October 2, 2021 • By Christine Pasalo Norland

On Names

"Oh, what is it, a dog walking service?"


I could only see the top half of the clerk’s face, their nose, mouth, cheeks, and chin covered by a blue disposable face mask.


“No,” I replied, smiling behind my black cloth face covering.


It was a sunny Friday in July and I was at the County Assessor’s office in Little Italy, San Diego, to file my business name: Hello Barkada. The clerk who had called my number had a clear temporary plexiglass partition on their desk and a view of the bay behind them. Each time the clerk typed into their computer, I sneaked glances of the ocean.


The clerk clarified. "I know 'barkada' means best friends. I've just never seen it with 'Hello' before."


I mean, that idea is fire! The clerk zeroed in on the “bark” in "barkada" and somehow assumed I’m the kind of person who loves dogs (I do!)


But, no. “Hello Barkada” isn’t a pun. It's familial, disruptive, and (re)builds connection.


"Barkada" is a term in Tagalog that I think vibes more with "chosen family." Think of "Living Single," the 1990s sitcom starring Queen Latifah, Kim Fields, Kim Coles, and Erika Alexander: Your barkada is a group of family and friends that you choose to stay close to. The bond is strong and doesn't easily break with disagreements. They accept you at your highest, lowest, and keep you real. You make time and space for each other. You stand for each other.


Everyone who comes from a marginalized community and those who actively center and stand up with us, fight for our equity, and risk their position to demand our inclusion is barkada. “Hello Barkada” is a greeting and a signal that this space is for us.


Hello Barkada is also a disruption because it intentionally includes a non-English term. The organization name starts comfortably with a recognizable, universal greeting in English before it swerves, requiring one to tap into the brain’s left hemisphere to sound out the second term.


I am a Filipina American who was born in Northern California and grew up in Southern California. While I was raised to understand Pangasinan (the dialect of my parents and the name of their home province in the Philippines), I am also familiar with a few words in Tagalog since my parents would switch to it when speaking to Filipinx in-laws during family parties.


But I’m not fluent in either Filipinx language. I process, speak, read, and write in the language of the last and lasting imperialist power that laid claim on the Philippines. Even "barkada" is a loan word from Spain–the colonizing force in the Philippines before the United States. This brings me to the third reason why I named the organization Hello Barkada: Each time I say, read, and write it, I’m like a banyan tree, sending down another root, being present while confronting the history of Pilipinx people in America and the archipelago, (re)connecting to ancestors and elders whose traditions and homeland's name were forced to be forgotten in order to survive.


It’s this type of nuanced presence I share with other historically oppressed peoples. Our art and cultural expression bloom from trauma, protest, and joy. We mind and mine these truths on our way to (re)claiming what is central to us, framing trails towards rest, justice, community, and liberation.


"Hello Barkada" is no pun, but it has a lot of meaning. Good names often do.


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PHOTO BY CHRISTINE PASALO NORLAND • TAGS: ESSAYS

White text says "Inside Our Premiere Zine. Our first small press effort features 16 pages of works, including the first print reproductions of the comics by Maxi Rodriguez, Angel Trazo, Tatum Begay, and Breena Nuñez, and original written and illustrated works by founder Christine Pasalo Norland." Text on a darkened photo of a brown hand holding up the black and white zine in front of a leafy green hedge. The cover of the zine features falling leaves and the title, "isang mahal."