Posted by: vip | April 27, 2009

Keeping the records straight 2: Spanish names, spelling and pronunciation in Carcar


“Filomena/Filomina/Felomena/Felomina; Timotea/Matea. Isidora/Isadora/Teodora. Felemon/Felimon/Filemon; Glicerio/Licerio/Sergio/Cirio. “Antonia/Antonina; Antero/Sotero; Emeteria/Eleuteria/Leuteria; Cecilio/Basilio; Albino/Alvino/Olvino/Balbino.”

The stanzas above are not a Bach canon. Nor are they another version of ”A stick, a stone…”–Jobim’s song Waters of March. Those are first names our early church scribes and records so mixed up with each other that for certain individuals, there is no definite way of ruling what the man’s real name we should use. It’s like a person would have been baptized Isidoro, married as Isidro and later in the baptism of his own children, identified as Teodoro. What’s more, after he died his family would remember him as Eliodoro. So who should we call him?

The example is a caricature, but real cases are so out there.  Take Brigildo Alegrado and Basilio Alfafara. Probably born in Cebu City but married to an Alega lady of Carcar, Alegrado was the patriarch of the entire Alegrado clan of Carcar. In the marriages of his children and even in his burial in 1852 his name was always Brigildo. He was even known as Brigildo Silvestre in pre-Claveria records. And yet 20-30 years after he died, in records for his grandchildren, his name was now consistently given as Hermenegildo.

Meanwhile, Alfafara was baptized Basilio Javillo in 1848. As late as 1877, in his marriage, he was Basilio Alfafara. Hard to reconcile why his own descendants remember him later as Licerio–until you come across a record where he was fully identified as Basilio Licerio Alfafara, leaving you scratching your head as to when the name Licerio had come into use.

If you’re using a family tree program, you have to approximate a tracker’s mind to guess these varying names to be of one and the same person.

I have come across scores of cases like this by now. Blame must be passed around equally between the clerks and the famiIies, too, whose respondents must have enrolled those names in the first place. I’m just grateful to fate (or genes) that I have a tolerant attitude when it comes to people’s intellectual shortcomings–maybe because I’m so tolerant of my own, too.


What gets my goat, though, is when people, myself included, are so plainly wrong, and yet be so conceited about it.

The Bisdak. (Bisaya’ng dakô — a Visayan, big-time — for non-Bisdaks) When I was still working in Manila, I at once (which Visayan cannot) noticed that Tagalogs, or at least Manilans, laugh at Visayans’ pronunciations. Of course, honestly, we can be so ridiculously atrocious with our pronunciation. But I always get heated up when they laugh wrongly at us when we are correct—just because the Manilans did not know they’re the ones who are wrong.

In Manila, try telling a jeepney driver “Mamà, pier (correctly pronounced pir) po.” Snickers from chocolate faces including incongruously jeepney-commuting ladies with Louis Vuitton bags in the P90,000 authentic-price range. Everybody else thinks the place is pronounced pi-yer. Another time, I could not help telling someone it’s supposed to be pronounced “pir” in English, and she snorted back automatically, “but it’s pi-yer in Spanish”. I did not get angry at her, I just laughed at her beautiful face. There’s no Spanish word pier; it’s muelle, or the cruder pantalan. But, oh, there’s no sense explaining it further to a lady who gets her kicks at the piyer.

Very few Manilans still observe the silent “h” in Spanish words.  It’s now he-rre-ra, hi-dal-go, her-nan-dez. When I pointed this out to a Manila doctora, she even retorted: Why, do you pronounce it tra-ba-o (work) in Cebu? Unlike the LV-toting lady in the jeepney I had to answer her truthfully:  It’s spelled trabajo, not trabaho. I had to level with her, what with her LV being presumably genuine. But I couldn’t help with the coup de grâce: Do you also pronounce it hi-jo?

When you are wrong, they’ll let you know about it and tell you what’s correct, but when you’re correct and tell them, they’ll just say “that’s the way it’s said here”. That’s what both LV ladies told me.

For Visayans, most of our problems rose from our mixing up “i” (ee) and “e”. And the problem started when Tagalog (in the guise of National Language Pilipino) was rammed down our throats. Before that, we had no such mixups; we simply pronounced everything with a hard “ee”.

Meanwhile, unlike every one of us elsewhere in the country, the Tagalogs claim to have a soft “e” in their old alphabet and phonetics. But strangely, nobody among them has ever been able to answer why they, too, like the rest of us, have always called our currency the Piso. Not peso, as it was officially established by the Spaniards, but piso.

If someone really had a soft “e” in his alphabet, he’d never mistake the vowel, so why is it Piso in the Tagalog area, too? And why also kandila, not candela? And so on and so forth. The answer can only be that the old Tagalog alphabet never really had the “e” as claimed, maybe it was revised much much later—at least, much later than the currency in 1852. It’s the colonial way: When in Jerusalem, do as the Romans do.

We just have the hard ee’s and oo’s, yet they always say we have the “punto” but have you noticed that it is actually the Tagalogs who have a tone in their speech? And they have a difficulty getting this tone out of their English. They don’t notice it and will even say it’s the correct tone if ever there was one.

