Change the name of the Philippines? Yes. To Maharlika? No.

Opinion & Analysis Feb 22, 2019 at 4:19 pm

Maharlika-Duterte-MarcosBy José Victor ‘Jayvee’ Salameña

On the week of Sunday, February 10, major Philippine news outlets have reported that President Rodrigo Duterte has resurrected the idea of changing the name of the name of the Philippines to Maharlika. As was reported, Duterte was quoted saying, “Actually, Marcos was right. During the time of Marcos, he wanted it changed. Maharlika. The Republic of Maharlika because Maharlika is a Malay word and it means serenity.”

I agree with President Duterte: we need to change the name of our beloved nation. But not to Maharlika.

Why is “Philippines” a problematic name? We were named after Prince Philip II of Spain, who became the monarch in 1556. As the Spanish monarch, he reigned after an empire that earlier massacred the civilized Aztec empire and murdered millions in modern-day Mexico and Central America and would follow it after  with the massacre of the Incas of South America.

This, too, is the Philip II upon whose reign the Spanish Inquisition intensified, forcing Catholicism to Protestant in the Low Countries of modern Belgium and the Netherlands as well as forcing Catholicism to the Muslim Moors and Spanish Jews to convert or be exiled. His religious fervor also led him to a botched attempt at invading Protestant England which ended in spectacular failure.

I now appeal to my countrymen and women: Do you want to associate your beloved nation to a bigoted, murderous king whose Spanish subjects murdered masses in the name of religion, toppled civilizations including ours, and represents our colonial humiliation?

However, it would be erroneous to call the nation “Maharlika.”

The original term referred to the feudal warrior class in the class system that was in place in the civilized societies that inhabited the Luzon region prior to the Spanish Invasions. It is a modern misconception perpetrated by Marcos that associated the name “Maharlika” as meaning “noble people.”

Marcos’ misuse of the term “Maharlika” began in the Second World War, as he claimed to lead a guerilla unit named “Maharlika”. There was even a propaganda film under that name released in the Marcos martial law era that venerated his supposed WWII exploits.  And Marcos did try to change the name of the Philippines to “Maharlika.”

If the Philippines is renamed “Maharlika”, pro-Marcos supporters will now claim it as part of his legacy. To call the Philippines “Maharlika” would be an insult not only to those that suffered under Marcos’s rule in the Martial Law years, but for the whole nation that was victimized by his dictatorship, his corruption and plunder of government and the country’s natural resources, which resulted in the suffering and poverty that are still being felt to this very day.

Why not Rizalia – the land of the Rizals? Hey – there’s Bolivia, named after Simon Bolivar (who is still a hero in Venezuela, Colombia, and … Bolivia).

But here’s my suggestion: Ang Pilipinang Pederal Republika ng Bayanihan – The Philippine Federal Republic of Bayahihan. Foreigners can still call us “The Philippines” – the incompleteness and their blissful ignorance can be forgiven.
We can call ourselves Bayani – “Bayani” – the Filipino word for “hero”, would encapsulate our character much better than our former colonial name.

And let’s encapsulate the spirit of “bayanihan” – of cooperation, in the name of the Nation. Just like in our glorious past where we used to help out our neighbors by carrying a “bahay kubo”, let us put aside our petty differences and lift our nation up together, in unison, and move it from a place of poverty and suffering to a future of prosperity and equality.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinang Pederal Republika ng Bayanihan. God bless The Philippine Federal Republic of Bayanihan, my home sweet home, our home and native land, our “Lupang Hinirang.”