By Juan L. Mercado

“THE BEGINNING of  wisdom is  to call  all things by their  right  names,” a Chinese  proverb   teaches. Widsom  has never been one of  ex-president Joseph Estrada’s strengths   But he insists  on  being called by  what he  claims is his  right name.

“My name is  not   bigote ( mustache),” the bearded Estrada told  the Inquirer. “It is Erap.  People call me Erap.”

That outburst came after fugitive and ex-cop  Cezar  Mancao  pinpointed  Bigote  as the “mastermind” in the Cavite  rubout of  publicist Salvador “Bubby”  Dacer and his driver.

The two were  kidnapped by 22   Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force men President Estrada  then was  reeling   from the BMW stock resources scandal. Dacer and driver Emmanuel Corbito. were strangled and their bodies burned. Investigators  itch  to ask Mancao if the documents burned  dealt with the BMW scam.

“Jose Velarde” was not his name either, Erap insisted – at least through part of his  tumultuous .impeachment.   He didn’t know  “Jose Velarde” from  Adam.  Authorities searched  for  a  phantom“Jose Velarde” who had a very down-to earth  Equitable Bank book. It’s contents  caroomed from an initial one peso deposit to over P3.2 billion in less than a year.

That account belonged to his good friend Jaime Dichavez, Erap claimed. Dichavez skipped town before a subpoena reached him. He didn’t leave forwarding address.In a February 2002 hospital-detention suite interview, Erap told ABS-CBN’s Pia Hontiveros, out of the blue, that  he signed as “Jose Velarde”.  That included signing a half-a-billlion loan guarantee – No, no, no. Not for Erap but  for his crony William Gatchalian.

Was this THE Jose Velarde  everyone futilely  searched   for, since impeachment erupted  into  People Power Two?, many asked then.  The  Anti Graft court’s decision convicting Erap for plunder,found: Estrada and Jose Velarde were one and the same persons.”

“The   beginning  of  wisdom is  to call  all things by their  right  names”? The mustached brother of Marx comedians Moe and Harpo once cracked. “No.  Groucho is not my real name. I’m just breaking it in for a friend.” So, is Estrada doing  a Groucho now in the  Dacerp-Corbito  rub out? Surely,  Erap is not doing this for a  phantom  Bigote? Greater love than this no man has than he lay down his name for a friend.

A name, the dictionary tells us, is “a word or phrase that constitutes the distinctive designation of a person or thing”. It’s in the applications where the screw-up begins.

“William Saunders” and “Jane Ryan” were aliases that appeared on Swiss bank papers. Esda I crowds stumbled across the papers littering Malacanang floors, after the Marcoses scrambled aboard Chinook escape choppers.

It was not illegal, in 1986, to have pseudos on bank books. But the Marcoses never admitted to a Groucho caper. The desposits were so large, they couldn’t be explained away. The $35 million  the Marcoses stashed with embattled Merrill Lynch, Inquirer reported this week remained intact. Imee and Bongbong Marcos are ferreting  the  dicator’s loot  stashed with former  cronies like Lucio Tan.

Filipino maxims on names are linked to integrity, notes the authority on our proverbs: UP professor emeritus Damiana Eugenio.

“Can we go to market with our once respected name?, Aklanons ask. “A good name is better than wealth,” Ilocanos and Boholanos say while Masbatenos counsel: “Take care of your good name for the sake of your children.”

The Philippines is a country “where exoticism rule the world of names,” Matthew Sutherland wrote  in the Observer: from “doorbell” like : Bing-Bong, Ding-Dong to “repeating names”: Len-Len or Jing-Jing. “They’re refined by using the “squared” symbol, as in Len2 or Mai2.”

Do randomly inserted letter ‘h’ give a touch of class to an otherwise average name”: like Jhun, Lhenn, Ghemma, and Jhimmy”. Or how about  “A Rhose By Any Other Name” . That’s  a spin off from Shakespeare’s 1595 tragedy : “Romeo and Juliet.”

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet.” Juliet fretted over Romeo’s family name. They belonged to the feuding Montague and Capulet families. These were the  Veronese version of our own feuding political dynasties. “Is she a Capulet?, a bewildered Romeo asks. “My life is my foe’s debt.”

Many bicker over names of places where one resides : upscale subdivision or crummy squatter areas “We go to gain a patch of ground / That hath no profit in it but the name,” Hamlet groused. But then he lived in a castle, albeit spooky.

The major faiths share a deep reverence for Divinity’s name. Muslims have 95 other names for Allah. Jews  would not address God directly. In “God Of A Hundred Names” say Barbara Greene and Victor Gollancz collate into a book  the  prayers of various faiths — including the Christian affectionate  address: “Our Father”.

Names have a function more than just accidental applications. Adam, Genesis tells us, named all creatures. He “called his wife Eve because she was mother of all the living.” John  The Baptist’s name was chosen before his birth.

“Our name is legion,” screamed the spirits in the Gerasene cave dweller, in response to the demand  by  One whose name, Luke writes, was chosen before his birth. And the night before He died, he was to pray for others: “Protect them with the Name you gave to me.”