Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What's in A Name?

Today’s Simbang Gabi features the Gospel of St. Luke on the Birth of St. John the Baptist[1]. Elizabeth, then old and sterile[2], gave birth to a baby boy. Probably intrigued by how a woman beyond child-bearing years nevertheless gives birth, neighbors and relatives flocked Elizabeth’s house. When the baby was eight days old, he was to be circumcised and named. The relatives were insisting on naming the child “Zacharia,” the name of the child’s father. Elizabeth objected, wanting to name her son “John”. Zacharia, who was then mute[3], was consulted by the relatives, for one in their family was named “John”. Zacharia asked for a writing tablet, where he signified that the name of their son is “John”.

The Gospel shows us how important our names are. It is one way by which we identify ourselves. According to our Parish Priest, our names show two things: 1) who is the most influential or powerful in the family; and 2) who is important to that influential person in the family. Say your name is Vicente III and you were named by your father. It means that your father is the most influential in the family and that your grandfather, Vicente Sr., is the most important person to your father. Applying this to St. John’s case, Zacharia, being the man of the family in 1st century B.C. Judea, was the most powerful person in the family. And what moved him to name his son John despite having no one in the family having that name? It was God through the angel Gabriel. In turn, it was actually God who named John “John”.

The importance of names cannot be more obvious with our law on intellectual property. Trade marks and trade names are acquired by having them registered with the Intellectual Property Office.[4] However, names of living people are not registrable.[5] Imagine if names can be registered, the registrant of the name “John” will be flocked by millions of parents who would want to name their children “John”. And we know that it is not the aim of intellectual property to concentrate ownership of intellectual property to one person, but for society to benefit from its use. And if the name “John” should be owned, it most rightly should be God, and no amount of registration will trump proof of His “vested right”.

The non-registrability of names should not however hamper our creativity. We should continue thinking of novel names, and stop naming children on whim. Children named Jumong – a 19th century BC Korean name – during the 21st century AD just shows that television is the most important or influential thing in our society today. We should take hint on how important names are that it even prompted an angel of God to visit a human just to ask him to give his son a particular name.

On this light, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Kate Lomoljo
Entry No. 6

[1] Luke 1:67-79

[2] Luke 1:7

[3] Luke 1:20

[4] Section 122, RA 8293

[5] Section 123(c), RA 8293

No comments: