The Jhemerlyn Project

Names are more fun in the Philippines

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Why This Site Exists

I've been interested in names since childhood.

When my mom was pregnant with my youngest sibling, I somehow believed that she was having a girl and I wanted to name her...Carol. Thank goodness no one listened to me because "Carol" turned out to be a boy. Looking back, I suspect that I got the name from a paperback guide for expectant mothers published circa 1969. The language was somewhat dated - Asians were still "Orientals" - but I loved browsing the last few pages which had a list of baby names and their meanings.

Fast forward a few years. That brother was now in fourth grade and due to receive an award at school. While waiting for his name to be called, I flipped through the list of awardees that came with the program and noticed that a fair number of girls were (Firstname) Mae. So I counted them. There were about 25, plus a few who spelled it "May." I also noticed the public school's lack of Patricias (though there were Trishas and at least one "Trisha Mae"), a contrast to my Catholic school where I knew four of them. That not only kickstarted a new hobby for when I was bored, but also got me thinking about names in general. What influences parents to choose one name and not the other? What sort of people gravitate to certain names or styles? Are some names really as common as they seem? As I grew older, I checked out the naming sites - not only to pick names for my fictional characters, but also to seek answers to my questions. But as fun as it was to read their insights and advice for stuck parents, these sites were made by Americans for Americans, or more broadly, Anglosphere natives for other Anglosphere natives. I wanted their Philippine equivalents.

But they were harder to find than I realized.

Yes, the Philippine Statistics Authority (formerly the National Statistics Office) sometimes releases data on top names given to newborn babies. But given the number of babies born each year, an individual name being in the top 10 doesn't say much. Depending on the year, the top name may not even cover one percent of babies. This sounds good at first - more diversity, less chance of little Josh sharing his name with three others in class - but what about the names that are spelled differently but pronounced the same way? Or how about names that share a template (ex. Analyn/Rubilyn/Jennilyn, Aira/Aika/Lyka/Kyla, Angel/Angela/Angelica/Angelique, or the constantly shapeshifting family of Kristina/Kristel/Krizelle/Krizia)? There's a lot of potentially interesting data buried under the top 10, but I can't see it because we don't have the equivalent of the USA's Social Security Database. Of course, I understand how monitoring baby name trends isn't the PSA's top priority. We have enough problems as is. Still, in this respect, I envy the Americans. does have a list of the most popular first names, but it's not sorted by age. Click on an individual name page and you'll find a line graph comparing its popularity between jurisdictions that you can choose, but it yields rank and not the number of babies born. Like I said, rank alone doesn't say much. The latest numbers on the site also seem to be from 2014, and I'm unsure I can trust their ranked lists from past decades.

Of course, I can choose not to consider statistics and look instead at others' posts and news items about unusually-named people. There's no shortage of them: Maximo Peligro the bus driver, Joseph Stalin the military academy graduate, and...this family, just to name a few. Even so, I keep wanting numbers. Anecdotes are entertaining, but on their own, they are not data. Hence this website.

Toni Morrison told people to write the books they wish to read. I will compute for the numbers that I wish to see.