Philippine Original Place Names

Posted by Dwengster | Posted on September 14, 2017

By Emmanuel Ikan Astillero
September 14, 2017 8PM (+8 GMT)
Makati, Philippines

Before the Spaniards came in 1521, our place names were originally our own. When the Spaniards came, together with the forced subjugation of our society, and the forced conversion to Christianity, our original place names were replaced by foreign names. This practice of “deculturalization” continued with the coming of the Americans in 1898, and extended to the present – 2017.

Why is it important to retain our original place names?

The main reason is we lose our “identity of place”. We “float” culturally. We lose our cultural moorings. We then shed our dignity. And we become weak as a people. Our adoption of foreign names made inroads into our nationalism. We love less our society, our country, and with the replacement of our place and people names, we become easily swayed to external forces – be they political, economic, or social forces.

The strongest impact is our loss of history.

For instance: we have changed “Sugbu” to Cebu because the Spaniards cannot pronounce “sugbu” (to roast over coals, or “fire”). The same was done with “Cavite” because the Spaniards cannot pronounce “Kawit” which means “hook” –i.e., the peninsular shape of the city of Cavite. It is good that we retained “Lapu-Lapu” and “Mactan” to keep alive the battle that we won against Fernão de Magalhães, the Portuguese adventurer and mercenary in the service of the Spanish monarchy. And we retained “Maynila” but dropping the final “d” (“maynilad” – “nilad” being the profuse growth of the fibrous grass in Manila).

But elsewhere, the change of names and the loss of history continues unabated even to this day. “Taft Avenue” remains an imperialistic slap to our nationalism. If not foreign names then we throw away history by putting names of politicians such as “Doña Remedios” for a small town in Samar. And while “Valenzuela” (named after a Filipino nationalist, Dr.Pio Valenzuela) substituted for the old revered name of “Polo, Bulacan”, it is nonetheless a loss of a long tradition.

We are happy to note exceptions to this renaming orgy: “Mataas na Kahoy,” adjacent to Lipa City, is a small town in Batangas. “Mataas na Lupa” is a barangay of Indang, Cavite along the road to Trece Martires City. “Calatagan” (laid out) in southern Batangas is a plain next to the sea.

And of course, we are happy to note, among many original names, “Palawan” (“heroic”), “Butuan” (“many seeds”), “Agusan” (“water flow”), “Bulacan” (“cotton trees”), “Pampanga” (“river banks”), “Tacloban” (“giant clams”), “Mayon” (“magayon” – “beautiful”), “Taal” (“native”), “Pasay” (“pasai” – a place in Sumatra), “Batac” (a place and a tribe in Sumatra), etc.

But while “Batasan” was the older name of “Bailen, Cavite” – the smallest upland town in that province, in 1965, the then mayor, upon instigation of a political warlord in the province, then a congressman and later a senator, changed without a referendum the name “Bailen” to “Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo” when the town of Kawit, the birthplace of that revolutionary hero, and which hosts his family’s historic mansion rejected changing “Kawit” to “Aguinaldo”. In 2000, The Provincial Board of Cavite has approved the reversion of “Aguinaldo” to “Bailen” but the local executive leadership has not pursued the reversion.

We propose consideration of a national cultural program of researching our original place names, and pushing that the foreign and political name-replacements revert to the original – based always of course on a people’s referendum of the place affected. This program should be tasked to the political leadership in local governments – province, cities and municipalities, via the DILG.

Referendum can coincide with national and local elections to minimize costs. This “Original Place Name” campaign will revive our love of country. We shall be reminded of our roots. We shall be reminded that our people can trace our history much further back, than the American or Spanish colonization.

When I travel to Indonesia or Thailand, I feel inferior to the Javanese and Thai cultures which have remained strong across their long histories. They have retained their place names, despite foreign incursions. We respect the Indonesians and the Thais because they walk with their heads high, carrying the names of their ancestors, proud of their ancient legacies.

On the other hand, we walk with less pride, using foreign names – “San Jose”, “Sta. Barbara”, “McKinley”, “Forbes Park”, “Legazpi”, “Plaza Lawton” (mercifully renamed “Plaza Bonifacio”), etc.

We should do no less. We should not become a people of short memory.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emmanuel Ikan Astillero, an alumnus of the University of the Philippines, is a prolific writer, former banker, local historian, theosophist, urban and regional/environmental planner, and a humanist. Aside from being a member of HAPI, he is also an active member of Partido Luntian which is committed to push policies and programs to benefit various key environmental and sustainable development agenda.

Please check his autobiography HERE

Other good reads...

Kindness and Giving

    Kindness and Giving by: Meimei Hammer Kindness and giving most of the time go hand in hand. However, there is a major difference between the two. The dictionary says, “Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate”. The RAK or Random Acts of Kindness was founded in 1995 to inspire people […]

HUWARANG GURO*: Jahziel T. Ferrer, HAPI AED

By: Danielle Hill   “I want to create positive change through education. It is my desire to see fellow Filipinos value humanity and put human rights first before any creed or dogma.” – Ferrer, 2015 It is well-known that Filipinos place an extremely high value on education, and compared with other countries in the Southeast […]

HAPI listens to Justice Carpio’s lecture on the PH-CHN dispute

Atty Jesus Falcis and Jennifer Gutierrez, HAPI Executive Director and Justice  Carpio HAPI listens to Justice Carpio’s lecture on the PH-CHN dispute: Throw back Activism in Nov, 2015 The Humanist Alliance of the Philippines – International (HAPI) attended a seminar by Justice Carpio on the dispute between Philippines and China in the South China / […]

A HAPI Volunteer Recognition Day

Today, May 2nd,  the HAPI volunteers took a break and enjoyed a day of lavish food and swimming at Villa Ortaleza Resort, Calamba, Philippines. It is our pleasure to share our happiness to these volunteers who painstakingly and judiciously feed our kids, besides  share their compassion and knowledge. Volunteering develops their sense of responsibility,  camaraderie […]

Welcome to HAPI Office

Welcome to HAPI Office July 21, 2019 Las Pinas City Now we have an office! This is great news for all of us and sure deserves a special day for all those who profess secular humanism as life-stance. HAPI has a permanent abode now, and opened its office at very long last! We have been […]

HAPI Kids honor volunteers

Teen and adult volunteers of the monthly Kids Nutrition Campaign and SHADE (Secular Humanist Advocacy, Development & Education) were honored by children beneficiaries of Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI) through a recognition program on February 13, 2018, at Villa Ortaliza Private Resort in Laguna. The daytime excursion was organized by Jamie Del Rosario-Martinez, HAPI Executive […]

HAPI warns public on false ZoomInfo profiles

HAPI warns public on fraud, usurpation of authority

Humanist Alliance Philippines, International (HAPI) warned the public on August 13th of 2018 against trusting online pages and social media accounts that falsely represent the organization. The warning followed a report by a concerned donor who found suspicious business and employee profiles while doing some personal research. It has come to the attention of Founder […]

About The Author

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top