New push for ‘Maharlika’

February 12, 2019
Rodrigo R. Duterte

GOODBYE Philippines. Hello “Maharlika.”

President Rodrigo Duterte is advocating to change the nation’s name one day to “Maharlika” to discard the country’s colonial links.

Duterte’s call echoes a push by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to call the nation “Maharlika,” which in the local language means nobility. The country, which was under Spanish rule for more than 300 years, derived its name from Spain’s King Philip II.

Senate President Tito Sotto said Duterte’s idea would entail rewriting the Constitution and will require too many changes. Duterte has also been pushing for changes in the nation’s charter and shift to a federal form of government.

“Someday, let’s change it,” Duterte said on Monday after distributing land titles in the Muslim-majority province of Maguindanao.

“Marcos was right. He wanted to change it to Maharlika because that’s a Malay word.”

Marcos first suggested the name change to promote nationalism after he placed the Philippines under military rule.

In 1978, former Senator Eddie Ilarde filed Parliamentary Bill 195, seeking to change the name Philippines to Maharlika.

The proposal was criticized due to its association with Marcos, who had claimed to have formed a guerilla unit of the same name during the Japanese occupation in the 1940s.

In June 2017, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano filed a bill which seeks the creation of a commission that would look into changing the name of the Philippines.

Under House Bill 5867, Alejano proposed the creation of a “Geographic Renaming Commission” which would “study the possibility and the feasibility of renaming our country.”

The lawmaker said the possible name should “appropriately address and define us as a people and nation.”

Alejano said that renaming the country would rid it of the vestiges of colonialism, establish the national identity and define how the nation, people, and national language would be addressed internationally.

He also said that many countries that were former colonies had “reverted back to their former pre-colonized names as it gives them a sense of national pride and identity as a free people.”

The bill is still pending before the committee level.