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“I’m an English major. It is a language of conquest. What does it say that I’m mastering the same language that was used to make my mother feel inferior? Growing up, I had a white friend who used to laugh whenever my mother spoke English, amused by the way she rolled her r’s. My sister and I tease Mami about her accent too, but it’s different when we do it, or is it? The echoes of colonization linger in my voice. The weapons of the death squads that pushed my mother out of El Salvador were U.S.-funded. When Nixon promised, “We’re going to smash him!” it was said in his native tongue, and when the Chilean president he smashed used his last words to promise, “Long live Chile!” it was said in his. And when my family told me the story of my grandfather’s arrest by the dictatorship that followed, my grandfather stayed silent, and meeting his eyes, I cried, understanding that there were no words big enough for loss. English is a language of conquest. I benefit from its richness, but I’m not exempt from its limitations. I am ‘that girl’ in your English classes, the one who is tired of talking about dead white dudes. But I’m still complicit with the system, reading nineteenth-century British literature to graduate. Diversity in my high school and college English literature courses is too often reduced to a month, week, or day where the author of the book is seen as the narrator of the novel. The multiplicity of U.S. minority voices is palatably packaged into a singular representation for our consumption. I read Junot Díaz and now I understand not only the Dominican-American experience, but what it means to be Latina/o in America. Jhumpa Lahiri inspired me to study abroad in India. Sherman Alexie calls himself an Indian, so now it’s ok for me to call all Indians that, too. We will read Toni Morrison’s Beloved to understand the horrors of slavery, but we won’t watch her takedowns on white supremacy. Even the English courses that analyze race and diasporas in meaningful ways are still limited by the time constraints of the semester. Reading Shakespeare is required, but reading Paolo Javier and Mónica de la Torre is extra credit. My Experimental Minority Writing class is cross-listed at the most difficult level, as a 400-level course in the Africana Studies, Latina/o Studies, and American Studies departments, but in my English department, it is listed as a 300-level. I am reminded of Orwellian democracy: All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”—Monica Torres, “Majoring In English,” The Feminist Wire 3/29/13
Why I hate and can't stand the term "Filipino" or "Philippines".
Because it’s a name bestowed on our country and people that is still a heavy remnant of almost 400 years of colonization.
The term “Philippines” is a colonial name bestowed by our colonizer, Spain. The term “Filipino” isn’t what we were even called to begin with, the actual term was originally used for those who were born in the Philippines but were of Spanish descent. What they called us were simply “indios” or based on our ethnic groups name, but as a collective whole and what was most commonly used, we were called “indios”.
Where does the Philippines name come from? Originally, they named the islands, “Las Islas Filipina’s” after the King of Spain, Felipe II, who some considered a tyrant. Then when the U.S. bought us from Spain during the Treaty of Paris, and colonized us, they changed the name to “The Philippines Islands” as an English translation. Then eventually after they left, it was finally called, the Philippines or Republic of the Philippines. So even now since the 1500’s, we are still named after a Spanish King, a name bestowed upon during colonization, as a form of colonization.
So when fellow Filipino’s say they are so proud to be Filipino and love the Philippines, I cringe a bit inside, especially when I say it myself. Because we are just encouraging the name our colonizers bestowed on us and using “Filipino” as a term to refer ourselves to, which actually meant for those who are Spanish and born in the Philippines, which we aren’t. Point is, “Filipino nationalism” is a contradiction.
With that said, why is it that we still have that colonial name? Why haven’t we changed it yet to get rid of that remnant of our colonized past? There have been discussions and attempts to changing the name in the past. One was by then President Marcos who attempted to change it to “Maharlika”, however that never went through because of problems during Marco’s regime. Despite that though, there have been people today who want the name change that suggest the country be called Maharlika. However, the term Maharlika is rejected by many because the term was actually a social class of the Tagalogs before the colonization of Spain. It was a social class made up of the nobility and warriors, the “free people” who weren’t slaves or commoners. So calling the country Maharlika wouldn’t be right because majority of the people aren’t of nobility and aren’t warriors.
