From ‘Pilipinas’ to ‘Filipinas’


“HIBIK ng Filipinas” is the poem by Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio, an example of the use of Filipinas to refer to the country. Bonifacio led the Philippine Revolution against Spain in 1896.
“ANG PAGSASARILI” is a brand of cigarette in the 1920s during the American period, another example of the use of Filipinas to refer to the country while struggling for independence.
Photos courtesy of The Commission on the Filipino Language

1 WHY go back to “Filipinas?”

There are three reasons behind the Board of Commissioners Resolution No. 13-19 (April 12, 2012) of the Commission on the Filipino Language or Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF):

First, history. There are now three forms of the name of our country.

Filipinas, the name given by Ruy López de Villalobos in 1548 and used officially by Miguel López de Legazpi when he established the Spanish colony beginning 1565, which was used continuously for 300 years until the time of Rizal and Bonifacio, and again used as the name of the first Asian republic—the “Republica Filipinas” established in Malolos in 1898.

Pre-Hispanic alphabet and sounds
Source: “Ortograpiyang Pambansa.” Edisyon 2013. Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino

“Philippines,” the name used by the Americans when they entered our country in 1898 and officially used by the Constitution of 1936 and up to the current Constitution of 1987.

“Pilipinas,” used starting around 1941 when the abakada without the F was promoted for general usage and continued as the translation of Filipinas and Philippines in works and documents written in the Pilipino language (which was the name given in 1959 to the national language using the abakada).

Second, language change and development. In the 1973 Constitution,  it was stated that “Filipino” instead of Pilipino should be the name of the national language.

This was restated in the 1987 Constitution, together with the proposed modernization and enrichment of the national language by way of the native languages.

The first step in this language change was the eschewing of the abakada and the promotion and spread of the alpabeto with the additional letters C, F, J, Ñ, Q, V, X and Z.

Now that the national language has an F and is called Filipino, isn’t it simply logical to restore Filipinas and gradually  discourage the use of Pilipinas?

Third, to be consistent with the method of using the eight additional letters in the Ortograpiyang Pambansa (National Orthography) being promoted by the KWF.

This is the first comprehensive examination of the new alphabet and should be read closely by users of the the Filipino language and other native languages.

The case of Filipinas is an application of the letter F in borrowed proper nouns.

According to the Rule 4.6 in the document:

“Borrowing with the Use of the 8 New Letters. At present, therefore, all the eight borrowed letters in the new alphabet are used in three instances of borrowing from foreign languages.

“First, in proper nouns borrowed from foreign languages, such as Charles, Ceferino, Catherine, Colorado, Fidel, Feliza, San Fernando, Filipinas, Jason, Jennifer, St. Joseph, Jupiter, Beijing,  Niñez, Montaño, Santo Niño, Enrique, Quiroga, Quirino, Vicente, Vladimir, Nueva Vizcaya, Vancouver, Xerxes, Maximo, Mexico, Zenaida, Zion, Zobel and Zanzebar.

Second, in scientific and technical terms, such as “carbong dioxide,” “Albizia falcataria,” “jus sanguinis,” “quorum,” “quo warranto,” “valence,” “x-axis,” “oxygen,” “zeitgeist,” “zero” and “zygote.”

Borrowed letters, Tagalog equivalents and word examples
Source: “Ortograpiyang Pambansa.” Edisyon 2013. Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino

Third, in words that cannot be respelled easily, such as cauliflower, flores de mayo, jaywalking, queen, quiz, mix, pizza and zebra.

2   If that is the case, should words borrowed from the Spanish with the letter F and already respelled with P revert to F?

It is in fact clearly disallowed under Rule 4.2 of Ortograpiyang Pambansa and considered a waste of time. Instead, the new letters like F should be used only in words sourced from native languages with such sounds and in new borrowings from foreign languages, such as “fosil” from Spanish or “fern” from English, or scientific and technical words such as “formaldehyde.”

