John Paul, Althea most popular names for Pinoy babies, as Spanish names decline

baby names
By CARMELA G. LAPEÑA/GMA News – Having a name of mixed origins is one telltale sign of being Filipino. Babies born in the Philippines recent years are likely to have an Anglo-Saxon name and a Spanish surname, with a native nickname like Bong.

Data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) shows that babies born in recent years are more likely to carry first names on their birth certificates like Ashley, Kimberly, Sarah, or James, Francis, and Kevin.

In 2011, John Paul was the most common name for male babies, and Althea the most popular name for female babies, according to the NSO.

In 2010, the most common name for male babies was Adrian, and the most common name for female babies was Rhian. It would seem that the “Joshua” and “Angel” period is over, after being the most common names from 2007 to 2009.

“The name ‘Joshua,’ a biblical character who is the successor of Moses as leader of the Israelites, has always been the most preferred choice of Filipino parents for their male siblings since the year 2000 except in the years 2004 and 2002,” the NSO said in 2005.

The new favorite for boys, John Paul, are also names of famous saints, and the combination was especially popular in the 80s during the time of Pope John Paul II. The return to the top in 2011 may have had something to do with the late Pope John Paul’s beatification in May that year.

Angel was also the favorite name in 2005, surpassing Angelica which previously topped the list. According to NSO, Filipinos are fond of other variations of Angel, such as Angela, Angeline, and Angelo for boys.

Other popular names for boys in 2011 were Justin (2,207), Renz (1,082), Clarence (1,054), John Carl (922), Kevin (824), Richard (682), Ezekiel (681), Jared (629), and Xyriel (479).

For girls, popular names in 2011 were Jessa Mae (929), Rhea Mae (848), Mary Rose (785), Kyla (717), April Joy (656), Jane (501), Alexandra (476), Precious (394), and Althea Mae (392).

It is unclear how some of the more unusual names gained popularity, but perhaps parents took inspiration from local celebrities.

2010 was a busy year for actress Rhian Ramos, who appeared on several television shows on GMA Network. She was also seen on the cover of four magazines that year, and was listed among YES Magazine’s 100 Most Beautiful Stars and FHM’s 100 Sexiest Women in the World.

Xyriel, which was popular in 2011, is the name of ABS-CBN’s Xyriel Manabat, who was named Best Child Performer in the 37th Metro Manila Film Festival and Best Child Actress in the 2011 FAMAS Awards.

The numbers suggest that some wildly popular names eventually lose their luster. There were 8,000 Joshuas in 2007, which declined to 6,823 in 2009, while the leading names in 2011, Adrian and John Paul, were given to only 2,269 and 2,905 babies, respectively.

Meanwhile, there were over 7,000 Angels in 2007 and 2008 compared to 5,952 in 2009. In 2010, there was more parity, with only 1,105 Rhians, that year’s most popular name. Only 1,708 Altheas were named in 2011, when no name dominating over others. The number of babies sharing other top ten most common names also declined in the five-year period.

Families lost their names in Spanish times

The increasing preference for Anglo-Saxon names reveals a growing Pinoy affinity for Western culture. This affinity can be seen, too, in how English is valued in the country, with some college campuses even banning the use of other languages even in conversation, purportedly an effective preparation for jobs in the booming call center industry.

Spanish first names were common in older generations, such as the popular Jose and Amor. Today, Pinoys will probably only have Spanish surnames — not because they have Spanish blood but because of a decree in 1849.

Governor General Narciso Claveria decided that Filipinos would be assigned family names from the Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos. Thus, families lost their names, and became disconnected from their ancestors, heritage expert Trixie Cruz said during the National Commission for Culture and the Arts’ lecture series, “Light and Mystery.”

If trends in official names are any indication, most Pinoys have no desire to reconnect with their ancestors, and prefer names that also belong to Western celebrities. Names like James, Christian, Daniel, Jenny, Nicole, and Princess dominated the top ten most common names for both male and female babies from 2007 to 2011.

However, Pinoys have retained a penchant for bestowing nicknames on each other, a tradition that recalls the pre-colonial times of Amaya.

A Joshua can become Jojo, a Nicole can become a Nic-Nic, and a John Paul will most likely become JP. And any boy’s name can become Bong.

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