by Vladimir Rom Matias, LLB
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In a predominantly Catholic country like the Philippines, it was customary during Hispanic times or during the early post-Hispanic times to name a newly born baby in honor of Christian saints. Following that about-to-be obsolete tradition, my name should be “Mark” as it was St. Mark’s (one of the Gospel authors) feast day on April 25th. But, my mother, a former public school teacher, had other things in mind. As she was predisposed to think of something unique, she decided to settle for “Vladimir”, a common Russian name widely used in Moscow, St. Petersburg and the former Soviet Union, even though in our island in Masbate, Burias Island, I was the first to get christened “Vladimir”. Just recently, some youngsters in the neighboring barangays followed suit.
Many years before I was born, specifically on April 25, 1936, my father’s parents – my grandparents – wed at then Barangay Claveria, Municipality of San Pascual, Masbate Province. Their marital bond was quite short as the Pacific War (WW II) ended their relationship as husband and wife and destroyed everything from food and water sources, school buildings to the very foundations of the family. In short, my paternal grandparents divorced and looked for new partners. Accordingly, my father is blessed with a multitude of half-brothers and half-sisters on both sides. During those times, visitation rights by a parent or ascendant to his/her child/descendant in custody of the former spouse were unheard of and unwritten into law. In fact, my poor sisters never had the chance to meet our father’s father in person or in photos.
Thirty four years later, specifically on April 25, 1970, according to records of the Municipal Local Civil Registrar in Claveria, Masbate, my parents wed at Barangay Nonoc, Now Municipality of Claveria, Masbate Province. Unlike that of my paternal grandparents, my parents’ marital bond proved to be enduring as the sun, even if characterized by numerous on-and-off petty quarrels, misunderstanding and even brief episodes of separation. As absolute divorce was outlawed, my parents’ squabbles did not really weaken family ties, but only made the family grew stronger, albeit some members’ personalities clashed from time to time and hindered filial solidarity. Injurious traditional attitudes plagued the family dwelling and alienated some offsprings from fully harmonizing with their siblings.
Almost a decade later, again on APRIL 25, early 80s, the sun shone the first time on my face. It is the Russian “Vladimir” chosen personally by my mother, instead of “Mark” following customs or a traditional Spanish name, which was officially written in the record books of the National Statistics Office (NSO). “Vladimir” is hard to pronounce; so, in life, I used 1001 alternate nicknames, including “Baldomero”, “Val”, “Valentino”, “Bloody” or simply “Vlad”. When I worked in Orbitz, an American online travel agency, I simply used “Val”. Some of these nicknames – not my inventions – passed out of time and no longer sound acceptable to me. And if an acquaintance happened to call me with a resigned or retired nickname, I may not be able to connect with her/him.
Since it was also a Spanish-Christian tradition in my country to offer prayers and give thanks to God for a gift that a celebrant was given another year to breath and live, I pray for more blessings, more happiness, and more understanding not just for me but for the entire humanity.
Before I forget, one of my brothers got married on APRIL 25, 2006.
Happy 77th wedding anniversary to my deceased paternal grandparents.
Happy 43rd wedding anniversary to my beloved parents.
Happy 7th wedding anniversary to my brother and his wife.
And last but not the least, Happy Birthday to me and those who are celebrating their birthdays on April 25th.
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