By Ed Aurelio C. Reyes

Kamalaysayan Writers and Speakers

(March 1996)

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HAVE REPEATEDLY been approached, as executive director of the Kampanya para sa Kamalayan sa Kasaysayan asking me to support a renewed campaign to change the name of our country to "Maharlika." 

Way back last August, I was asked to join a signature campaign for the inclusion of a ninth ray in the national flag. Although Kamalaysayan shares the respective views of the patriots behind these campaigns regarding the defects in our present national name and flag, we have had our reasons not to join or officially support these campaigns. (Actually, there is a third proposal that I have heard in the last half year: change our national anthem with Nakpil's Marangal na Dalit.)

We do share the view that there are defects in the present national name and flag. And we welcome public discussions on them because they contribute to the heightening of the people's sense of history for which mission I had founded Kamalaysayan as an organization more than five years ago. Yes, the defects are embedded in the very histories of these most important national symbols.

The proponents of adopting the name "Maharlika" point out that we have continued to be named after a Spanish monarch when many countries around us have already reverted to their precolonial names (Zimbabwe, Srilanka, etc.). They say it is unfortunate that the name "Maharlika," carrying the Asia-based values of nobility and spirituality, has been rejected by the people because of its identification to the deposed dictator, much like rejecting Dahil Sa Iyo completely and with finality just because it became the favorite song of that dictator's wife.

This issue has not been getting as much attention as it deserves, probably because of the same Dahil sa Iyo syndrome that it has had to suffer.

Those who would agree to give this matter some thought instead of summarily dismissing the entire topic away are invited to read on and discover some surprising information just a few weeks after I myself did...

It was fairly recently that I learned of the background of this royal personality whose name we have always been quite familiar with. Some months back, I had described him with the adjective, "mediocre," which I realized soon afterwards to be a gross under statement, tantamount to judging the brutal former dictatorship in the Philippines simply as "inept."

From world history, especially in the annals of the pre-Vatican II Catholic Church, we have all read about the infamous Inquisition, the type of campaign that practically painted out the words intolerance, self-righteousness, bigotry, brutality, barbarity, and all their synonyms on the walls of the great churches, using as paint the blood of its victims whose only sin and crime was being suspected of not sharing the faith of the criminals in holy vestments. The Inquisition will forever remain a blackeye in the history not only of institutionalized religion but in the history of humanity itself.

There was this monarch of Spain whose name I had not earlier connected at all to this dark chapter in the Lifestory of humankind, but who, I was to learn late last year, had figured prominently in its brutality. This monarch's first act on the throne was to order an "auto-da-fe," . And this is far more violent than the bloody and treacherous attacks perpetrated by terrorists in our country, even that one in Ipil.

The victims of the "auto-da-fe" were not dozens, not even just hundreds, but thousands upon thousands of "Moriscos" or "Moors," the Arab-speaking Muslims who inhabited the Spanish province of Andalucia. The victims were all burned at stake . The same king also caused the beheading of thousands of Protestants in the Netherlands and in various parts of Europe held by what he called "heretics" and "agents of the devil."

Add to these horrifying facts the following items: he and his father, his predecessor at the throne, had both looted Rome and were eventually excommunicated by the Catholic Church under Pope Paul IV in 1552; he died of a disease then euphemistically called a "social disease" but is now known as venereal disease, due to his "way with the women." He was known to have had several wives and mistresses on record.

Can you guess who this despicable creature was who ruled as King of Spain? His name: King Philip II. Guess which nation, that can be proud of its very own heroic heritage and glorious precolonial history, was named after him!

No wonder Bonifacio and his comrades in the Katipunan refused to perpetuate that name when they were birthing our nation at the outbreak of the 1896 Revolution, and chose instead "Tagalog" a name that reflected the tropical archipelagic nature of our country.

Truly the issue deserves more serious and responsible discussion among the citizenry. But among those who agree strongly that the name Pilipinas has to go (and I include among the reasons the point that it sounds, not quite accidentally, like "alipinas"), there have been various proposed replacements. Maharlika is only one of them.

Some would bat for "Katagalugan," which was the name chosen by Bonifacio and the Katipunan to refer to the people of the entire archipelago, highlighting our country's being a tropical archipelago where most of the people live near bodies of water. There are those who want the name "Kapatiran," emphasizing the Katipunan-vintage metaphor of the nation as family. There are other sugestions, including "Katipunan" itself, which would stress on unification.

Like the discussions on the flag, and especially on the question of national language, discussions on our nation's name can be come overcharged, emotional, even messy. If we do not have a healthy attitude regarding disagreements, such discussions can even be centrifugal and divisive. We of Kamalaysayan prefer to place our own focus on changing our kalooban first, on attaining that healthy attitude towards ourselves and one another.

We have been doing it through the propagation, for widespread adoption, of the Kartilya ng Katipunan . Resolving the disagreements on our national symbols can follow, within the context of deeper unity and predisposition to further unite.

(Kamalaysayan Media Service)

Read also Nathan Gilbert Quimpo's  in-depth research  article on our country's name. Click here .


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