3     Is it also necessary to respell into Filipinas the names of  institutions and organizations currently spelled as Pilipinas?

It is not necessary. It is stated in the third paragraph of Resolution No. 13-19 of the KWF that the shift for institutions and organizations with Pilipinas in their name is not compulsory.

Although they will be encouraged to shift, it is their option to maintain their present name and be part of the history of the language as representing the time when the abakada was in use.

The implementation of the KWF resolution is expected for new groups to be named and organized in the future.

4     Should “Unibersidad ng Pilipinas” be made into “Unibersidad ng Filipinas?”

As in the answer to the previous question, it is not necessary to change the name of Unibersidad ng Pilipinas. It will be up to the  the UP constituency.

Neither does the resolution affect the initials “UP” because these are in English and are derived from the English name “University of the Philippines.”

That’s why the initials are pronounced “Yoo Pee.” If these were in Pilipino, they would be pronounced “Oo Pah.”

5       Should “Pinas” be changed into “Finas” and “Pinoy” into


It is not necessary. “Pinas” is derived from the third and fourth syllables, which are “FiliPINAS” and “Pinoy” is in turn only derived from “Pinas.” That’s why this is not affected by the proposed restoration of “Filipinas” from “Pilipinas.”

6     Isn’t this project too expensive for an impoverished country?

As stated in the KWF resolution, the change will be implemented gradually.

For example, letterheads, books and other documents with Pilipinas on them will change only when supplies run out, and new editions and printing become necessary.

The country’s currency and bank notes (coins and paper money) will have the word “Filipinas” on them only when the Bangko Sentral issues new money.

It is possible that the very first expense on the shift will be incurred for the Seal of the President and it will not cost over a hundred thousand pesos.

7     Why is the KWF intervening in the way the country’s name

is spelled?

It is part of the mandate and function of KWF under Republic Act No. 7104 in pursuit of the provision of the 1987 Constitution that:

“Congress shall create a Commission on the National Language composed of representatives of the different regions and disciplines that shall conduct, coordinate and support researches for the development, promotion, and maintenance of Filipino and other languages.”

According to RA 7104, it is the function of the KWF to formulate policies and programs to promote and enrich Filipino as well as the rules in the pursuit of these policies and programs.

The case of Filipinas is part of the general reform in the use of Filipino as outlined in Ortograpiyang Pambansa.

In addition, this case is only one of the many problems that must be addressed in relation to the creation of an Atlas Filipinas—a geographic dictionary that is very necessary and needs to be done soon in order to fix the spelling of the place names, municipalities, provinces and regions in the whole country.

8     Isn’t Filipinas symbolic of colonial mentality?

Maybe true because it is derived from the name of King Philip of Spain. But it is also a symbol of the linkage and union of the barangay, tribes and islands of our archipelago.

Before Filipinas, what Legazpi referred to as Indios were a disjointed, scattered lot. He colonized us but also gave us a first means toward national unity.

On the other hand, it is rather difficult to say that just calling our country Pilipinas is already nationalistic. This happened merely because of the abakada.

Did the meaning of Filipinas change because the P was made into F? Similarly, did the Spanish “forma” change meaning because it was spelled as “porma”?

Truth is, Pilipino—the name of the language corresponding to Pilipinas—was rejected during the 1970s because, like the abakada, it carried a Tagalog memory.

Pilipino was replaced with Filipino for the latter to symbolize the modern nationalistic aspiration.

The alphabet with the eight additional Filipino letters is reflective of the aim to include and involve the native languages of the country, which had been deprived of participation in the abakada of Pilipino of a country called Pilipinas.

It is more from such a vision of the Filipino that the proposal of the KWF to recover the spelling of Filipinas originates.

9     Why won’t the KWF think of a new name for the country?

Why not, indeed? But this is not the function of the KWF and is outside the scope of the Ortograpiyang Pambansa.

This will need a different and meaningful rationale, which might be more nationalistic, but will definitely need an act of Congress and of the President of the Philippines. The KWF will accede to whatever proposal wins as a new name for our Filipinas.

