Ateneo de Davao University

Ateneo de Davao

I am Mussolini

FEW days ago, Google Alert notified me that my name was posted online. There was this article written in Philippine Daily Inquirer that mentioned my name. The title of the article was “What’s in a name?” It was written by Ms. Isabel T. Escoda who is based in Cebu.

The article talks about many points, one of which is the way media foster the celebrity culture of giving more importance to Pia Wurtzbach’s name, than Christine Mae Calima’s achievement at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). Ms. Calima placed second in the 2016 graduating class of the prestigious military school.

Ms. Escoda wrote, “Indeed, other Filipinos sport equally extraordinary names: One of Pacquiao’s daughters was christened Queen Elizabeth, a Cebu reporter goes by the name of Princess Dawn Felicitas, and then there’s a Davao newspaper columnist named Mussolini Lidasan. For a country that has elected officials like Vice President Jejomar (Jesus/Joseph/Mary) Binay to high office, this is perfectly normal.” I agree at some point in saying that it is perfectly normal to use these names. But what is “normal”? Who defines it? And why did she use me as an example without even knowing who I am.

The title, “What’s in a name?”, can be connected to the famous Shakespeare’s line, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet,” in the play Romeo and Juliet. In the said play, Juliet seems to argue that it does not matter that Romeo is from her rival’s house of Montague, and that he is named “Montague.” For Juliet, the names of things or of people do not affect what they really are, but other people may argue otherwise.

Almost all culture of humanity would say that there is power over how we name things or how we name ourselves and others. Names have long been immortalized in different languages, prose, poetry, and even religious rituals. Everyone recognizes himself or herself by name.

Philosophers or even psychologists will raise the question: how does a name influence a person’s character? But before we answer the question, let us define the word “name”. Name – is the grouping of several letters of an alphabet, or other symbols, which represent the identification of a person or an object.

Therefore, names have always been needed to identify persons or things. During early times, one name sufficed when populations were not large, but eventually a second name was needed as the populations increased. An identifying name, usually descriptive, was then added to the first, or given, name. For example a name might refer to ones’ color of skin (Datu Puti), or type of the hair (Bai Kulot), or weight (Bai Masla), or height (Datu Malambeg).

Eventually, humankind evolved and the of the most convenient ways of identifying a person is by reference to his father’s name, especially when combined with the name given to a child. The use of a father’s name to form his son’s name is known as patronymic naming and was used in many lands, especially in the Muslim world.

My name is actually not taken from the Italian fascist leader, Benito Mussolini. My name was given to me by my father, Tahir (meaning the pure one). My name is actually taken from two Maguindanaon words: “mussol”/”dudsol” meaning full or abundance; and “lini” means love. My dad and my mom named me “Mussol-Lini” because they wanted their youngest son to be a “man full of love”.

It was a struggle for me way back in my elementary days even until now, when I speak in conferences/seminars. When I introduce myself, the audience asks me where is Hitler and Stalin? But instead of answering their question, I share to them the story of my name.

Those who do not know me would simply judge my character by the letters and alphabets of my name that looks and sounds like Mussolini. My family and real friends know me better. I am not a facist nore anything like that Italian leader.

The first paragraph of Rumi’s poem, One Song, says: “Every war and every conflict between human beings has happened because of some disagreement about names.” Naming people, places, and objects can sometimes be a source of conflict.

The second paragraph, says: “It is such an unnecessary foolishness, because just beyond the arguing there is a long table of companionship set and waiting for us to sit down.” This simply means, we need to establish relationships. We need to listen and understand what other peoples are saying about their names and characters before we judge them.

I am Mussolini. But I define my name based on my character.