Tuesday, July 01, 2008


missingpoints classic: Title-crazy
21 February 2003

Dr. Strange and Dr. Doom, both comic book characters, are not really doctors; the former is a mystic while the latter is a villain who rules an Eastern European country. But they use the title even though I'm pretty sure they did not obtain degrees (even honorary ones) from any university.

Mr. Fantastic and Mr. Freeze on the other hand are (according to the books) real Ph.D. holders. Reed Richards was an astronaut while Victor Frost is a scientist. Yet they just use "Mr." in their aliases. So what gives? Why do those who have the right to use the title don't and those who should just be plain "Mr." flaunt their "Dr?"

Our national hero wasn't a doctor. According to Ambeth Ocampo he never took the board exams for Ophthalmology, yet a lot of people continue to address him as Dr. Jose Rizal. It seems that having a title adds to one person's esteem, even if that title is irrelevant to the job at hand. (Remember Dr. Rey de la Cruz, talent manager of 80s "bold stars?") He would still be a hero even if he were just plain Mr. Rizal but there seems to be a need to adorn an honored man with titles.

I cannot understand this Pinoy penchant for titles; it's so comicbook-like. It's like everyone feels the need to attach something in front of his or her name (or behind). Even the "Mr." title is coveted after a fashion. I knew this teacher who insisted everyone call him "Mr. _____." While it's perfectly understandable if you impose that rule on students but he introduces himself as "Mr. ____" even to parents and other school staff.

Now that's weird.

But then again, I'd rather humor someone who insists on being addressed as "Mr." than someone who insists on putting "honorable" in front of his or her name.

You notice it everywhere, those headstones on curbs that list down the names of barangay officials. It seems that even kagawads and SK chairpersons are supposed to be called "honorable." They're not. If I recall correctly, Philippine "bureaucratese" just requires the honorific attached to Cabinet Secretaries and higher (please correct me if I'm wrong).

I'm guessing it's a need for affirmation, this penchant for titles. Those who insist on using "honorable" are those who are not perceived so while those who flaunt their "Attys." and "Drs." and "Engrs." are those who feel that their names are not enough and that they need to append that title in order to "be" someone.

But in a country where any two-bit diploma mill can give a doctorate degree, titles really don't mean much. It's the name that comes after the title that's important. The title is not supposed to define you, you are supposed to define that title.


Jose Jean Paolo said...

Well said, Pat! I agree one hundred percent.

Who am I kidding? It sounds awkward, even to me, not calling you sir but then again I user it more like a nick name rather than an honorific (no offense intended) :D

missingpoints said...

I insist on being called "sir" in the classroom. I do not mind something more casual outside class (but still in school). Outside school, I hate being called sir. Although I can't help it when it comes to current students, I'd appreciate a little less "respect" from graduates. :))

Anonymous said...

It's going to be hard(and yeah, awkward) to disregard the "sir/ma'am" right away, especially if your prof is (way?)older or you've been calling them that for... i dunno, 4? 6? 7++ years? :)