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A Must Or A Mask? Philippines Bound To Be Renamed To A “More Ethnic” Name

Alluding to the Philippines’ need for independence, lawmaker Gary Alejano filed a bill in hopes of creating a commission that “would conduct a comprehensive study for an appropriate name that we shall call our nation.”

The House Bill 5867, or An Act of Constituting a Geographic Renaming Commission to Rename Our Country, was filed by Alejano on June 7th. The proposed commission would be represented by some members of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), and the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) and they are given until next year to complete this initiative and a budget of 30 million from the yearly national budget.

The lawmaker, a former Marine captain, said the possible name should “appropriately address and define us as a people and nation.” Alejano expressed the necessity for renaming the country as it would rid it of the vestiges of Spanish colonization and the effects it had on the way the archipelago flourishes.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had also promised the Philippine people in his agenda a change in the borrowed name of the Philippines as well as fabricating a new map that will display the new Philippine territories, Sabah and the West Philippine Sea.

“Maharlika” has been speculated to be the new name for the country with former senator Eddie Ilarde being its long-term advocate. He reasons that ex-colonies have witnessed much more pride and patriotism within their countries after their name changes, and this gave him the cue to implement the same upon the Philippines.

It has been an ongoing topic whether the Philippines should be renamed to an identifier that is more ethnic, with the resolution dating back to Ferdinand Marcos’ reign as president from 1965 to 1986, and as a dictator under martial law from 1972 until 1981; however, it was only this June that a legal case has been filed to discern the issue.

The noble-sounding and dignified word “maharlika” originally defined the lower class who served chiefs during wartime, but the definition had suddenly changed after former dictator Ferdinand Marcos popularized the word in his propaganda to promote nationalism. Alongside his already scandalous and substantial presidency, the definition of maharlika had also changed after his term. The modern definition for “maharlika” is of royalty or aristocracy which is a stark contrast compared to its original definition.

Many other ex-colonial states that have gained their independence from their former colonial masters changed their names to reflect their nationalistic values and culture. Ex-colonial state Dutch East Indies have self-renamed to what is now called “Indonesia” after gaining independence from the Dutch; Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos have renamed themselves separately after gaining independence from the French and dropping their legal statuses as French colonies.

The Philippines, a former Spanish colony, had defied this trend and went on to retain the name given to them during the country’s Spanish colonization period. The country derived its name from King Philip II, with “Philippines” meaning “islands of King Philip II” and has since become the identifier for the southeast Asian country.

Renaming the country is a must

A country’s name should reflect what the country abides by in terms of moral and cultural values. Having a Spanish king-inspired name defies the Philippines’ sense of independence from the country’s Spanish colonial period and therefore dismisses the rich culture underlying the traditions forcefully implemented upon the Filipino people by the Spaniards.

“While many other nations who were formerly under colonial yoke have reverted back to their former pre-colonized name as it gives them a sense of national pride and identity as free people, we opted to retain the name given by our Spanish colonizers. It is high time for our country to experience a sense of being and independence by choosing a name that reflects our character, our values, as a people, and as a nation,” Alejano said in a statement, defending the need for the country’s name change.

Renaming the country is a mask

With the foul current situation arising in the most southern island of the Philippines, Mindanao, and the city of Marawi, renaming the Philippines should not be a priority in the Malacanang Palace.

Mindanao is currently under martial law, declared by the president just this May and it is expected to last for 60 days.

The president’s visit to Russia was abruptly cut short upon him hearing the news of ISIS-linked rebels wreaking havoc and chaos in the city of Marawi where residents were reportedly either beheaded or recruited to join ISIS-linked Maute Group.

Perhaps the proposed commission is merely a factor of diverting people’s attention from the inhumane occurrences in Marawi city to the usually extreme optimistic way of thinking that Filipinos have engraved into their moral values.

In this case, renaming the country would be a mask to yield the growing problem of Abu-Sayyaf and Maute group and their sudden motivation to terrorize the Philippine government through the use of terrorizing innocent Filipinos.

The point being, energy and resources proposed to be used by renaming the country could instead be utilized into the Philippines’ serving the military in hopes of defeating terrorist groups that reek within the country amongst other things.

The proposed P30 million could also be used for the Philippines’ other timely issues such as the crackdown on drug lords and rehabilitation, as well as the need for more schools in the country’s remote areas.

Indeed renaming the country would have profoundly a positive impact on the republic in terms of patriotism and national pride, but at what cost? It is a must for officially severing all ties with centuries of oppression by the Spanish colonization and declaring independence, but it can also be judged as a mask to conceal the negative facets of Filipino politics.

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Charlize Alcaraz
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Charlize is a high school junior who hails from the Philippines. She currently resides in Canada, and takes interest in both Canadian and Philippine politics, as well as American Civics.

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