I find few disagreements with President Duterte’s words and deeds, but next to his supercilious designation of the late dictator Marcos as a hero who deserves to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery), I find his latest caper of floating and signifying his interest in changing the name Philippines to Maharlika the highest of absurdities, if I may call it that way.
It is one thing to put on the highest pedestal ones idol and hero, like Duterte has done about Marcos, but it is another thing to ram it down the throat of the Filipino people because it was once the dream and aspiration of the person you greatly admired.
I do not know if changing the country’s name to Maharlika matters really because if Wikipedia has the comprehensive answer for everything then its connotation is not what we want it to be or what we perceived it to be because it says that the origin of the word is Indian-inspired word that influenced our culture as members of the Malay race.
When put in the proper context, historians and scholars agree on one thing and it is that Maharlika means anything but “a concept of serenity and peace”, as Duterte imputed it to be, or “a royalty” as presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo wants us to believe it is.
In fact award-winning novelist Abdon Balde Jr. shared his views in the social media saying that the word Maharlika was included in the Vocabulario de la lengua tagala (vocabulary of the tagalog language) that showed its meaning, when translated from Spanish to Tagalog, as “alipin na itinuring na malaya“, which means in English as ‘a slave deemed/considered free’. I would assume that Maharlika was translated in Spanish as “esclavo considerado libre”.
Balde’s views are irrefutably confirmed by historian Rolando Borrinaga of the National Commission for Culture and Arts, during an interview with radio station DZBB, that Maharlika actually means “free man.”
The reason why I am expounding on this alternative name is because it puzzles me why Duterte is picking up where Marcos has left off when what the latter was mainly interested in was having his ego inflated by fantasizing and falsely reviving that the name Maharlika was ancient Filipino nobility.
It is even discombobulating that heroes like Mabini, Luna, del Pilar, Aguinaldo, Bonifacio and notably Rizal did not belittled the name Philippines and in fact were proud being called Filipinos who wrote, condemned, fought and died valiantly for the country against the abuses and atrocities of both the Spanish colonial rulers and the Spanish friars.
It is perhaps prudent for our leaders to be reminded that the name Philippines is not what made us who we are today but, rather, it is us, the people who has given the country the ambiguities perceived today by the peoples in the world community.