What’s in a Name?

       In the skirmishes fought in the name of sibling rivalry, the weapon of choice was name-calling, and we were adept at using it as kids.  We called Achi Joy “Apache” because when she was on the rampage, she reminded us of Apace Indians charging into the battlefield with their blood-curdling cry.  My Kuya was called Unggoy, meaning monkey, just because we couldn’t come up with a more creatively hurtful name.  Achi Ichuk was called Iring, meaning cat, because when she smiled, her cheeks would form lines that looked like a cat’s whiskers.  My younger brother escaped being a casualty of war, because when he was born, we had almost gotten over the need to insult each other verbally.  We called him Niño Muhlach after a popular child star who bore a resemblance to him, but Niño was cute and adorable, so my brother had no cause to complain.

      It was a different case with me altogether.  I was the runt of the litter for a long time, so I was a likely target for pranks and bantering.  Because my real nickname was Ging-ging, I would sometimes be called Saging, meaning banana, just because it rhymed with Ging-ging.  I was also called Payatot, because I was such a skinny little thing back then (ahhh…those were the days). I was also called Pangag or “one who has missing teeth.”  As a child, I had rotten teeth which I was forever donating to the Tooth Fairy.  My Achi Joy affectionately called me Butete, because she said my round body and round face with the small arms and legs reminded her of a blowfish.  My Kuya also teased me Patok, because the back of my head has a pointed shape. To listen to him, though, you would think I was a freakazoid beamed from some mother ship.  That name always made me cry until one day, after another such crying episode, my mother told me a “secret”:  that people were just jealous of Patoks because their pointed heads made them a lot smarter than the rest.  From then on, I just gave my brother a knowing smile every time he called me that.  “Sticks and stones…”

      Patok having lost its power over me, my brother was on the lookout for another name when fate lent him a hand. One afternoon, we were watching TV when my brother farted in the middle of a thrilling scene. We girls indignantly shooed him away while he grinned from ear to ear, pleased at the uproar he had caused.  Then a brilliant idea hit him.  He announced to everyone that I was actually the source of the deadly odor.  I angrily protested that it wasn’t me.  But the more I protested, the more he insisted. This must have seemed so comical to my sisters that they joined in too.  Everyone was just having a good laugh at my expense.  So it came to pass that   my brother farted, or pretended to fart, they would all accuse me of doing it.  They named me Pala-otot or “one who farts a lot.”  It was later shortened to Palatot or Tot.  To this day, believe it or not, that name has stuck like the odor of the gas it was named after.  A word to the wise: Only my older siblings can call me that.  Anyone else will be prosecuted.

      My Achi Ichuk and I also have a pet name for each other – “C’zy Girl.”  This is how it came about.  When we were teens, we used to fight over the phone a lot.  One time, the phone rang and we raced to get it.  I beat her to it and I excitedly answered the phone, only to hear this wimpy male voice asking for a certain Lucresia.  I did not want to lose face in the light of my recent victory by admitting that it was a wrong number, so I gave the phone to my sister, telling her that it was for her.  When she grabbed the phone and found out that I had tricked her, she tried to give it back to me, but by then I knew better and I ran away, shouting, “Lucresia, it’s for youuuuuuuuuu….”  For days, we called each other Lucresia.   We later shortened it to “Cressy” to “Crazy” to “Crazy Girl” then “C’zy Girl,” and that’s how the infamous C’zy Girl came to be.

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