Tantingco: Kapampangan surnames (Part 1)

If you have a Chinese surname like Henson, Dizon, Guanzon, Gotiangco, Cojuangco, and Sicangco, you probably descended from an ancient Chinese merchant who settled in a parian in Manila or Pampanga, or from someone fleeing the civil war in mainland China before the Communists came to power in 1949.

If you have a Spanish surname like Santos, Gomez. Gonzales, Rodriguez, David, Morales, or De la Cruz, you most likely have real Spanish blood flowing in you, unless you’re brown-skinned and have a flat nose, in which case your native ancestors may just have borrowed a Spanish name to replace their original native surname.

But if you do have a native surname like Liwanag, Guinto, Dimalanta, Surla, Tanglao, Bituin or Sicat, your ancestor was probably proud of his lineage that he did not change his name even when he could have. (You could even be an actual descendant of a noble chieftain especially if you have a surname like Lakandula, Soliman, Magat, Gatbonton, Gatchalian or Gatmaitan—but then again, a lot of families took these surnames because they were popular in those days.)

Long ago, Filipinos did not bother to add a surname to their first name, because they lived uneventful lives in obscure villages where they had no need for signed documents to establish identity or property.

Surnames gradually evolved when people came to be known by their parents ’name (Pedrong anak ni Juan, similar to Andrew son of Jack slowly becoming Andrew Jackson), their appearances (Pedrong Pandak, Sabel Taba, Miguel Santing), their positions (Juan Mayor, Maria Capitana), their occupations (Jose Mangubat, Agustin Anloague, Pablo Manese), their virtues or vices (Lucia Bagsic, Juan Tamad, Julian Tapang, Luis Galang).

The Spaniards could never understand why natives used surnames any way they wanted. Sometimes there were multiple surnames within the same family, and sometimes there were hardheaded natives who continued signing their names in the ancient prehispanic baybayin or kulitan script, which the Spaniards could not read.

There were also those who took it upon themselves to adopt names of illustrious Castilian families and popular saints, which led to the proliferation of Avilas, Loyzagas, Gonzagas, De Guzmans, Aquinos, Del Rosarios, De los Santoses, De la Cruzes and De Jesuses (the most common surname in the country today is Santos). One missionary was reportedly aghast when he encountered mountain tribesmen sporting surnames like Zaldarriaga, Valderrama, Asturias, De Borbon and Montenegro. (To be continued next week)


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