‘Cedulario de Manila’ | Inquirer Opinion
Looking Back

‘Cedulario de Manila’

/ 04:27 AM December 05, 2014

People who patiently read through the long list of titles of the recently departed Duchess of Alba in my column last Wednesday have an idea of the long-winded system of multiple surnames and double surnames that survived in the Philippines from the Spanish period. This still leads to some confusion, as in people with surnames like Ponce Enrile or Ponce de Leon. When we alphabetize, do we use Ponce or Enrile? When we shorten and only use one surname, do we use Ponce or De Leon?

In Baguio and San Juan I have seen street names marked “Tavera” or “De Tavera” that I presume were named in honor of the eminent 19th century scholar Dr. Trinidad Herminigildo Pardo de Tavera, who styled himself with the abbreviated T.H. Pardo de Tavera. Shouldn’t the street names be in full as Pardo de Tavera, or Pardo for short, rather than Tavera or De Tavera?


People also commented on the length of the late Duchess of Alba’s titles in print that filled up about a third of my column. Imagine if that same list of titles appeared in an official handwritten document from the 18th- or 19th-century Philippines. The titles alone would fill three to five pages depending on how florid the writer wanted it to be.

Filipino historians who have gone through Spanish documents know that, with some practice, you can skip all the standard forms and go straight to the subject of the document. In a sense one could skip the appetizers and go straight to the main course.


All this reminded me of a series of documents known as the “Cedulario de Manila,” which were laws passed for the capital and the islands from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Some of the earliest documents begin with the titles of Philip II, after whom the Philippines was named:

“Don Felipe by the grace of God, King of Castilla, of Leon, of Aragon, of the two Sicilies, of Jerusalem, of Navarra, of Granada, of Toledo, of Valencia, of Galicia, of Mallorca, of Sevilla, of Cerdeña, of Cordoba, of Corzega, of Murcia, of Jaen, of los Algarves, of Algeciras, of Gibraltar, of the Canary Islands, of the West and East Indies, of the Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea; Arch-Duke of Austria, Duke of Borgoña, Brabante and Milan; Count of Apsburg, Flanders, Tirol and Barcelona; Lord (Señor) of Biscaya and Molina, etc.”

If the lawmakers and the escribanos or scribes did not use “etc.” (et cetera meaning “and so on”) and completed all the titles of the Catholic kings, then it would take more pages both in print or in manuscript. Old documents have their charm; they can be beautifully written by a professional calligrapher or hurriedly and illegibly written by a town clerk.

These use a number of abbreviations that should be learned before you embark on archival work. Then, of course, there are the differences in handwriting and conventions that make a 16th-century document look different from a similar one in the 19th century. If one studies the old baptismal records, for example, one has to know how to spot the names and dates from a paragraph of standard text. Most registers make life easy by putting an abstract on the margins.

The only problem with using original documents is inhaling the dust of the ages—bad for people like me with allergic rhinitis. Digitized documents are preferable because these are dust-less, and one can focus on an illegible part and magnify to make deciphering easier.

In 1972, the National Archives under Dr. Domingo Abella published the “Cedulario de Manila” to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the foundation of Spanish Manila in 1971. I was happy to see familiar names as editors of the volume—Nicholas Cushner who wrote the standard work, “Spain in the Philippines from Conquest to Revolution” (1971) and Helen Tubangui, my teacher in Philippine history when I was in college.

Not just an offset of the published laws, the volume contains many interesting appendices like old illustrations of Manila and its inhabitants, and a reliable chronological listing of Spanish governors-general starting with Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565 to Basilio Agustin in 1898. It also includes the list of men who held the position ad interim. Then there is the list of episcopal succession in the Metropolitan See of Manila beginning with Bishop Domingo de Salazar in 1579 to Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda in the time of the Philippine Revolution.


After one looks at the different types of Filipinos represented by Nicolas de la Cruz Bagay in the 18th century and Damian Domingo in the 19th, one can go through the main texts of the book guided by the abstracts on the margins of the documents. There are some interesting documents on the foundation of Spanish Manila, like one dated June 21, 1574, where Philip II granted Manila the title “Insigne siempre leal ciudad de Manila” (Distinguished and ever loyal city) and approved the naming of Luzon as “Nuevo Reino de Castilla” (New Castille). On Nov. 16, 1595,

Philip II ordered that Manila be considered “cabeza y mas principal” (leading and most important) city in the islands because the Gobernor, the Audiencia, and the Cathedral are located there. In time walls were built to enclose Manila (hence Intramuros) and everything outside (extramuros) were suburbs.

In themselves the laws are boring and obsolete, but seen in the context of the growth of Manila, they become relevant again.

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TAGS: “Cedulario de Manila”, Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda, Bishop Domingo de Salazar, Damian Domingo, Duchess of Alba, History, Metropolitan See of Manila, names, Nicolas de la Cruz Bagay, Philippine history, Philippine Revolution, Spanish Period
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