Another name was “Katagalugan”, which was first suggested by Philippines hero Andres Bonifacio, during the Katipunan movement which was to break free from colonization and create our own nation. However, the problem with that one is that Katagalugan essentially translates to “The Tagalog nation”, and we don’t all come from the Tagalog ethnic group despite Bonifacio originally saying the others were Tagalogs as well.
There are a good decent number of people who want to finally change the country’s name to erase that last part of colonization, but for the government it’s the last of their priorities. Some have also argued, why bother? It will erase years of history. There is no point in changing it now.
But there is and it is important if we want to finally and truly break away from the effects of colonization and establish ourselves. There have been so many nations in the past who changed their colonial names or branched out from another country, to a new one to signify their new free nation. Some examples are Burma to Mynamar, Siam to Thailand, Rhodesia to Zimbabwe, Dutch East Indies to Indonesia, French Indochina to Vietnam, Formosa to Taiwan, Peking to Beijing, Ceylon to Sri Lanka, etc.
Isn’t it about time we changed our country’s name finally, get rid of a more than 400 year old colonial name, and come up with a name to represent us, a unified people of diverse cultures?
However if we are going to change our country’s name what should we name it? Of course it has to be something that majority of us can agree on, which is tricky since there is a question on what language is the term going to be based on and as we know there are those who don’t like how Tagalog is usually the main one in everything. We can look into words shared among the different ethnic groups and languages and look at root words. Or take a word that majority of people acknowledge to the root words not being a word from their language like “bayanihan”.
Many people think Maharlika is so far the best choice however like I mentioned above we are not a nobility class or a warrior class, and the name is a bit egotistical, at least in my opinion, as well it being a Tagalog class, especially in Laguna.
Two names I’ve personally come up with are “Mabayan” and “Saribayan”. Mabayan meaning “beautiful nation/country” coming from “ma” as the first syllable in many of the words from the different languages for “beautiful” like maganda, magayon, maanyag, matahom, malisan, malagu, marayaw, etc. Then with “bayan” meaning country, nation, also meaning town, which is the root word for “kababayan” and “bayanihan”.
For the name “Saribayan”, it means “mixed/varied nation”, referring to the varied and mix of different ethnic groups and people in the country. Now we have heard of “sarisari” and most have heard of the “sarimanok”, which is a legendary bird mixed with a rainbow of colors. What’s interesting is that though some people know what sarisari is from sarisari store, and know the meaning of what sarisari means, however most don’t know where it came from. In the oldest dictionary, the Vocabulario de Lengua Tagala of 1613, there is a word, “Sari”, which meant mix, diverse, and a synonym to “halo”. This fits perfectly for who we are as a people and nation, one that is unified but so diverse.
Of course there is also what would we refer ourselves to? “Mabayanese”, “Mabayani” (though that would say “beautiful hero’s”), or “Saribayanese”. We can instead drop the “n” in “bayan”, so it would be “Mabaya” or “Saribaya”, and then we can be called “Mabayan” or “Saribayan”. Personally, I like “Saribayan”, “Saribaya”, because it fits who we are as a people and nation.
Only thing with “Saribayan” though is the term “sari”, as I’m not sure if other ethnic groups would agree to that, since it is a Tagalog term as far as I know of, but is also found in Mindanao with the Maranao. But for me personally, I think out of all the suggestions like “Maharlika”, “Luzviminda”, “Katagalugan”, etc. I think this one would mean so much more to us as a people. It’s not egotistical, it’s not referring to everyone as being the same as Tagalogs, but its something that refers to all of us as a whole. But again these are just suggestions and my personal opinion and I would love to see what others think on those suggestions.
But regardless, I think it’s about time we get rid of that colonial name and come up with one that will have meaning to us, is something that we can call ours, and one that is made with our native languages. Because quite frankly, I’m sick of referring to our country as the Islands of King Felipe and we being people of King Felipe.