A name, according to the Supreme Court in a 2005 case, has two parts: (1) the given or proper name and (2) the surname or family name. The given or proper name is that which is given to the individual at birth or at baptism, to distinguish him from other individuals. The surname or family name is that which identifies the family to which he belongs and is continued from parent to child. Parents are free to select the given name of their child, but the law fixes the surname to which the child is entitled to use.
Middle names, on the other hand, are not regulated by law, although the Filipino custom is to use the mother’s surname as the child’s middle name. Still, you cannot drop or delete your middle name. Middle names serve to identify the maternal lineage or filiation of a person as well as further distinguish him from others who may have the same given name and surname as he has.
How about an illegitimate child whose filiation is not recognized by the father? Can that child use the middle name of the mother? The answer is, no. That child “bears only a given name and his mother’ surname, and does not have a middle name. The name of the unrecognized illegitimate child therefore identifies him as such.”
An illegitimate child may now use the surname of the father. This is a recognition of the fact that illegitimacy is not the child’s fault, and, therefore, the child should be shielded against the social stigma and other negative consequences arising from illegitimacy. To illustrate, what’s your first thought should you notice that a kid uses the name of the mother, and not of the father? Even the illegitimate child’s friends and contemporaries in school, should they learn that, unlike them, their friend follows the surname of the mother, would start asking why.
Another welcome amendment is with respect to the procedure in changing names. Going to court, with all the expenses that goes with it, to change first names and correct clerical errors is no longer necessary. Under Republic Act No. 9048 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, the city or municipal civil registrar or the consul general is authorized to correct a clerical or typographical error in an entry and/or change the first name or nickname in the civil register without need of a judicial order. It must be made clear, however, a court order is still required for substantial changes such as surname, gender, nationality, and status.
R.A. 9048, which took effect on 22 April 2001, amends the Civil Code (Articles 376 and 412), which prohibits the change of name or surname of a person, or any correction or change of entry in a civil register without a judicial order. The matters that you need to know (Primer) about R.A. 9048 is found at the National Statistics Office (NSO) website.