Filipino. Filipino. Filipino.

On board a transport ship called mv Filipinas.En route to Zamboanga del Norte. "A slow boat to Zamboanga is bound to spark more insights into the national condition", say Conrado de Quiros, but I think he was referring to the other Zamboanga!

Friends and family in Singapur would tell me how sometimes people there would call them “Philippine”. Some of our neighbors probably are still not familiar with the proper term, “Filipino”, which for us is our nationality’s official name since the beginning of time.

I wonder if  Philippinese or Philipinian will be acceptable to this txting and facebooking generation. I’ve never heard other nationalities complain about how the world call [or anglicize] the name of their citizenship – a Mexican would be happy with the word, you probably won’t hear them insist on being called Mejicanos! or a  Japan citizen would be cool with “Japanese”, they wont mind not hearing Nihonjin. I think the only reason we can’t accept being called by any other name other than Filipino is that we believe that it’s the only proper way.

I could imagine the first Filipino galleon seamen and imigrantes presenting themselves as Filipinos in the foreign places they set foot in. For us true blue Filipinos – its Filipino – period. We would file diplomatic protest’s to any persons or country that would dare violate the name and Manny Pacquiao!

The name can be found in many old document and was a subject of one of Noli’s chapters. “Say Filipinas, woman” a corporal correcting his lady who had mispronounced it, “Felipinas” instead of “Filipinas”. Which according to the novel was also improper if they were to consult what was “uso” in the motherland. “In the olden times they said Filipi instead of Felipe. We moderns, since we became Frenchified, we cannot tolerate two “i” together”. Rizal’s “modernos” was referring to those familiar with the culture of Madrid.  “This country is not yet educated”, said Sargento Gomez, a character in the novel who was consulted by the corporal for answers. So it was “Feli…”. his wife was closer to what Gomez said than his “Filipinas” which now he knows to be improper too. Then the corporal consulted a dictionary, “Here his admiration reached its climax: he rubbed his eyes: Let us see, slowly, all the printed words say “Filipinas”, spelled correctly. He concluded, “that Alfonso Saadvedra [also attributed with giving birth to the name] must have been an Yndio!”

The Frenchified “Felipenas” never caught up with this Asian colony. The author in his writing suggest that if we had been properly “educated” we would have used the modern “Feli..” and not the ancient “Fili”. Rizal in this chapter wanted to undermine the supposed superiority of the local Spaniards, in the process, he gave us a very important historical account.

In the book “Panitikan Pang Pilipinas” by Jose Villa Panganiban, he explains the origin and evolution of the ancient name — “Felipinas bilang parangal sa Haring Felipe II nang panahon na yaon, ngunit sa dila ng mga tao ay naging “Filipinas” sa pagkat di tayo bihasang bumigkas ng “F”, ang lalong naging palasak ay Pilipinas”.

It became “Filipinas” because we can’t properly pronounce “F” ? Also, Pilipinas is less popular than Filipinas even today. Filipinos still use and prefer Filipinas.

If majority are inlove with the name some are not so happy with it. And they have a reason for hating it – the name implies that anyone who carries it is subject of the Monarchs of Spain. In all their dominions in the world, we are the only state that was named after a Spanish King – no other colony had been conferred with this honor [or shame to some]. Those who hate this idea came out in number during the time of Marcos and started suggesting to change the name of the country. I think they wanted the name Maharlika or Republic of Rizal. What crazy ideas these men had. This would’ve f****d up the Filipino printed shirt business!

These people would alter anything and everything in the name of their version of nationalism – what they don’t get is that history can never be denied nor be covered up. The reason why we still use “Filipino” is because its a historically inherited name. The only thing we’ve got that evoke the essence of our relationship with our past.

Remember the chocolate bar in Spain called “Filipino”? there were some quarters that complained about that. Funny but there were many Filipino that protested when they found that a yummy choco bar was named after them. I’ve yet to hear the French complain about the potato fries [which by the way is a Belgian creation] Or the Germans and all those cold European countries for sausages that borrowed their name.

Filipino’s are extremely sensitive when it comes to the name of their nationality. Perhaps because much of our history has been a struggle for freedom – first with the colonial rulers, now with tyranny, corruption and poverty. Its not easy being one so leave the name alone they say.

When the US came to our shore, they found out that the people they would later call their “brown brothers” were in fact “culturally advance”. They were probably surprised that our Christian tradition predates theirs. Of course, they had to tell their people back home that we had a backward un-christian society, sending pictures of those poor mountain folks wearing g-strings, to justify their stay here. But it was during their time that the word “Filipino” became the politically proper term globally. This is quite unique because in Puerto Rico, a state they also occupied, they did not made the Spanish term “Puertoriqueno” official.” Puerto Rican” is a word you’ll find in the official letters of the US congress in the early 1900’s. The use of the US administrators of the word “Filipino” is testament to the fact that we were aware of who we are and our nation’s place in the world after the Spaniards left.

The US had no choice but accept the word “Filipino”. Filipinos existed long before they had their revolution against the English. The first Filipinos excluded the Yndio’s and all the other people in the island. It referred to the Spanish folks born in the islands – back then also fighting for their civil rights – it would evolve throughout the centuries until everyone – Insulare’s, Kastila, Indio’s, Mestizo’s and Chino’s would claim the name – this was us becoming an independent nation.

So while the Americano’s injected their pop culture and succeeded in reorienting many of us [ remember the so Yankee name’s: Johnny, Frank, Willy, Joe etc etc ] – the nation and its people remained “Filipino”. It may not be a Pyrrhic victory against the imperialista but none the less a significant symbol of how proud we are of our origin.

Ok, so we’re Filipinos alright, the next challenge is understanding what being one means…


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