KUALA LUMPUR, April 2 — Say hello to Malaysia, Mardeka and Mayday.
No, this is not going to be a history lesson about Malaysia’s formation, but simply a story about three ordinary teenage girls living in the country with unique names.
Their names were inspired by stories from the past, and their father, Tun Kamalul Zaman and Venezuelan-born mother Victoria Margarita Riera Sanchez, both aged 55, stand by their decision to give their daughters such meaningful names.
Despite the fact that they were sometimes teased in school, Tun Kamalul says he and Victoria have no regrets about what they did.
Tun Kamalul, an 18th direct descendant of Megat Terawis, the Chieftain of the Perak Sultanate, is in the IT industry and has five children who were all born in Venezuela.
He left to work abroad in 1988 and only returned to Malaysia for good in 2001.
His two eldest children in the family are the only ones with a common name; Tun Abdul Luis Zaman Riera, 29 and Tun Maria Cristina Zaman Riera, 28.
Malaysia, Mardeka and Mayday’s full names are Tun Malaysia Venecia Zaman Riera, 21,Tun Mayday Esmeralda Zaman Riera,19 and Tun Mardeka Victoria Zaman Riera,17.
Tun Kamalul said he met his wife Victoria in 1988 on a bus in Washington.
It was love at first sight, he said.
Fast forward, in 2001 the couple moved to Malaysia when Tun Kamalul took the TalentCorp returning expert programme that encouraged Malaysian professionals abroad to bring home their experiences.
Inspiration behind the names
The name of their second daughter, Tun Malaysia was derived from the time when she was in her mother’s womb at six months.
Kamalul and Victoria were in Malaysia for a vacation in 1997 when they chanced upon a beautiful poster of Malaysia featuring the Blue Mosque located in Shah Alam.
“As I was looking at the poster I was in awe thinking about how much Malaysia has changed since I left to work abroad. I had a moment in me and thought to myself what a beautiful country this is.
“My wife really loved the poster too. That’s when we decided on the spot to name her Malaysia. To be fair to both sides of our culture and heritage, we decided to incorporate Venecia in the name, which is my wife’s birth place,” Tun Kamalul told Malay Mail when his home in Shah Alam.
Tun Mayday’s name pick also went through a similar spur-of-the moment decision, when Victoria was in labour.
“It was less than 24 hours to go before I had to go into labour and I looked at Kamalul and said we are going to have a baby girl soon and we have yet to decide on her name.
“At that point he was reading a historical book about Cold War and was at the part of the story where a plane was going down and an American pilot scream Mayday. He suddenly asked me why not we name her Mayday?” Victoria said with a big smile recalling the moment.
The couple immediately agreed on it since they wanted all their daughters name to start with the pronunciation of “Ma”.
Tun Mardeka’s name also born from a very special moment when the couple visited the National Museum here in 2000.
It was during this visit that Victoria watched a video clip of Tunku Abdul Rahman’s proclamation in August 31,1957 played in the museum .
“My wife asked me what was the meaning behind Abdul Rahman chanting the word Merdeka thrice and I told her it meant freedom.
“The irony was my wife had previously considered naming my daughter Libertad which meant freedom in Spanish. So we agreed on Mardeka since it carried the same meaning,” said Tun Kamalul.
Tun Mardeka was not spelled as Merdeka because the couple wanted to maintain the letter “Ma” in her name too.
Challenges and the fun side of having a unique name
While the three sisters are proud of their names, they said they will not continue the tradition of giving historical names to their own kids in future because they don’t want them to go through the amount the teasing from their peers growing up.
Tun Malaysia said it was quite overwhelming for her when she was in primary school but she learned to deal with the teasing later on when she moved to secondary school.
“Almost everyday me and my sisters were teased. Whenever the national anthem is played in school and during Merdeka or Malaysia day celebrations.
“It was annoying when they teased us by uttering ‘Malaysia boleh!’ when they see me or when they see my sister they would say Merdeka.
“It became worse when it started to happen almost all the time, but I learned how to deal with over the years and now I don't care. So I don’t want to put my kids through it. It wasn't pleasant most of the time,” she said.
Tun Kamalul however interrupted and said as long he is alive he will not give up on influencing his children to continue with such inspiring names.
“If my girls are stubborn, I will try to influence my future son-in-law and get them to agree,” he said, sharing a laugh with his girls.
Tun Kamalul said one of the downsides their family often faced was being questioned how all his children can have their names start with “Tun”.
“I am the direct descendant of the Megat Terawis, the first Bendahara of Perak.The National Registration Department won’t simply allow Tun in my children’s identification card if I did not provide documentation to prove,” he said.
Sharing a funny moment she encounter most of the time, Tun Malaysia said whenever people ask for her name and when she replies Malaysia, they will repeat the question to her by saying, ‘No I’m not asking you where are you from, I'm asking for your name.’
“Then I will again say Malaysia and have myself explaining the whole story behind my name,” she laughed.