I was the only girl, or person, in our village with the name Alana.
That came as a surprise to me when I was very young: All the other kids in my small world then share their first names with two or more other children.
There was "Dalisay liit" (or Pure tiny, for she has a tiny frame) and "Dalisay laki" (or Pure big, for she has a large frame). While there was "Marikit unat" (or Pretty with the straight hair), "Marikit kulot" (Pretty with the curly hair), and "Marikit buhaghag" (Pretty with huge wiry hair). And there was "Malaya taga-ilog" (Free-man from the river) and "Malaya taga-dagat" (Free-man from the sea).
They all seemed to have great fun trying to identify who was who and their shared name seemed to form a bond between them.
While I, with my unique and one-of-a-kind name, had no one to share it with. I felt different.
I would have felt like an outcast if not for my father and mother, Tata Kawayan taga-looban (Father Bamboo from the inner village) and Nana Gumamela taga-habi (Mother Hyacinth who weaves). By the way, they lived during a time when the Village Scribe then favored the naming of newborns after the plants and blooms that are abundant in the village.
Tata and Nana always reminded me that our names are very important but not as important as what we make of our lives and how we can change how others see us by living a life given for others.
I could not fully understand that for a long time but it would give me strength and courage when some of the children would ask me about my name, where it came from and how I was given that name. When I would echo to them what my Tata and Nana told me of how I got it, they would either be amazed or snicker and even laugh out loud.
And so I was pretty popular, or rather infamous, as a kid, bearing the name Alana. But I resolved to be the best Alana that I could be. I was curious if what my Tata and Nana said was true: Can I truly change how the other kids see me?