Middle Name

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There are probably a handful of us in the Philippines. We might even be considered endangered species. I have no middle name. I lost count of the times I have been asked why I do not have one. Sometimes people understand, but there are those who are baffled. There was a time when the rule was: an illegitimate child if not recognized by the father should use the family name of the mother without any middle name. The rule made sense because if the chid will use the middle name of the mother, it will be confusing because it will appear that they are siblings.

What is the significance of a middle name?

The Civil Code does not seem to deal much about the use of middle names. So can we just do away with the use of middle names then? Not so fast! Middle names are there to distinguish people especially those with similar first and surnames and to indicate lineage. Remember former President George W. Bush who was sometimes referred to as “W”? His first and last name are the same with his father, former President George H. W. Bush. Apparently in the United States they are not fond of using “Jr.”, “Sr.”, or “the III” and so George W. Bush has always been distinguished from his father through his middle name.

Again, why not drop the middle name? First, you were already registered with one on your certificate of live birth. Government and private agencies will be making it difficult for you to process your papers if they see inconsistencies on your documents. Most people know that claiming for SSS benefits for example, will be a lifelong struggle by reason of even the slightest difference on your documents. Second, your mother will be furious as hell. Need I say more? Third, if you have political ambitions, forget about the votes from your mother’s side. Choose another career.

“Maiden name”?

Some confuse “middle” with “maiden” name. Obviously, only married women have maiden names. “Maiden” means an unmarried woman. So maiden name refers to the woman’s name before getting married. When a woman marries it is also the time when she changes her middle and surname. Her maiden surname becomes her middle name and her husband’s surname becomes hers. But what if the married woman does not want to use her husband’s surname, can she retain her maiden name even during the existence of their marriage? The Supreme Court says she may. In the case of Remo vs. Secretary of Foreign Affairs (G.R. No. 169202, March 5, 2010), the High Court said: “when a woman marries, she does not change her name but only her civil status”. The Court went on to say “that the use of the husband’s surname by the wife is permissive rather than obligatory”. A married woman may continue using her maiden name if she so desires. She, however, cannot do so at will especially if documents impressed with public interest as in the case of passports are involved.

I was once asked by a married woman who is a government employee but not in good terms with her husband if it is possible for her to revert to her maiden name even if their marriage has not been annulled yet. In the Remo case, the SC made it clear that she in fact can revert to her maiden name and she cannot be compelled to use her husband’s surname. Of course she has to inform the proper authorities on her desire to do so.

For those who desire to continue using their maiden names, make your husband and his entire clan understand your reason for doing so. The thought of a married woman still using her maiden name might not be readily understood by most.