What’s in a name?
by rick olivares
I know for a fact that the Philippine Olympic Committee is quite unhappy with the nicknaming of the men’s and women’s national volleyball teams “Bagwis” (feather) and “Amihan” (northeast monsoon). “Why cannot Philippines suffice?” asked aloud one official who swore to put a stop to this incessant nicknaming of national teams.
On one hand, I understand the concocting of nicknames for teams. This practice has been around since the dawn of the 20th Century. Not everyone is happy about it too. When some of the Australian teams were called the “Kangaroos” or the “Wallabies” some quarters from the Land Down Under voiced their dissent and unhappiness. Some see it as a marketing tool. Some say it is downright silly when it should just be name of the country.
On the other hand, personally, I have mixed feelings. I think it’s fine except that since the football team was called “Azkals” everyone has tried to come up with nicknames with some like “Malditas” sounding downright terrible. You have had the senior and junior basketball teams going by “Gilas” and “Sinag” that have a spunky and nationalistic feel to them. However, at one point, some basketball officials thought of changing the name of “Sinag” but could not find anything appropriate.
With regards to the women’s volleyball team that has previously gone by the moniker “Bomberinas,” the beleaguered Philippine Volleyball Federation and their sponsor, PLDT, came up with the name “Amihan” for what is supposedly the new national squad. As cool as “Amihan” sounds, that season is characterized by moderate temperatures with little or no rainfall. I don’t think we want a team of moderate players.
As for the men’s team – maybe they could be light as a feather and fly through the air to smash some powerful spikes on opposing teams. It could conversely mean, they are lightweight if they bomb out.
In the past two years, I have only referred to the football team as “Philippines” but now that I have given it further thought, I now think it’s fine to alternate now between “Azkals” and “Philippines” when writing or mentioning them. It would be hypocritical for me to be against it but think that it’s fine to call their French counterparts by “Les Bleus.”
I believe the reason why some object to the name “Azkals” because it literally means “street dogs” and isn’t some of the national animal. Come to think of it, the national animal is the carabao (chosen for its industriousness and being the workhorse of an agricultural Philippines from a bygone era).
Whether the carabao or the street dog isn’t as regal as say, the American eagle, I think the aforementioned animals are very Filipino.
Having said that, I believe that the solution to this lies somewhere in between. It’s fine to have a nickname but it should be well thought out with no negative connotations and must be submitted for approval among duly appointed or recognized officials. While this sounds trivial and perhaps a waste of time, it is a touchy and sensitive topic.
And for the record, I dislike the name “Amihan.” It reminds me of this beer garden somewhere in the Timog area of Quezon City.