MANILA — You can call Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee of the Philippine Supreme Court "Ding Dong." His best friends do.
You can call President Corazon Aquino's eldest daughter "Ballsy." She won't be insulted.
"Noynoy" and "Peping," "Tingting" and "Teddy Man"--all are proper forms of address for some of "Cory's" closest advisers.
"Almost all Filipinos have nicknames," said Dr. Minda Sutaria, the undersecretary of education, known to most as simply "Min." "Filipinos like to be informal and friendly."
"Nobody can believe I don't have a nickname," said one, rather odd Manila woman of Chinese parentage. "People just make them up for me."
"Teddy Man" is Aquino's press spokesman Teodoro Benigno. Not to be confused with "Teddy Boy," or Teodoro Locsin Jr., presidential confidante and speech writer.
No One Remembers Real Name
"Ballsy," Aquino's eldest child and close adviser, is really Maria Elena Aquino Cruz. No one even remembers her given name anymore. "Noynoy" is the president's only male child, son of Aquino and her late husband "Ninoy."
Nicknames are so entrenched in Filipino society that Manila's international airport, recently renamed after the president's murdered husband, is officially called the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, rather than the Benigno S. Aquino Jr. airport.
President Aquino's brother-in-law, Agapito, a Filipino senator, is known as "Butz." He's married to "Popsie."
Aquino's brother "Peping"--or Jose Cojuangco--just celebrated his 25th wedding anniversary with pretty Margarita, or "Tingting."
Ousted President Ferdinand Marcos irritated the Filipino love for informality by insisting that he be called "Your Excellency." But behind his back, everyone knew the strongman as either "Ferdie," "Fred" or "Macoy."
Remember 'Bongbong' Marcos?
His flamboyant wife, Imelda, was "Meldy" and their youngest son, former governor of Ilocos Norte province, preferred to be known as "Bongbong."
Imee Marcos Manotoc, daughter of the former president and first lady, is the wife of Tommy Manotoc. Tommy used to be married to beauty queen Aurora Pijuan, or "Au-Au" (pronounced ow-ow), a former Miss International.
"Danding"--well-known Marcos crony and estranged Aquino first cousin Eduardo Cojuangco--fled the country with the Marcoses.
Back in Manila, the central bank is run by Jose Fernandez, known to his friends as "Jobo." "Eddie"--Fidel Ramos--was named the country's defense secretary following the resignation of "Rocky," or Rafael Ileto. "Johnny"--opposition leader Juan Ponce Enrile--held that job during the Marcos years.
All is not well between "Cory" and "Doy," or Vice President Salvador Laurel, who recently resigned from the foreign affairs ministry.
"Boy," "Honey Boy," "Baby" and "Cookie" all are common names. A U.S. woman recently was very distressed to hear her husband call a driver "Boy" on their way home from the airport. "But that's his name," the husband protested.
'Father Baby's' a Priest
One of the most popular priests on the central island of Negros is "Father Baby" Gordoncillo.
Society columns are full of what "Tweet Tweet," "Boo," "Twinkie," "Peaches" or "Cherry Pie" did at the opening of some new Manila disco.
"Nicknames date back to the Spanish regime," said education undersecretary "Min," whose boss, the secretary of education, is known as "Lou-Lou." "Even my grandmother and great-grandmother had nicknames.
"When we ask someone's name, we right away ask, 'What's your nickname?,' " Min said. "Nicknames make the other fellow feel he's closer to you."