Duterte’s wild proposal: Changing the name of the Philippines

Photo via abs-cbn.com

By Patrick Winn/pri.org – The Philippines was named after a pasty guy from Spain who never actually set foot in the Philippines.

King Philip II, ruler of the Spanish Empire for much of the 1500s, also regarded the archipelago’s inhabitants as inferior. He’d prefer to die 100 times, he said, than become the “ruler of heretics.”

So he sent an army of conquistadors and friars to conquer and convert the islands’ varied peoples, seafaring merchants and hunter-gatherers alike.

The empire’s goal was to smush all of them together under a common identity: Filipinos, subjects of King Philip II (known in Spanish as King Felipe II).

This “origin story” is being revived by Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines and no stranger to startling proposals. His latest: correcting historical wrongs by scrubbing King Philip II from the country’s name.

“It’s named the Philippines,” he told a crowd last week, “because it was discovered by Magellan using money from King Philip. That’s why, when that stupid explorer came, he named it the Philippines.”

Duterte’s timeline is off — Magellan died three decades before Philip II became king — but his proposal is provocative nonetheless.

It might be ignored as a strange aside from a leader who thrives on shock value. But his administration has since laid out a process for the Philippines’ Congress to potentially push ahead with the idea and, ultimately, submit it to a nationwide vote.

Duterte already has a preferred new name: The Republic of Maharlika.

“Because Maharlika is a Malay word,” Duterte said. “And it means more of a concept of serenity and peace.”

Maharlika is a very old word, derived from Sanskrit and used in the Malay language, which was widespread in the Southeast Asian tropics long before Europeans showed up. But Duterte appears to have seized on an erroneous translation. And he’s hardly the first.

Changing the country’s name to Republic of Maharlika was also favored by Ferdinand Marcos, the US-backed dictator whose iron rule in the 1970s and ’80s still looms large in the national consciousness.


Find more like this: News

  • U.N. Rights Council to Investigate Killings in Philippine Drug War
  • Philippines declares national alert after 456 die from dengue fever
  • Trying to save the stories of a Philippine culture, one scan at a time
  • Pinoy archaeologist brings new human species discovery to Australia
  • Philippines a slowly ageing society – PIDS study
  • Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7


  • Nickelodeon releases first look at rebooted classic kids program Blue’s Clues with Filipino-American host Joshua Dela Cruz
  • How Marvel’s first featured Pinoy superhero can save society
  • This play tells the urgent story of a Filipino comfort woman
  • Will ‘Sahaya’ be the first Pinoy series on Netflix?
  • Z-GIRLS, Z-BOYS with Pinoy members to debut in Korea
  • MORE...


  • My story, and the new story of Filipino immigration
  • An appreciation of Moro food can bring Pinoy Muslims and Christians closer, says this Muslim chef
  • Showcase of PH culture, heritage
  • US and Philippines: Friends, Partners, and Allies
  • A Transgender Paradox, and Platform, in the Philippines
  • MORE...


  • Northern Blossom Flower Farm: Atok’s floral carpet
  • Philippines records ‘all-time high’ 7.1M tourist arrivals in 2018
  • Philippines island Boracay reopens for test run following huge cleanup
  • Philippines closes ‘cesspool’ tourist island of Boracay
  • Boracay Set to Ban Tourists for Six Months During Island ‘Rehabilitation’
  • MORE...


  • Filipino speed skater bags spot in 2020 Winter Youth Olympics
  • Pinoy gymnast Carlo Yulo earns historic qualification in worlds
  • Finding a way to bring the NBA to the Philippines
  • First Filipino table tennis Olympian Ian “Yanyan” Lariba dies at 23
  • Skateboarder Margielyn Didal wins 4th gold for Philippines
  • MORE...

    OFW News

  • Filipino maids’ dragon boat team makes splash in Hong Kong
  • DOLE suspends OFW deployment to Kuwait
  • Some OFWs turn to vlogging to beat loneliness, share life abroad
  • Overseas Filipino Bank to serve immigrants, workers
  • The ‘bagong bayani’ of the Philippines
  • MORE...


  • ‘Sordid Chapter’ Ends As Philippines Sends Back Canada’s Trash
  • Southeast Asia became dumping ground for plastic waste – study
  • Boracay Set to Ban Tourists for Six Months During Island ‘Rehabilitation’
  • Boracay: the good, bad and ugly sides to Philippine island for tourists
  • Luzon has greatest concentration of unique mammals
  • MORE...

    Pinoy Places
    and Faces