Anyway, the Cardak. (Carcaranon’g dakô, for those who still didn’t get it.) I can still remember, when still a grader in Carcar, that the older folks in the town accented the surnames Alfafara as al-FA-fa-ra, Barcelo as bar-ce-LO and Barcenas as BAR-ce-nas—all correctly. And no one in Cebu City did. And eventually we blindly followed the city folks and our younger ones now all say al-fa-FA-ra, bar-CE-lo and bar-CE-nas–including, sadly, even members of these families.  Carcar people, why don’t we start a movement to go back, not to the old, but to the correct? It may take a while getting used to because it would have to include the following, the correct pronunciation of some of which we have strayed too far from:

Carcar Spanish surnames: Albarracín (Argao origin), Alcáin, Alfáfara, Asís, Avilés, Barceló, Bárcenas, Bardelás, Escóbido, Garcés, Génave, Jaén, Padín, Sátira, Rodís.

And first names (male): Álvaro, Ángel, Ántero, Áureo, Bartolomé, Bernabé, Cleofás, Cristóbal, Darío, Fabián, Héctor (needless to add, pronounced EC-tor), Hermógenes (again, er-MO-ge-nes), Íñigo, Josué, Lucío, Moisés, Noé, Sabás, Sebastián, Sótero, Víctor.

First names (female): Ángeles, Áurea, Cleofé, Epifanía, Estefanía, Hermógena, Noemí, Rocío, Salomé.

Catalan names. If we’ve been having a hard time keeping up with the more familiar Castilian names, let’s not even pretend with trying out Catalan ones for our offsprings, just because of their unique spellings (one of those foreign magnets to which we appear culturally-bound to have an eerie attraction to) because they are pronounced differently than how they would normally read in Castilian Spanish.  Isidre (Isidro) would be i-ZI-drah, for instance, and Carme (Carmen) is Car-mah (pronounced as which Carme Martin may never have gotten a billing). And as a Catalán, she’d be Carme Martí. So, Cebu, it’s Dra. mar-TI, not MAR-ti.

Davide. There are late 1800-early 1900 records of a Davide family in Carcar, I don’t know if they’re still here. The father of course came from Argao and presumably related to that illustrious family there. The surname does not appear in the catalogo, at least not in that form. This Davide surname may be Spanish but it does look Italian, but if it were, it would be pronounced DA-vi-de.

W. The names Bolinawan, Barawidan, Wasawas, Wasay, and others with the “w” were spelled with “oa”  or “ua” in the Spanish period–Bolinauan, Barauidan, Oasaoas, Oasay, etc. Obviously the “w” is an American or even post-American period change. Why didn’t they already think of using the “w” during the Spanish times? Because in Spanish, “w” is pronounced “v”. It’s even called “doble v”.  [That’s what it even looks like, too]  Those names would have read bo-li-na-van, ba-ra-vi-dan, etc.  That is also why Bences or Vences still exists as a nickname for those named Wenceslao. That being so, how do you pronounce Weyler, as in the general?  If you still don’t know, just say Tres de Abril, that’s what his street has been renamed to.

Barangan. Carcar pronounces the Barangan surname with a “ngga”–Baranggan. But since somebody came across an Ilocano Barangan family that pronounces their surname with a “nga”, we’ve been having a minor quandary just how this Carcar surname should be pronounced. For years I’ve stubbornly tolerated only Baranggan. “They can call themselves Barangan but Carcaranons are pronounced Baranggan.”

Until I came across signature specimens of Juan Barangan. He used a tilde over the first “n” in his surname. Juan Barañgan. This indicates that it was then pronounced “ñga”, not “ngga”. A tiny bit of caution here because I had not come across a church registry record where Barangan had a tilde, whereas I had encountered other surnames sometimes written with the mark, like Tañgian, and even Sañgat was spelled that way 1840s-50s.

Anyway, my position now is:  Don Juan Barangan’s own say on the matter stands. His signature was among those of church diputados–Carcar VIPs—in pages of two separate documents for 1863 and 1870. These were shown by Jerry Martin Alfafara for me to identify the names. Since the personages were all fairly well-known, the tilde-ied Barañgan was the eye-popper for me.


It makes you ask: How in less than a hundred years could the pronunciation have changed from Barañgan to Baranggan—if there ever was such a change?



  1. […] Spanish names, spelling and … […]

  2. I don’t really put any shame on Carcaranons rearranging the tilde and accent on their own names over time. Even established newscasters pronounce their own names as a-ra-GO-nes and de QUI-ros–on nationwide TV yet–when it should be a-ra-go-NES and de qui-ROS. These are not plurals but demonyms (Sp. equivalent, gentilicios), or names for inhabitants of places, much like Portuguese, Chinese, etc., in English. An inhabitant of our town’s namesake Carcar in Navarra is a Carcarés, too.

  3. Next to the broadcasters’ own names, the two most jarring misprons on nationwide TV are decada and sintomas. What’s correct are DE-ca-da and SIN-to-mas.

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