From Pilipinas to Maharlika?

MANILA – President Rodrigo is testing the waters to see if Filipinos will accept a change in the name of the country, from the Republic of  the Philippines to Republic of Maharlika.

The idea is not new. It was first broached by then President Ferdinand Marcos during the martial law years, but the dictator abandoned the idea after it proved unpopular with the majority of the people.

This week, Mr. Duterte again tried to gain public support for the idea.

He pointed out that the Philippines was named after a Spanish despot. And King Philip of Spain, he said, “was not a good man.”

The president said that the king of Spain “had so many wives, unlike me” who only had two.

Mr. Duterte also said that the Moro people are not in favor of the present name of the Philippines, noting that Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari and his followers could never accept being called Filipino because of the negative connotation of the word’s Spanish roots.

As for the proposed new name, Wikipedia says that the Maharlika “were the feudal warrior class in ancient Tagalog society in Luzon.”

The word is translated into Spanish as “Hidalgo” meaning freeman.

However, Hidalgos were of the lower nobility class, “similar to the Timawa” of the Visayas. This means that they are actually second class citizens, free men but not of true noble blood.

Among the first to react in a negative manner is reigning Miss Universe Catriona Grey, who said, “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

Dr. Rolando Borrinaga, a historian with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, noted that the generally accepted meaning of Maharlika was erroneous as members of the maharlika class did not participate in politics.

While the Philippines was indeed named after a Spanish king, Pilipino purists say that the word has taken a new meaning. Pilipino, they say, is comprised of two words, pili and pino.

Pili is the Tagalog word for chosen or handpicked, while pino is another Tagalog word, this time meaning refined. Thus, today’s Pilipino – internationally spelled Filipino – is both handpicked and refined.

Possibly the best reason for not changing the name of the Philippines was the damage that dictator Marcos did to the word Maharlika.

After World War II, Marcos sought to overplay his supposed bravery by claiming to lead a guerilla group called Maharlika.

An investigation by the US, however, determined that Marcos made up the story of the guerilla group. Not only did it not exist, but his other acts of valor were either exaggerated or were entirely fiction.