MANILA - A Filipino historian is "quite open" yet "ambivalent" to one lawmaker's proposal to create a commission that would rename the Philippines, seeing hurdles to the measure.
Professor Michael Charleston "Xiao" Briones Chua explained that both the name "Pilipinas" and "Philippines" were just translations of the original Spanish name "Filipinas."
Chua said a lot of countries have dual names, an English or western name and a name called by the citizens themselves - something the Philippines can do, too.
"Germany is the outsider's term on the area in Europe where the country Germany is, which is Germania. But they call themselves Deutschland," he told ANC on Tuesday.
Magdalo Party-list Representative Gary Alejano has filed a bill seeking the creation of a Geographic Renaming Commission to come up with a new name for the Philippines.
House Bill No. 5867 said renaming the country would establish a national identity not anchored on its colonial past. The Philippines was named after Spain's King Philip II in the 16th century, when the country was still a Spanish colony.
"If we want to be truly independent, then we should throw away the bonds of colonialism by establishing our own national identity," said Alejano.
He added that the name of the country should define not only its land, but also its people and patrimony.
Chua said there have been proposals to rename the Philippines before. Even Andres Bonifacio recommended the name, "Haring Bayang Katagalugan."
He said the name drew flak because of connotations of regionalism, but what Bonifacio actually meant was "tagailog" in general (people by the river).
"Lahat ng tumubo sa sangkapuluang ito, Bisaya ka man, Ilokano, etcetera ay tagailog. Kasi Austronesian, tagailog, maritime culture. 'Haring bayan is democracy," he explained.
Asked for a suggestion should the government push through with renaming the Philippines, he said he'd go for a variation of Bonifacio's recommendation: "Republika ng Haring Bayan."
MORE THAN A NAME
While open to the idea, Chua stressed that the Filipino identity does not solely rely on the country's name.
He said national identity takes action and effort from Filipinos themselves to take initiative and learn more about cultural diversity in their homeland.
"You can have a very weird name but you're very sure of your identity. National identity is not just the name but the wholeness of the culture we imbibe with ourselves. Hindi lip service," he said.
He said identity was no longer the problem of the Philippines, The challenge for Filipinos now, he said, is to know the country's history.
"We talk about love of country? You cannot love someone you do not know... Love of your country comes with knowing her and you know her through history," he added.
Chua said Alejano's proposal could meet the same fate of another bill proposing the declaration of Bonifacio as the country's first president.
Even the proposal of National Artist Virgilio Almario to correct and change the name "Pilipinas" to "Filipinas" has been criticized, he said.
Chua said Congress had more immediate matters to attend to, adding that Alejano might not have the numbers to push for the proposal as he is from the opposition bloc.
For Chua, discussions on whether to rename the Philippines or not would be a very good intellectual exercise as Filipinos would learn more about their nation's history. --with reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News