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  • ManilaMan

    The abakada and Pilipino language was a failed experiment as it merely changed the way the local language is spelled. As it tried to erase the F’s, V’s, CH’s, Z’s etc in fiesta (pista) vapor (bapor), chinelas (tsinelas), zapatos (sapatos), it did not try to influence the same spelling in Filipino surnames and names of places so that Fajardo, San Fernando, Ifugao, Floridablanca remained the same. Francisco Balagtas remained Francisco Balagtas and Andres Bonifacio not Andres Bonipasyo. This meant that Abakada and Pilipino was useless in the fact that it was running on its own and had a distinct system of writing different from the rest. It’s like for a Chinese, writing in calligraphy and yet turning to ABC’s when writing their names and places. Or for an English or American to have ç, ê and other french letters and diacritics in their names. Standardization is the key as to why Filipinas should be reinstated (which again, shouldn’t have been an issue if Fidel and Juan de la Cruz were only Pilipinized to Pidel and Huwan dela Krus which obviously did not happen).

  • Jose Miguel Garcia

    If we reject the way our founding fathers pronounced our nation, we reject the way they acted towards our nation as a result of their development. If we reject their action towards our nation as a result of their development, we reject their development. If we reject their development, we recognize somebody corrupted, but not our real founding fathers. Therefore, if the founding fathers of our nation we recognize are not the real founding fathers of our nation, the nation we recognize today is not the real nation of our founding fathers. If the nation we recognize today is not the real nation of our founding fathers, what kind of nation do we have today then? Is it still a real nation or a corrupted nation?

    Assuming for the sake of argument that it is still a real nation, what bond do we still have towards our founding fathers when it is not anymore the development they and our nation have come to be? If we have no such bond with our founding fathers, how can we have bond with something as flesh and blood as that of our nation they founded? The only bond we have then is only with a piece of paper. How can we then have a bond towards the filipino people? Without such bond as part of our Determinant of National Actions, how can we have a functioning social order such as that of our nation? This is assuming that the country we have today is still a nation.

    How then, can we have a nation with people acting cohesively only for the life of our nation and not individually against it as what we have been experiencing after the mid 1900s? This was the time our developmental defenses have finaly been dismantled by the U.S. invaders who also blocked our attempts to wrest control of our economy by the chinese creeping invaders. It was then that our Determinant of National Actions have been severely corrupted by these foreigners who have taken over control of direction of development of our political, economic, defense, and educational system?

    Is it still a wonder that after the mid 1900s until today, our archipelago has become the breeding place for corruption, littering of wastes, taking advantage of the weaker by the stronger, destruction of our mountains and forests, mass exile to foreign lands, all legitimized for individual and family survival? Is it still a wonder that those among us who act to correct the deviation that occured along our organic development to recover the nation we inherited from our founding fathers in the form of recovering our clean environment, our original forest lands, our real independence, our original resources, and our sovereignty, are identified as the ones who are deviants?

    If we are to recover from a corrupted nation that we are today, let us recover that love of nation we had as a people united in the 1900s. If we are to recover that love of nation we had as a people united and determined at the cost of our individual and family life in the 1900s, let us recover that DNA we had at that time. If we are to recover that DNA, let us accept that development of the founding fathers of our nation that directed them to act towards our nation the way they did.

    • Maglalawis

      So, anong ipinaglalaban natin ser?

  • Alex Alvarez

    Filipinas kong mahal, kumusta ka na? Eto binabalasubas pa rin ng mga hinayupak at ganid na pulitiko!

  • talagalangha

    Ayoko nyang Filipinas…go found your own country and name it whatever you want..Almario!

    Magagalit nyan si Carlo Caparas, kasi magiging Cafaras na siya…

  • talagalangha

    Sa Fork Varrel muna tayo magconcentrate….!

  • Ornbort

    Why are we still named after a stupid Spanish King from the middle ages? It’s not his country anymore.

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