Street names as history | Inquirer Opinion
Looking Back

Street names as history

/ 05:03 AM December 17, 2021

Clickbait on the internet started innocently. These were eye-catching texts or photos that encouraged one to follow the link to a particular website for the complete article. Advertisers caught on and so did porn producers; then social media took it one step further by weaponizing clickbait.

Most of the material I have read online on the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ move to replace our World War II heroes and heroine with the Philippine eagle is clickbait designed to get you angry, or press releases with self-serving comments by politicians intended to make you angrier. One side insists that replacing the personalities in our banknotes with animals is “erasing history”—which is impossible—or “revising history”—which is speculative at best. One group opposes the new design, saying it is meant to remove the Aquinos from history. Wouldn’t they be happy with animals on our money rather than the return of Ferdinand Marcos on our banknotes or coins?


The rise of online incivility is evident in this issue, with people on both sides insisting they are right without even trying to see other points of view.

The battlefield of memory and history lies not just in our currency, but also in the incessant naming and renaming of streets. In my notes, I have a long list of history by legislation, beginning with Commonwealth Act No. 335 (1938): “To perpetuate the memory of the late Hon. Pedro Guevara, a former Resident Commissioner in the United States, a street called ‘Mangahan’ in the district of Santa Cruz, City of Manila, which name does not awaken any recollection in the mind of the Filipino people, shall hereafter be known as Pedro Guevara Street.”


One would think that Mangahan referred to a place that had many mango trees. Centuries later when the area would have been completely urbanized and covered in concrete, even with all the mango trees gone, the original name would have reminded us of what it was and what it had become.

Republic Act No. 9685 (2009) renamed Kalibo-New Washington Road in the Province of Aklan as Jaime Cardinal Sin Avenue, because the prelate was born there. Renaming is not confined to the Catholic Church; RA 9329 renamed a whole stretch of road in Occidental Mindoro as Bishop Felix Y. Manalo Avenue “in recognition of the eminent and spiritual services of the late Bishop Felix Y. Manalo, religious founder of the Iglesia ni Cristo.”

This measure lapsed into law in 2004. If he hadn’t been indicted in the US, I wouldn’t be surprised if future legislation, national or local, would rename an existing street after Pastor Quiboloy.

Most streets are named after politicians or political figures. RA 10052 (2010) renamed historic Real Street in Dumaguete as Mayor Ramon T. Pastor Sr. Street, with no justification for the change. RA 11045 (2018) renamed the Kay Tikling-Antipolo-Teresa-Morong National Road of Rizal, traversing through Barangay Dolores in the municipality of Taytay up to Barangay Maybancal in the municipality of Morong, as Corazon C. Aquino Avenue “in recognition of her public service rendered to the people as the 11th President of the [ROP] and of her legacy in the restoration of political democracy and constitutional rule in the country.”

RA 9965 (2010) renamed Bacaca Road, which connects the JP Laurel and CP Garcia highways leading to the Davao International Airport, as Francisco S. Dizon Road. Is he that historically significant to bridge two roads named after Philippine presidents? Then, of course, there is the Supreme Court document that threw out the petition of lawyer Larry Gadon seeking to nullify RA 6639 and revert the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to its old name, Manila International Airport.

For nine years, as chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), I was often called in by the Bangko Sentral to comment on historical content in banknotes and coin designs. I was also asked to comment on national and local legislation seeking to name streets, school houses, etc. I often expressed the opinion that all street names 50 years or older should be considered “sanctified by usage” and therefore difficult to change. But then the NHCP inputs are merely consultative.

Street names are more than markers of history. They are like history—silent reminders of what we were, and usually an indictment of what we have become.



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TAGS: heroes, History, NHCP, opinion, politician, street name
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