Your Tilde – A letter to Iñ

So, I still can’t get over how much effort your preschool has put on your tilde. That all your personal spaces have your name, squiggly and all, labeled nicely.

Before we moved back to Canada, we have accepted that in this country, our Ñ is not accepted in legal papers. We knew that our last name will be Azana, and that pronunciation will be changed. That’s how it was for Tatay when he moved here 25 years ago. He was/is known as T Azana to his friends here. And that’s okay. It makes life simpler for many. It’s the name the government recognizes, and it saves a few seconds of explaining enyes, Alt-164s, and Alt-165s. It is what many immigrants do – they change their names, they modify their names, they simplify their names. And if that is what you want, you can do it too.

But then we moved back to Naga, and he became T Azaña again. Well, he was always T Azaña, and according to our marriage certificate, that’s the name of the man I married. I am Mrs. Azaña. And then we had J, and you, and then K.

You are all very young, but you and Manoy are old enough to know your names. You know your nickname, and your full name. You can pronounce it properly, and clearly. Your sense of identity is slowly forming. And I love it. We named you all after certain people, and you carry your father’s last name, the way he carries his father’s last name. It’s the tradition we keep. It’s part of who we are. It’s a legacy of a good name, that I hope and pray you keep.

What’s in a name? A lot. I may have changed my last name, but I put effort in making sure you all know the value of every aspect of your family history – the beauty of being a Valencia, Obias, Cuyegkeng, and Tan. My mother changed her last name when she married Kongkong, but she made it very clear to me what an Obias woman ought to be. You have history in being a Natividad, as well as an Azaña. The collective history we have with our family is amazing, and in keeping your name, I hope you embrace and own that history. Then use it as you move forward, and become the great man I know you will be.

Now, I was honestly ready to accept a life of “Inigos” and “Azanas” for as long as we are here in Canada. I mean, identity, family history, and Filipino culture could all be shared without the tilde, right?

But your Tita L (whose last name is Sobreviñas) reminded that there are some things worth explaining extensively, like your name (something given at birth, reiterated during your Christening, and used every single day). And I realized, she was right.

I realized that, with friends, family, and community (we belong to a nice small parish, and you have a nice small school that puts emphasis on relationships), we need not settle to be something else. Friendships aren’t dictated by legal documents, and are not constrained by a system that may not contain this character: ñ. Introducing yourself as “Iñigo Azaña” is not more difficult than “Inigo Azana”. They hear it the first time, and that’s how they’ll call you. Because at the end of the day, they’ll probably want to get it right anyway. Because if they want to have a real relationship with you, they’d want the real deal. And if they mispronounce it, appreciate that they try to get it right.

As for me and Tatay, we will do our best in keeping what is ours, and being who we want to be. We are grateful for this amazing start for you in preschool, that we have found educators that respect identity, and diversity, that your first friends will know the name you were given at birth, and that you know that your ñ is accepted.

You will be going to birthday parties with piñatas, and will be eating in places that serve piñacoladas. The multi-culturalism that is embraced in North America has accepted the tilde in all these random things, so I assure you, they will accept and embrace you, my Iñ. That has been your name for three years now, and we don’t plan on changing it any time soon. Feliz Cumpleaños, Iñ. <3