Name Game

This may be a minor whim for some people, but it’s annoying when a name is changed. I had been accustomed to riding a jeepney that inexplicably slows down once it turns in front of the UNC’s first gate until it reaches Tabuco Bridge through Igualdad Ave, which became J. Hernandez Ave. I’ve been so used to calling it Igualdad. Then, they added one more syllable to that already long word and made it even longer. (Don’t get me wrong. Sir Jaime Hernandez really deserves to have some street or monument named after him. He is one unsung hero of Bicol. The youth should be studying his life.)

What’s the deal with Naga City People’s Mall? That name will confuse children’s vocabulary on what a mall is. Even at the time when kids could go out by themselves, they may go to the mall near the Central Bus Station and they would say, “this is a mall”. They could go to that big mall along Diversion Road and they would say, “this is a mall”. They may even go near the border to that mall in Del Rosario, and they would say, “this is a mall”. But if they go to this iconic structure right smack in downtown, they may scratch their heads and say, “Is this a mall?”. There’s also a problem with putting the words “people’s” and mall” next to each other because the second word sounds like “small”. It also sounds “communist” because It sound like the “people’s republic of..” or the “people’s party”. I guess they wanted to elevate it alongside SM and Robinson’s, but Naga City Public Market was already iconic in its own right, a market where a shopper could find anything, a massive structure that at one point in time was the largest of its kind, that has survived fires but has still stood through the decades.

Then there’s this nausea inducing shifting of names of the school formerly known as Bicol Colleges of Arts and Trades. What’s wrong with BCAT? It just slides on the tongue. It has an abbreviated form that could be articulated in just two syllables. (That campus is part of my childhood when they would have the carnival then which would be outdated in today’s standards. But to a child then, that was state-of-the-art.) It was already an iconic institution in its own right; a school where the masses could take their t-squares, triangles, drafting pencils and Staedtler tubes, and be expert craftsmen. Then they relegated it to a campus of a school which had less of its history and tradition. (No offense to CSPC.) Then they altered the name again to something which sounds like a tongue twister. Just saying, “BCAT” would have been a lot easier.

But then the community welcomed it when Colegio de Sta. Isabel became Universidad de Sta. Isabel (although some still call it Colegio)., and when Ateneo de Naga became Ateneo de Naga University (although simply Ateneo was just fine.) We also didn’t mind when Carl’s became Bigg’s.

Even when it was called CSSAC, that was already fine. I remember that the community got a bit shaken when they proposed the change of name then. It was like changing the color of denims from blue to red. But in that case, it was a shift from “colleges” to university”, so, the community accepted it like going through puberty.

There’s something hallowed about names. That’s why USI is still Colegio. Civic Center is still Civic Center; and we still refer to that corner in front of Baker’s Plaza as “Advent”.

They say it’s politics. I have heard some people complain about all the fuss. They note of the protests that were not ascribed to the naming of Andaya Highway or Fuentebella Highway. Why so much indignation against this name? Why indeed? They have a point there. When that structure near SM was named after Jesse M. Robredo, we welcomed it. Andaya and Fuentebella Highways just went over our heads. So, why all the trouble with this name indeed? Why this polarizing effect over a name?

When George Floyd, an African American was killed by a Caucasian police officer who knelt on his neck, while other police officers of the same color and supposedly the same ethnicity look on, anti-racial hatred protests surged in waves across the United States. One of the drastic results it brought were the changing of names of streets, public squares, products, hospitals, hotels, companies, and sports teams, because they did not want to be associated with something they do not agree with.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” Proverbs 22:1