Talks of renaming the Philippines have been making the rounds on local social media again after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte talked about changing the country’s name during a recent speech.
“(The country was named the) Philippines because it was discovered by (Ferdinand) Magellan using the money of King Philip (of Spain). So when that nutjob arrived, he called (the country) ‘the Philippines.’ But that’s ok. One day, let’s change it,” Duterte was quoted as saying at an event in Maguindanao province on Monday.
He even suggested that the country should be named “Maharlika,” a name previously pushed during the term of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
While not new, the idea has sparked renewed discussion and debate online whether it is about time, or even necessary, to finally change the country’s name.
Since the very little information about the pre-colonial Philippines was recorded by foreigners, the actual history of the ancient Filipinos will always be shrouded in mystery.
In fact, it is a common belief that the archipelago wasn’t even technically a country prior to colonization. Some have also argued that “the Philippines” was the original unifying factor across the encompassing islands of the archipelago.
Before being named “Las Islas Filipinas” in honor of King Philip II of Spain (then crown prince) almost 500 years ago, the archipelago was referred to as Islas del Poniente (Islands of the West) and San Lázaro, which is actually Magellan’s name for the islands.
In the course of its history, the official name of the Philippines has changed several times, but all iterations were all derived from the original Spanish name “Filipinas.”
The only time it was almost changed to something deviating from the colonial name was when revolutionary hero Andres Bonifacio recommended the name, “Haring Bayang Katagalugan“ in the late 1800s. However, it reportedly drew flak because of connotations of regionalism as it appears to refer to the region of the Tagalogs, although Bonifacio actually meant was “taga-ilog” in general (people by the river).
Back in 2017, former congressman and now senatorial candidate Gary Alejano had already filed a bill that would pave the way to changing the country’s name.
House Bill 5867, or An Act Constituting a Geographic Renaming Commission to Rename Our Country, was filed on June 7, 2017 to create a commission dedicated to changing the name of The Philippines.
“If we want to be truly independent, then we should throw away the bonds of colonialism by establishing our own national identity. For our country to move forward, we should identify a name for our country that genuinely reflects our national aspirations, a name that signifies our values and self-determination,” Alejano, a former soldier, said.
“While many other nations who were formerly under colonial yoke have reverted back to their former pre-colonized name as it gives them a sense of national pride and identity as free people, we opted to retain the name given by our Spanish colonizers. It is high time for our country to experience a sense of being and independence by choosing a name that reflects our character, our values, as a people, and as a nation,” he added.
If passed, it would have representatives from various established Philippine commissions, who would then be given a proposed budget of P30 million from the yearly national budget and a year to complete their work. The bill is still pending before the committee level.
A poll ran by Rappler at the time resulted in over 80% of the Filipino respondents not approving the proposal. Many said it would be a waste of time and money, pointing out that it wouldn’t solve any of the country’s pressing problems, like poverty and corruption.
A House bill is proposing the creation of a commission to rename the Philippines. https://t.co/ulH1nWHDEo What do you think?
— Rappler (@rapplerdotcom) June 12, 2017
Professor Michael Charleston “Xiao” Briones Chua, a Filipino historian, said he is open to the idea but pointed out that national identity does not rely only on the country’s name.
“You can have a very weird name but you’re very sure of your identity. National identity is not just the name but the wholeness of the culture we imbibe with ourselves,” he told ABS-CBN in an interview in 2017.
“We talk about love of country? You cannot love someone you do not know… Love of your country comes with knowing her and you know her through history,” he noted.