Friday Lens Affair #122

Tolentino Mystery, Italy Picture by Andrew Tolentino

Today I’m featuring a picture taken by Andrew Tolentino in Tolentino in Italy. Did you find it weird or funny? Read the rest of the story! :)

Andrew Tolentino is a co-founder of Dish Our Town. A travel and food blog conceived by a New York City-based husband and wife (Brenda) team; who along with their daughter, use storytelling and visuals as a vehicle to take aspirational travellers through towns around the world, one dish at a time.

Do follow them on Facebook and Pinterest.

Picture Story: Tolentino Mystery  

The flight from Rome to New York is a long trek with an infant, so my wife and I waited until the very last minute to board. We didn’t realise however just how much we were procrastinating until our name was called out on the loudspeaker for final boarding.

As we got to the gate, the attendants did not react to us immediately; actually, they looked at us blankly until we advised them that were the party they were waiting for.

My first meeting with my college roommate as a freshman was somewhat similar, as he seemed to have been expecting someone else when I walked through the door.

Thirty years later, my roommate and I still laugh about that moment; and ten years later, my wife and I laugh about that episode in Rome. There have been countless moments and episodes such as these throughout my life.

The reason, you ask? The reason being is that my surname is Tolentino, and I am a product of immigrant parents from the Philippines. Yes, I am Filipino, with what I thought to be a traditional Filipino last name. Apparently not, it’s Italian. My wife, who is also Asian, did not have this happen to her until she took on my surname in marriage.

It has been the cause of much confusion, blank stares, and most of all laughter throughout my life. For most, though admittedly it doesn’t happen much these days, my name simply does not register as one that would equate to my face. An Italian name on an Asian face…

When I was a kid, my friends’ parents would ask me how I got that name, and I would joke that some Italian must have been on Magellan’s boat during the age of exploration, and decided to plant his seeds in the Philippines. I used that line a lot throughout my life, and to my surprise, most consider my theory to be valid.

I was raised in the New York City Catholic School system, and there was one high school teacher of mine that simply couldn’t get my first name correct. My name is Andrew, but he would often call me Nicholas.

I finally asked him one day as to his confusion, and he explained to me that the reason behind it is because there is a Saint by the name of Nicholas of Tolentine, and/or San Nicola da Tolentino, whom he had studied about in seminary school.

Apparently, he was an Augustinian monk who was born in the Marche region of Italy and resided in the monasteries around that region back in the 13th century.

Fast forward a good twenty years. I had been doing a lot of business in Italy during the time my daughter was an infant, and I was going to be there for a long stretch at one point and wanted my wife and daughter with me. So Brenda, with Bailey in tow, came to Italy to accompany me for the month I was working there.

I happened to be working in a town called Recanati, which was in the Marche region. Guess what else is in the Marche region? You guessed it, the town of Tolentino. The timing could not have been more appropriate for a pilgrimage to my namesake’s ancestral town than now.

So we went for a day trip. Brenda drove, as I don’t drive (growing up and living in the city, there was no use for a car). We took some rest stops along the way, because Bailey had to breastfeed, and as you can gather, I didn’t breastfeed either.

We did finally make it into town, no thanks to my map skills. I’m not very good with maps either, this was pre-google or iPhone maps.

We asked an elderly gentleman where the centre of town was and he pointed up the street. It was a windy day, and probably the most cloudy it’s been throughout our whole stay. I also remember it to be a steep walk up the street, especially with a pram.

When we got to the centre, it was desolate. Unlike all the other towns along the region, there were no locals hanging out at the cafe  but for a few pigeons. We were the only ones there.

“This would be the kind of town we’d get”, I said. We just burst into laughter. It was probably the best laugh we had all trip. We did get one memento out of it. This lovely picture of our surname inscripted into the facade of the town cathedral. I often use the photo as a confirmation of my theory.

Do you love this series? Check out rest of Friday Lens Affairs here!

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5 thoughts on “Friday Lens Affair #122

  1. Funny story! I often have similar encounters with people. My name is Miguel but I am not Spanish and when people see me they don’t know what to say. They want to know if I speak Spanish or if I am from South America. The truth is my father lived in Peru for 2 years in the Peace Corps and liked the name. Now I’m a Caucasian with a Spanish name. Funny how people make assumptions. Thanks for the post. :)
    Miguel ~ Trip Bitten recently posted…A trip to the breathtaking HuangHuaCheng Great Wall with Bike BeijingMy Profile

  2. Thank you so much for featuring my husband’s story Marysia. I look forward to reading all your other featured posts for your Friday Lens Affair!
    Brenda recently posted…Dish Our Town’s Guide to New York A-LMy Profile

  3. What an interesting story!! Kind of fun to go in search of your roots like that.

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