of Turtles and Men

  1. Joaquin G. Bernas: Bar topnotcher, staunch advocate of civil liberties, educator, Provincial of the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus, a regular amicus curae of the Supreme Court, the country's foremost constitutionalist (1987 Constitutional Commission Member) - a legal luminary, and

Still counting7.

The list will not cease to grow; it should not...unless some other-meaning friends change the town's name after a person. If they do, every Baaoeño's achievement will not be seen to go over the bar that that person had raised. Retain the name and the Baaoeño's horizon for greatness goes beyond the meadows of Binanuaanan to the west and hills of Caranday to the east. Honoring a man with a town's name limits the greatness of the man to the town's, and the town's greatness to the man's.

If, for some luck, some 'Barlinon' should surpass the greatness of Barlin, what would prevent the future from re-naming the town again after that person? When will it end? Why should we go the way of Azcarraga? Of Avenida Rizal? Of Dewey Boulevard? And scores of others swept into the dustbin of memories?

Any serious attempt to change the town's name will be divisive of its citizenry and will set the town in fruitless debate. There are more pressing matters the town should worry about and channel its efforts on. This very moment we urgently need to address the constant flooding due to the denudation of our watershed and the silted waterways, the drug menace, the expensive yet unreliable power utility, and the high cost of tertiary education, among others. We are therefore endlessly grateful to the Sangguniang Bayan for its enlightened discernment of the issue. If my memory serves me right, I believe a proposal to change Baao into Barlin had been filed with the municipal council a few years ago; thank God, our kagawads had the wisdom, the alacrity to reject it.

Changing the name can result in an identity crisis of the town and its citizenry. That is not to mention the trouble of having to explain the new name or to insert an obligatory "(formerly Baao)" note after the new name. Moreover, the tremendous expense of changing registers, addresses, legal documents, etc. should instead be put to much better use.

The only valid reason for a change is to honor Bishop Barlin. But, there are many, and better, ways to honor the man. Why compromise the legacy of four centuries of Baao history?

Let me share with you what some blue-blooded Baaoeños have to say about the name change in response to a "text survey" that I casually conducted (responses were in SMS):

  • Atty. Justino G. Bernas, retired business and government executive, now savoring an enviable status of a gentleman-farmer, laughs it off with, "If that happens we'll have a West Barlin and an East Barlin."

  • Fabian B. Gumabao, macu-ama sa tuhod ni Msgr. Jorge mismo, nagsabi, "Baao should have its own identity intact and separate. Escuelan na bago puede pa, anything with its own history, di puede."

  • Atty. Manuel B. Gaite, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary, Office of the President, career government technocrat, argues, "Baao is already very much a part of our lives and story; besides, it's unique. Barlin can be remembered some other way."

  • Dr. Albino Bismonte, Jr., pediatrician, enjoying his retirement in St. Mark's, Florida: "I love my birthplace so dearly I christened my leisure boat "Baao" and my favorite car's license plate bears the letters B, A, A, and O."8

    7Above list comprises only those we know from the turn of the 20th century. It will be an awesome yet fascinating research work to find out more about Baao and its outstanding sons and daughters from the late 16th to the 19th centuries.
    8The streets of Chicago have given way to Dr. Jun Bismonte's car proudly proclaiming, "BAAO." The '37' is the vanity part - his age, says Romy Quiñones.