Filipino names – instant confusion for Australian Filipina couples

I had a client yesterday telling me that his wife had the same last name…..twice! He was confused, and assumed I would be too. Little did he know that after all these years very little surprises me! Plus, I know how all of this works by now.



Filipino last-names and middle-names

In Australia, we have a first-name and a last-name (aka surname). And some of us have a second-name. We call this second-name our “middle name”. It’s more than likely the second choice of our parents when naming us, or named after some grandfatherly relative to make them happy. And our last name is generally our dad’s last name. When our mum married our dad, unless she was feminism-inspired, would have taken his last name, and hers disappears into the abyss.

Philippines? Very different.

Everyone has a first name, a middle name and a last name.

First name, as per in Australia. Let’s call her “Maribel”.

Middle name? Here is where it’s different to the Aussie way! This is her mother’s maiden name! Let’s say her mum’s last name used to be Garcia. That means Maribel has the MIDDLE name of “Garcia”.

Mum (let’s call her Maria) had married Pedro Fernandez. So Maria became Maria Garcia Fernandez.

Maribel from birth is known as Maribel Garcia Fernandez, and shares middle and last names with her siblings.

Now…..when Maribel marries YOU (let’s call you John Smith), she becomes Maribel Fernandez Smith. And your kids (Huey, Dewey and Louie) become Huey Fernandez Smith, and so on.

Get it? So a middle name is actually a maternal surname. Quite charming, I tend to think. Helps you to see family connections, which matter a lot here.

In my clients case, her parents (from different provinces, and NOT related) both had the same last name. Therefore her last name and middle names were the same, which looked really odd. Poor bloke couldn’t understand why her “middle name” was the same as her surname!


Nicknames and other strange names

No article on Filipino names would be complete without some reference to the unusual names you find here.

Names seem to have become more…. *cough* …..creative in later years. In the old days? Straight Spanish!

Pedro, Maria Lourdes, Miguel, Josefina, Eduardo, Consolacion, Purificacion.


Strawberry, Royal Rocks, Earth, Princess, Cake, X, Y, Irish, Apple, Jerk.

Then we get the composite names, which are made up of part of mum’s name and part of dad’s.

Felixbert, Alverlyn, Saymon, Manileth, Jomarie, Maribert, Philmar, Alnes, Jimlou, Rogelyn.

I’m limiting the number of names I give here, because I don’t want any of our clients seeing their own names listed as being “funny”. Happy clients! Happy clients!

Girls born in April are commonly named…..well, April. Those born in May often have the second name of May or Mae.

And tossing in a superfluous “h” is popular too. So you get Jhessica, Jhon, Jhun, Rhose, Bhoy, Rhoy.

And then, most people have nicknames. In many cases their relatives are not even sure what their real names are.

Boy, Junior, Baby, Darling, Honey Boy, Lala, Bum Bum.

I had a client telling me I could call his fiancée “Darling”. I said my wife would kill me if I did! I have a relative called “Babylove”. Might have been cute when he was small, but on a grown man it’s a little odd.

I think the ones I like the most are the “doorbell” names. These are names that sound just like I said, ie. doorbells.

Jing Jing, Dong Dong, Bong Bong, Ting Ting, Deng Deng, Ning Ning.

Strange thing is?  No one teases anyone about their names. All perfectly normal. I grew up in Australia surrounded by David’s, Michael’s, Anthony’s, Susan’s, Jenny’s and Karen’s. Just as it’s perfectly OK to have a purple or bright yellow house here in the Philippines, I tend to think this is just a colourful and expressive country!



Filed under Philippines

2 responses to “Filipino names – instant confusion for Australian Filipina couples

  1. Laaland Clare

    Jeff I have a purple house with turquoise trim. It’s the only one in my town of 30000. All the taxi drivers know where it is, people chuckle when they walk past and kids call it the wiggled house..My name is Mr Laaland Clare and everyone confuse as Mrs Clare Laaland no matter how many times I tick the male box on forms. I’m a stubbled lady very ugly and I’m named after a Tassie racehorse and got bullied at school about my name. Maybe I should have been born a Filipino. If my new wife’s name was Clare she would be Mrs Clare Clare …

    • I was about to say what Mr and Mrs Tickle named their daughter, but I won’t……

      There’s a house in Indang, Cavite. We call it the crayon house. Front fence (concrete, of course) looks like a box of crayons! And everything else is bright colours. Must get a photo some day! In our estate there are blue houses, purple houses, yellow houses, green houses. Not too many off-white houses like in Australia. Last time I went back I was amazed at how conservative it all was.

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