MANILA, August 21, 2003 (STAR) By Tingting Cojuangco  - The marry month of June arrived and zoomed away. The honey-moon ended all too soon and working on the marriage has begun. The Miss became a Mrs. right after the bride and groom signed their marriage contract. That’s when the first change happened – the woman now shares the man’s family name. Some women, however, prefer to retain their own names, or hyphenate their husband’s name. A woman retaining her maiden name should not a superficial issue for a husband who wants to share his lineage and announce his conquest. I personally think it’s symbolic, historical and sincere that the man you’ve sworn to love and cherish wants to contribute his identity to yours. It must be so, because there are ex-wives who discard their husbands but won’t allow the live-ins to use his family name – well, not that it’s the wives’ decision to make anyway – by not agreeing to an annulment or divorce and let him marry someone else.

Some famous women also decided to retain their maiden name because they’ve been popularly known as such before their marriage. Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and other stars like Sharon Cuneta, Zsa-Zsa Padilla and Pops Fernandez, as well as Lydia Casambra, and Baby Antonio. Keeping maiden names has allowed women to connect easier with other people. Some end up hyphenating like Dr. Enverga-Santos, Dr. Vermen Verallo-Rowell, Solita Collas-Monsod, I presume for recall purposes.

Hyphenated names acknowledges the oneness and distinctiveness of two different individuals who are now sharing a life together. Even if their names are joined, both remain uniquely different and retain their individuality. This is quite common in the world of sports, politics, the arts, academe, show business and medical profession since their own family names have given them a sense of identity.

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Women choose to keep their maiden names for many reasons. My uncle, psychiatrist Teddy Abas, says that a name is felt by a person as part of his own personality. To be depersonalized and become a "non-person" is frightening. Prison inmates whose names are discarded and assigned numbers instead know this feeling only too well.

The most common reason women keep their maiden names is because of lineage. Thus, we are easily identified as the daughter of so and so and what a convenience it is in a business that’s inherited. For example, Tabbie and Marivic Ortigas, Jamby Madrigal and Tessie Floro. Familiar surnames pave the way for more business opportunities especially if the family’s reputation is solid. Another reason is being separated from husbands whom they want to detach from permanently! Using their maiden names means they are happily single again.

Other women who have beaten the odds and who carry the names of individuals who were part of the nation’s history include Dr. Mita Pardo de Tavera, a physician and daughter of Herminigildo Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, foremost historian and nationalist; Ma. Eva Estrada-Kalaw, who was once a senator and whose husband descended from the Kalaw clan of Lipa, Batangas who were revolutionary leaders; Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil, a writer and of Dr. Jose Rizal’s clan; Nini Quezon-Avanceña, daughter of President Manuel Quezon and whose husband descended from Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Ramon Avanceña who served the longest term as chief justice; Vicky Quirino-Delgado, the granddaughter of President Elpidio Quirino; and Cecilia Muñoz-Palma, a judge whose husband descended from Jose Palma who wrote the lyrics of our national anthem.

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Childhood friends and college classmates are strongly tied to their maiden names. I don’t know the married name of my classmates Lydia Sarmiento, Elvira Barretto, Matilda Castro, Tweetums Gonzales and Maita Gomez, even 30 years after graduation. Even when the President is introduced, Gloria Macapagal has stuck as though it were one long word leaving the Arroyo out, just like Robina Gokongwei... Pe. I’m pleased when Chingbee says she’s Chingbee Cuenca instead of Kalaw Manotoc because my phone book stays cleaner. When she and Bobby were married in Hong Kong, she dropped the M and became K.C. but still she’s known as Chingbee K. by old friends.

Women who choose to keep their maiden names help maintain their old doctor’s records and transactions with creditors! Creditors? I agree with the first one. I’m not sure about the second. That’s for the men to pay.

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Although I would like to retain the R or d.l.R. as a career person and in honor of my heritage and individuality, I am like many married women who are better known by their married names – like Mert Loinaz, Paz Yuchengco, Monique Ignacio, Yolly Lira, Myrna Borromeo and Jul Dizon.

Women’s other motives for not using their husband’s names range from the husbands having ugly names to funny-sounding names to having a name of ill repute. Well, love conquers all, right?

Some also cringe at the antiquated notion that using a man’s name is symbolic of a husband’s owning his wife. As far as they’re concerned, women who adopt and accept their husbands’ names have made themselves second-class citizens. It’s hard to believe that such notions still exist today but it does seem true.

As for me, there are two obvious reasons why adopting a husband’s name is advantageous. First, it is traditional and second, the most acceptable in our social setting, is to avoid doubt. It’s confusing to have separate family names when you’re being introduced to friends or business associates.

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Some say that names are mere labels. They’re right. But given the opportunity to choose, would you want to keep your single name? Use the name that inspires you. This is not just for mental health, but for mental fitness as well. Empower yourself with the surname you’re most potent with. You are your name and you have every right to be called by that name. It’s all a matter of choice.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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