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Why I Disagree with “Filipinas”

Rio Alma, National Artist and head of KWF

Rio Alma, National Artist and head of KWF

Recently, the Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino (KWF) released a resolution making “Filipinas” the official name of the country. It cited the need for consistency and historical use as justification for the change.

The KWF proposal was met with objections (and jokes), and I believe that it’s rightly so. Please allow me to share why I join their ranks in criticizing the decision.

Pronunciation difficulty

Respected historian Zeus Salazar raised an important point in his Facebook comments regarding the issue: not all Filipinos can pronounce the “F” sound naturally. This sound does not exist in some, if not many, Filipino languages.  Thus, even if in writing it is “Filipinas,” some of our fellow Filipinos end up saying “Pilipinas.” Forcing them to sound the “F” may not be as easy.

As shown in many jokes which were made in reaction to the KWF resolution, “effing” the “P” could cause some acronyms to sound a little off. The Professional Heckler wrote in his humor blog that UP would become UF (or, as I put it, U-Fi to preserve the rhyme in cheering), P-Noy becomes F-Noy (which sounds a little disrespectful to the playful mind), or worse, PAGASA becomes FAGASA (which sounds a little homophobic).

“Filipinas” sounds a little “sosyal” or even “beki” (remember Facifica Falayfay?) and the difficult pronunciation might even turn off some of our countrymen.

Adequacy of current terminologies

The name of our country has never been lately a big issue that it caused major misunderstanding or disunity, except perhaps in the academe. Most Filipinos have grown to  (and continue to) accept that our name in English is “the Philippines” (note the “the”) while it is in Filipino, “Pilipinas.” In the same way, we have used “Filipino” as our demonym in English, as well as the proper noun referring to our National Language. In this language, we commonly use “Pilipino” or “Pinoy” in short (although officially it is supposed to be “Filipino” as well).

Nations around us do not have so much a problem as to be referred to differently in English and their national language.  Germany to Germans is Deutschland, China to the Chinese is Zhongguo or Zhōnghuá; and Japan to the Japanese is Nippon or Nihon.

In fact, the use of “Filipinas” internationally might cause confusion to foreigners who may have associated the term to (sexy) females of Filipino ancestry. Use Google search and find out what appears.

General acceptance

“Pilipinas” as the country’s name has been as accepted as “Filipinas” was used widespread in the Spanish occupation. Del Pilar and Rizal used “Filipinas” in their reformist literature, and so did Aguinaldo in his short stint as president. However, we should recognize that as the fight for independence continued, songs as Bayan Ko (…ang bayan kong Pilipinas) and Pilipinas kong Mahal reflected the general use of “Pilipinas.”

The use of “P” instead of “F” can be said as a way of indigenizing a foreign name, in the same way we insisted on using “the Philippines” since at least the Commonwealth period instead of the American “Philippine Islands” or “P.I.” which was a translation of the Spanish “las Islas Filipinas.”The former title supposedly sounded more united and solid than the latter.


In the end, the people will be the judge of a term’s usability. It took many years for us to accept that the name of the National Language is “Filipino” and not “Tagalog” and some still mistake one for another. Also, since the KWF inserted a clause that allows institutions established prior to this resolution to still use “the Philippines” and “*P*ilipinas,” adjusting to the new name may not come as fast.

To me, at least, this proposal will simply cause jokes, cost the government funds to change signages, and make people angry at Virgilio Almario, an excellent scholar whom I respect. But I agree with another comment, this time by Xiao Chua:

“Hintayin na lamang natin kung tanggapin ng bayan.”

About the Author:

Eufemio Agbayani III is a student of History in the University of the Philippines Diliman.

One thought on “Why I Disagree with “Filipinas”

  1. In the discussion like this we need not to be too much intelligent to decide it is simply a very common to all so common sense is the best answer. Whether you use Pilipinas or Filipinas it must be accepted worldwide and record it to Wikipedia so that confusion will be avoided.

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