Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Catalogo and Funny Last Names, Part I


I realized that all my posts so far have been very serious, so today I deviate from my usual ramblings on the serious side of genealogy and explore a funny aspect of the Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos. If we recall, the Catalogo was a list of names compiled by Spanish officials which accompanied the Renovacion del Apellido decree of Governor-General Narciso Z. Claveria in 1849. This decree imposed on the native population of the Philippines to adopt a name based on the list provided. Supposedly, the list should have contained only the Spanish surnames they compiled from Spanish directories together with terms from the vegetable and mineral kingdoms, geography, arts, etc. Also included, however, were common Spanish words as well as a sprinkling of native names and terms which undoubtedly tickled the Spanish compilers as they were alphabetizing the final list.

My mom and aunts are always full of stories of classmates with last names like "Malibangco", "Utot", and "Tubol", which are terms that definitely would make any person who speaks Cebuano roll with laughter. I went over the Catalogo in my possession and, lo and behold, these funny last names do exist! So, below are the first batch of randomly selected names listed in the Catalogo which  definitely made the families adopting them at that time the butt of their neighbors' jokes (many of which continue to be a source of people's ridicule today).
  • BOGOC, found in the 4th column of page 19 of the catalogue. Bogoc is truly derogatory, which is a sort of superlative for "bogo", which means dumb, stupid, or slow.
  • UNG-GOY, 2nd column of page 134. In itself it simply means "monkey". But in Philippine culture being called an "unggoy" is definitely not flattering.
  • BOTBOT, 4th column of page 20. It means "lie", but means so much more compared to the tamer term "bakak". 
  • CAHOBOAN, 4th column of page 24. It literally means "for undressing" or "can be undressed".
  • UNGO, 2nd column of page 134. Meaning "monster".
  • AGTA, 2nd column of page 3. Although it might have just referred to the indigenous people of the northern highlands, in Cebuano folklore the agtas were giant, very dark-skinned men who perched on large branches and smoke foul-smelling cigars.
  • LIBANG, 3rd column of page 75. Although it means "relaxation" in Tagalog, in Cebuano it means "defecate".
  • OTOT, 6th column of page 98. Means "fart".
  • TUBUL, 1st column of page 132. "hard stool".
  • BABOY, 2nd column of page 10. "Pig".

Imagine having the last name "Ung-goy", and this
is the image that appears in people's minds.
On their own, these surnames are harmless. A person with the last name of Cahoboan would probably go unscathed emotionally if he grew up in Luzon or outside the country. But the cruel fact is many of these names were adopted, or most likely imposed upon Cebuano families in 1849 which definitely made them targets of humiliation and derision. A simple scanning local newspapers would reveal many people with derogatory surnames petitioning the court to allow them to change their last names.  

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