Catalog of Filipino Names

Katálogo ng mga Apelyidong Pilipino
(Catalog of Filipino Names)
© 1995-98 by Hector Santos
All rights reserved.



One of the more obvious marks left by Spanish rule in the Philippines is the prevalence of Hispanic surnames among Christianized Filipinos. Those who lived in remote areas and were not subjugated escaped this fate. Many people in the mountain areas of Luzon, Mindanao, Mindoro, Palawan, and other places retained their way of life, their culture, and their way of naming themselves. Thus, a Yam-ay in Mindoro today does not have a name like Claudette Villanueva as would probably have been the case had she lived among the conquered people.

Before the Spaniards arrived, a person’s second (family, not middle) name was usually taken from one of his children. Thus, Timbô who had a son named Pitík was known as Timbô, amá ni Pitík. Compare this with the Western custom of sons taking their names from their fathers like Peter, son of John, or Peter Johnson. Sometimes, a physical feature was used to describe a person like Pitong Kirat for a certain Pito who only had one good eye.

Many early Christianized Filipinos named themselves after the saints so much so that it caused consternation among the Spanish authorities. Apparently, Christianization worked much too well and there were soon too many Santoses, San Joses, San Antonios, and San Buenaventuras to suit those in power. They were forced to change their last names unless they could prove that their family had been using it for several generations.

Another unacceptable custom was that siblings took on different last names like they had always done before the Spaniards came. All these “problems” resulted in a less efficient system of collecting taxes.

And so, on November 21, 1849 Governor General Narciso Clavería ordered a systematic distribution of family names for the natives to use. The Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos was produced and approved names were assigned to families in all towns. Name distribution was so systematic that civil servants assigned family names in alphabetical order causing some small towns with only a few families to end up with all names starting with the same letter. (This interesting situation remained until fairly recent times when people became more mobile and started seeking mates from other towns.)

One result of the Hispanization of Filipino names was the change in the way traditional names (placenames, too) were pronounced. Since Hispanic names were just sounds that didn’t mean much, names like “Dimalantá” became “Dimalanta” (the accent shifting to the penultimate syllable) and “Julag-ay” became “Júlagay” (the accent shifting from the penultimate to the first and the glottal catch disappearing). This tended to hide the meanings of the names and made them more of an abstract entity just like Hispanic names. At the same time, the new pronunciation sounded more Hispanic and this step completed the transformation of some families, at least in their own minds, to an erzats class of pseudo-Spaniards.

This list has brought about many interesting emails with more names and stories about their origins. Most were proud to have real Filipino names unlike the majority of us who have Hispanic surnames. However, one took exception to having his name, Agulto, listed as an indigenous Filipino name. He claimed he was a Filipino whose ancestors were Sheppardic Jews from Spain and he found it offensive for his name to be called truly Filipino. Of course, I immediately removed Agulto from this list.

Below is a list of truly Filipino names that remained in use even after the Clavería edict […]


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