Why ‘The Philippines’?

By Arch. Celso C. Nieves, fuap, caaif

Spain named our country “Las Islas Filipinas”. When occupied by the Americans, it was translated to English as “The Philippine Islands”. When they departed, we renamed it “The Philippines”.

The name “Filipinas” is a tribute to the king of Spain during that time. He was Felipe II, who reigned from 1556 to 1598. It means that the islands are the king’s territorial property. In English, Felipe is Philip. King Philip II did not show himself a good ruler as a king. Some even say he was a tyrant. Furthermore, Philip is a Greek word meaning Lover of Horses; and we don’t have anything about loving horses. It’s even very rare that people make horses their pets

When it was changed by removing the word “Islands”, why was the article “The” retained? If it is only “Philippines”, it should have become a proper noun, like Japan, China or Spain. But the article “The” being there may mean that the name “The Philippines” is still the property of King Philip II, and therefore remains a colonial name.

Many countries changed their names from their colonial names to their native languages to show their nationalism. Indonesia was once East Indies which has the same meaning in their language. Formosa, which means “beautiful” in Portuguese, is now Taiwan.

West Pakistan was once a part of India whose language is Pak. When it pulled out from its motherland India, they called themselves Pakistan, translated as “Fatherland of the Pak Nation”. East Pakistan became Bangladesh, and Ceylon became Sri Lanka. Both are also former India’s provinces or states.

Added to these, some countries also changed their capital cities’ names like Bombay, a Portuguese name. To their local language, it is now Mumbai, meaning Good Bay. Saigon, because of a new form of government, is now Ho Chi Mhin City.

Others renamed theirs for a new beginning. Thailand, proud to be called “Land of the Free” was once Siam; and recently Myanmar from Burma.

Peking, which is now Beijing, was changed only because Peking is an old spelling and Beijing is a new transcription in Chinese. There are also many countries from the continent of Africa who changed theirs, like Zimbabwe from Rhodesia; and the now Tanzania from Tanganyika.

Is it not time that our country’s name, “The Philippines”, which is definitely a colonial name, be also changed to our own native tongue so that we can call this beloved country truly our own? We are still one of the rare countries still clinging to our old alien name.

Former President Ferdinand E. Marcos proposed a change but for some reason, it did not push through. He wants it called Maharlika, and the citizens Maharlikans, a good and fitting name. A maharlika is a respected and courteous calling to a noble man or women by our ancestors, even before the Spanish regime. It may mean mahal kita or mahal na nilikha. Whatever it is, the mahal, meaning “love”, is there. If other nations address their kings and queens Your Highness or Your Excellency, our ancestors called theirs Inyong Kamahalan. If other nations changed their countries’ name to depict freedom or beauty or independence, ours would be love if we chose Maharlika. Filipinos really are loving people especially to their compatriots. Our Edsa revolution is a very unique example, the first of a kind ever in the history of mankind. Instead of violence, it was a revolution of love. Others tried it but failed. This is a far cry being named from tyrant Philip II.

There are some who want it rename as Rizal, a tribute to our national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal. Some say it should be as is because it is already there and what for is the change. Others who agree for the change may have other suggestions.

The name of our capital city “Manila” has no direct meaning. It is probably a mispronunciation by the early Americans of “Maynilad”. We should go back to “Maynilad” or “Maynila”, properly named because the place was once full of plants called Nilad, and which is our own.
Our country’s and cities’ names decided by our once conquerors, should be changed to our native language’s names to show our love, nationalism and patriotism to our beloved country; and that this, our endearing homeland, is truly our very own.