Pacete: Is it Philippines or Maharlika?

As I See It

A GROUP of young Social Studies teachers invited me in a conclave wherein I was asked about my opinion on what should be the proper name of our country. Is it Philippines or Maharlika? I have no specific answer but I told them a story.

Following President Ferdinand Marcos, our DU30 is amenable to change the name Philippines to "Maharlika." Is there a need to change the name of our country? The terms "Philippines" and "Filipinos" came about because we were colonized by the Spaniards. Before the Spaniards came to our islands, there were only independent chiefdoms or tribes. The term "Philippines" was derived from Philip II (1527-98), king of Spain and the Two Sicilies when our islands became a Spanish colony.

After the failure of the two expeditions to Moluccas by Loaysa and Saavedra, Spain sent Roy Lopez de Villalobos in 1542, following Magellan’s route. Villalobos was able to reach Davao Oriental and Sarangani Bay (present names). It is to him we owe the name "Philippines" in honor of King Philip II.

For the Spanish colonizers, the islands were known as the "Philippines." Filipinos? Never heard. There was the Philippines as a colony of Spain but the Filipino nation as we know now did not exist yet. There was still some confusion at the time as to who could or should call themselves Filipino. If we exclude the Chinese, who were indigestible part, there were four distinct classes in Philippine colonial society.

For the first class, we have the "peninsulares," the Spaniards who came from Spain. The second class refers to the "insulares" or "criollos," the Spaniards born in the Philippines, including Spanish mestizos if they could pass for whites. The third class includes the Chinese mestizos and urbanized indios. The fourth class, sad to say, are the "indios."

If we have to roll down our Philippine history ... at first, the name "Filipino" referred to one class only: the Spaniards and Spanish mestizos born in the Philippines. They called themselves "Espanoles-Filipinos" ...sons of Mother Spain and the Fatherland Filipinas.

The good story is ...then the native upperclass of Chinese mestizos and urbanized "indios" also began to call themselves "Filipinos," for wealth and education gave them access to Hispanic culture. My favorite authors, Mariel Nepomuceno Francisco and Fe Maria Arriola believe that these two classes felt they had just as much, if not more, right to the privileges enjoyed by the "peninsulares" who lorded over them.

That could be said about the "buena familias," "admiradas" and the "culturistas" of my hometown Silay. Their literacy, courage, and spirit of independence paved the way for the historic Cinco de Noviembre Revolution. It was said that they had been trained to think. Some of them were products of Jesuit-run Ateneo.

(To be continued)


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