what’s in a name?

by Daniella Magbanua

The first day of school is one of the most awkward days. I’m not talking about the “meeting new people” or “being in the same class as people you don’t like” part. I’m talking about the attendance. The roll-call. 

I would always get embarrassed as my name approached. How badly will they butcher it? Should I correct them? Do I let it slide? And when I do correct them but they still get it wrong, the situation gets even more awkward.

For some reason, not many people can pronounce my last name correctly. Now, I don’t blame them. My last name can be hard to pronounce if you have never heard it. For me, the problem comes when they don’t even bother to try and learn the correct pronunciation. 

Unfortunately, this is a problem that expands outside of the classroom that many people with “different” names face. Our name is our identity. It has a history; a meaning. It is a part of our heritage and culture. By denying someone their name you deny them. 

When I was younger, I always wished I had a different last name: one that was easier to pronounce. I was jealous of my friends who didn’t take up time during attendance just because of their name. I was already numb to the mispronunciations and shortened versions. In a sense, I had sort of an identity crisis. I knew my name had a cultural significance, but I denied that part of myself. It led me to feel small.

Simply showing the effort to properly learn someone’s name shows you care. For example, this year I had a teacher who started off the first day with a short talk about the importance of names. He talked about the significance a name has, and that it is vital to one’s identity. Before taking attendance, he told us that he would try to say our names and to not be afraid to correct him if he messed up. When it came to be my turn he messed it up a couple times. But I didn’t care. It was the fact that he took the time to try that resonated with me. I felt valid and respected.

I’m not expecting everyone to automatically know how to pronounce my last name. What I would appreciate is the effort to learn and respect it. It fosters a sense of belonging. I ask that you also do the same for everyone else. Call someone by the name they want to be called, and try to pronounce it the best that you can. You never know how validating it can be and how much it can make someone’s day.

For those who are ashamed of your name, don’t be. Don’t change your name to be more convenient for others if you are not comfortable with it. If you are ok with a nickname that is fine! If you prefer your full name, that is also fine! It’s not your job to “make life easier” for them in regards to your name. Own it!

Hi, my name is Daniella Magbanua (dan-yell-uh mag-bahn-wa). 

I go by Dani (because it is less formal). 

In Hebrew, Daniella means “God has judged” (although I was named after the football player: Dan Marino).

It’s not Danielle and it’s spelled with two Ls, not one.

My last name is Magbanua. This stems from an island in the Philippines. 

I am Daniella Magbanua.

What’s in your name?


a message from the author

Daniella Magbanua

"My name is Daniella Magbanua and I am Puerto Rican & Filipina American who is passionate about creating a more culturally aware and accepting society. During the summer, I created informative posts to spread awareness to my friends, and through the Asian Hispanic Empowerment Organization, I am able to use my voice to reach a bigger audience. My goal is to uplift others and help them to feel proud about who they are." -Daniella Magbanua