those with data, we see a total of 104 babies born on January 1, 1924 across 42 municipalities and cities in Cebu. Most recorded one to three births. One town, Ronda, had the most number of new year babies with nine, followed by Dalaguete and Toledo City with eight each. The top towns with the most January 1 births were Ronda, Dalaguete, Toledo, Malabuyoc, Medellin, Tabogon, and Tuburan, making up almost half the total births. Seven towns reported no births on January 1: Catmon, Consolacion, Dumanjug, Oslob, Poro, Santa Fe, and Tudela, while two towns, San Francisco and Danao City, while reporting four and three births, respectively, have unreadable records.

There were 43 names given to January 1 babies across these towns and cities of Cebu, though six of these accounted for almost half (48%) of all the given names. The top names for January 1, 1924 were: Concordio/a, Fulgencio/a, and Magno/a, with ten babies each; Marcelino/a and Eufrocino/a at six babies each; and Silvestre/a at five babies. At least five names are unreadable, one still birth listed as “no name given”, and the rest having three or less babies. The top three given names from January 1, 1924 reflected the hopes and aspirations of Filipinos at that time. The name Concordio/a is derived from the Roman Goddess Concordia, whose name symbolizes “peace” and “harmony”. Fulgencio/a is of Spanish origin, derived from the Latin Fulgentius, meaning “bright” and “brilliant”. Finally, Magno/a comes from the Latin Magnus which indicates “great” or “big” in a social, moral, or physical sense.

These top three names given to babies born on the first day of 1924 show that Filipinos were hopeful for a peaceful, bright, and great year ahead. Filipinos have always been a hopeful people. We tend to see the positive. The SWS survey from December 8 to 11 shows that 96% of adult Filipinos are entering the new year with hope, the highest recorded since the pre-pandemic in 2019. Hopefully, these hopes of a better year would be greatly helped by the government, and not dashed by continued politicking, massive corruption, allegations of drug use, and continued inflation and poverty. As a Filipino, I can only hope.

A very happy and prosperous 2024!

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