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Where is her name from? by Shannon Macalingay

She’s in high school. On every attendance sheet, her name is “Shannon MacAlingay.”

When she enters the classrooms filled with white faces and sits down, she knows her white

teacher’s initial reactions before they get a chance to put a name to her face.

They start reading off the names on the sheet, they’re close to the “M’s”. Her last name is first

and she prepares herself for the butchering of her name.

SHAN-nuhn MAC-a-ling-GAY is how Americans pronounce it.

She raises her hand and hesitantly says, “here.”

The teachers’ stare is on the other side of the room, looking for a girl with pale-white skin, red

hair, and green eyes. She observes as their head turns to where the voice came from with a

confused look. It came from her. Their eyes widen a little bit, surprised. After a good minute or

so, they finally say “Did you know your name, Shannon, is Irish?”

She replies, “Yes, I know.”

“The ‘MAC’ in your name is very Irish too,” her teachers tell her.

She doesn’t say anything and forces a tight-lipped smile and a weak laugh. She holds herself

back from saying, “Your words and actions are so obvious—you thought I was white like

everyone, didn’t you?”

Shannon Macalingay. If she wanted to be more specific, her full name is Gayep Shannon

Kilongan Macalingay. Had the attendance sheet included her whole name, maybe her teachers

could match the foreign name to the foreign face.

Contrary to her teachers’ pronunciation, her name is pronounced the Igorot way: SHA-noon

Mah-KAH-ling-EYE. Shannon has brown skin, Shannon has black hair, and Shannon is


Her mom was reading a book where the protagonist’s friend was named Shannon. She loved how the name sounded on her tongue and decided to name her future daughter after her. Her dad jokes around and says her name is from a Playboy magazine.

“Shannon” is an Irish name but the Igorot pronunciation says otherwise. The Igorot tongue

indicates that she is from Mountain Province when they hear the harsh “SHA” and the soft


Macalingay. It has no meaning, only the rhythm, and throaty diction in which the people in her

tribe speak. The “MAC” in her last name is not like McDougal or MacAuley. It’s broken down

into two syllables, not one—“Mah” like the beginning of how she refers to her “mama” and

“KAH” like how a crow squawks into the air. There is only one “g” and it belongs to “ling”

while “ay” is finished off with a strong declaration—“EYE” am Shannon Macalingay.

She’s not white, she’s not Irish, and she will never mispronounce her own name because doing

so means relinquishing her identity.


Gayep Shannon Kilongan Macalingay immigrated to the United States from the Philippines when she was 3-years-old. She is an Igorot, a colonial term used to name the indigenous people who inhabit the Cordillera Mountains. But to be specific, she is a Kankana-ey from the Aplai tribe. She mostly goes by "Shannon" but she's open to people calling her by her Igorot name, "Gayep". She's an artist, writer, storyteller, and journalist.  Currently, she resides in Massachusetts with her family and is about to finish her senior year at UMass Amherst. 

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