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Global Networking
‘Maharlika’ Reconsidered

By Rodel Rodis
First Posted 13:26:00 09/02/2008

Filed Under: history, Legislation, Moro

Reader response to my column about a name change for the Philippines was phenomenal. From Mindanao, Kauban M. wrote that Moros prefer Maharlika as ?it is the name suited to our culture and character.? A local reader, Joseph Vizcarra, also liked Maharlika ?because it pays honor to the advanced indigenous civilization we had before the coming of the Spaniards. It also betrays our Hindu roots as well as blood links with the rest of the Austronesian family. On top of this we would all be called Maharlikans!?

Many readers pointed out that our Moro brothers and sisters in Mindanao and Sulu despise the names ?Philippines? and ?Filipinos? because of their colonial stigma. Moro scholar Alunan C. Glang asserted that only those who were subjugated by Spain and bowed to the authority of King Felipe II should be called ?Filipinos.? Since the Moros were never Spanish subjects, they were never ?Filipinos?. In fact, for 350 years, generations of Moros had spilled blood precisely to avoid becoming ?Filipinos.? Those unable to resist becoming Filipinos were regularly subjected to "Moro Moro" plays with the Spaniards as the heroes and the Moros as the dastardly villains.

While the Spaniards named their farthest-flung colony ?Filipinas,? they did not call its inhabitants ?Filipinos.? The people were called ?indios.? Those who were pure full-blooded Spaniards from Spain were called ?peninsulares.? Those with even a one percent drop of native or non-Spanish blood were contemptuously referred to as ?insulares? or ?Filipinos.? Historically, ?Filipino? was used as a pejorative or had a discriminatory connotation attached to it. (Ironically, even now, to be a ?Filipina? in England and other countries is to be a ?domestic helper.?)

By the 18th century, a new class had emerged, a mixture of upper class indios and lower class insulares, propelled by indio intermarriage with the Chinese. (The Spaniards decreed that no Chinese man could leave the Parian, the Chinese community just outside Intramuros, unless he was married to an indio woman). This new class was the ilustrado class and one of them, an 18-year old boy named Jose Rizal, was the first to use ?Filipino? to refer to indio. In his 1879 poem, ?A la Juventud Filipina? (To the Filipino Youth), Rizal challenged the Filipino indio youth to be the hope of the motherland. Even though they were not ?insulares,? Rizal and his classmates at the Ateneo considered themselves ?Filipinos?

When Rizal went to Spain to study, he exhorted his fellow ilustrados to take pride in being an ?indio.? In fact, he called his group ?Indios Bravos.? Rizal and other ilustrados in Spain would later propagate the view that ?Filipino? should mean all people born in the islands, not just the insulares.

This was not universally accepted. Andres Bonifacio, the founder of the Katipunan, referred to the country as ?Katagalugan? and the Katipunan?s Cartilla, written and published in 1896, expressly stated: ?The word tagalog means all those born in this archipelago; therefore, though visayan, ilocano, pampango, etc., they are all tagalogs.?

As Nathan Quimpo points out, ?the Philippine Revolution of 1896 was a misnomer? as it began as the Katagalugan Revolution. ?It became the Philippine Revolution only in 1897 when Emilio Aguinaldo, the former gobernadorcillo (mayor) of Kawit, ousted Bonifacio from the helm of the revolutionary movement and had him executed. Aguinaldo, who had continued all along to use Filipinas, dropped Katagalugan.?

At the Malolos Congress in October of 1898, Aguinaldo sought to establish a federation with the Moro sultanates of Mindanao and Sulu, recognizing that they were not yet part of the nation that was being forged in Malolos.

In 1913, Katipunan General Artemio Ricarte proposed that the Philippines be renamed ?Rizaline Islands? and Filipinos, ?Rizalines.? While in exile in Japan, Ricarte drafted a constitution for the ?revolutionary government of the Rizaline Republic.?

There would be no serious effort to change the name of the country until 1971 when a new constitution was drafted and ratified. Article XVI, Section 2 states that "The Congress, may by law, adopt a new name for the country?which shall be truly reflective and symbolic of the ideals, history, and traditions of the people.?

After Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, he convened an Interim Batasang Pambansa to replace the Congress that he had abolished by presidential decree. One of the representatives appointed by Marcos was ?Kuya Eddie?Ilarde, a popular TV-radio personality from the 60s and 70s, who sponsored a parliamentary bill on August 14, 1978 seeking to change the name of the Philippines to Maharlika.

Unfortunately for Ilarde, Maharlika was inexorably linked to Marcos who claimed that it was the name of the guerilla unit he formed and led in WW II. It turned out to be a hoax along with his claim that he was the most decorated soldier of WW II.

(Before his claim was exposed, Marcos had gotten his cronies to produce a Hollywood movie entitled ?Maharlika? about his alleged war exploits. A Hollywood starlet named Dovie Beams played an American nurse who became the love interest of the fictional Marcos. What was supposed to only be reel became real when ?Lovey Dovie? became Marcos?s mistress.)

The term ?Filipino nationalism? is a contradiction in terms. To be a nationalist is to be anti-colonial. ?Nationalism,? declared Sen. Claro M. Recto, ?is the natural antagonist of colonialism.? To be a Filipino is to be a subject of King Felipe II. To be a nationalist is to refuse to be a colonial subject. So how can one be a "Filipino nationalist"?

Whether it is Maharlika, Katagalugan or Bayanihan, the time has come to discard the name Philippines or Filipinas.

(Send comments to Rodel50@aol.com or log on torodel50.blogspot.com or write to Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127, or call (415) 334-7800.)

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