Feature

Philippines: Embracing our name with irony

A government commission has proposed changing the country’s official designation to Filipinas.

Conrado de QuirosPhilippine Daily Inquirer

Does the Philippines need a new name? asked Conrado de Quiros. A government commission has proposed changing the country’s official designation to Filipinas, short for Las Islas Filipinas, our original Spanish name. But that would still leave us named for King Philip II, whose forces colonized the islands in the 16th century. It’s no improvement over the term Philippines, which the Americans gave us during their 20th century rule—we’d merely be “expressing a preference for one colonizer over another.” Some people have suggested adopting the Tagalog term Maharlika, but that could get complicated since nobody is sure what it really means. Rather than spending millions to change all our maps and legal documents, the wiser route may be to keep our colonizer’s name and “use it consciously” with “ironic pride.” Irony is a Filipino specialty, after all—look at our national dress. More than a century ago, during the U.S. occupation, the Americans forced us to wear tunics untucked and made of transparent fabric, so they could see that we weren’t hiding weapons. Now the barong Tagalog is the formal national attire, worn by presidents at inauguration. “From a badge of shame, it became a badge of honor.” We could do the same with our name.

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