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Philippines Names, Personal
It is important to understand how surnames and given names developed and changed in the Philippines. You can gain important clues about a family’s origin by examining its surname. The Filipinos began adopting surnames in the 16th century during Spanish colonization; before this, the Filipinos found one name adequate to meet their needs. As the Catholic Church assigned Christian names to new converts and as more and more Filipinos began to use their native names and their Christian names, the government saw a need to standardize naming practices among the Filipinos.
The Spaniards issued the Claveria Decree in 1849 in an attempt to assign all Filipinos surnames. This decree was inconsistently enforced, and there are no records describing its institution. In many cases the local magistrates simply assigned surnames to those who did not already have one. They used the following alphabetical index of surnames compiled for that purpose:
- Claveria y Zaldua, Narciso. Catálogo Alfabético de Apellidos (Alphabetical Catalog of Surnames). Manila, Philippines: National Archives, 1973. (FHL book 959.9 D43c; film 0795723 item 6; fiche 6072406.)
Because surnames were all assigned over a relatively short period of time and were taken from a single source, it is not uncommon to find that all the surnames from an area begin with the same letter of the alphabet or that all the people of a barangay have the same surname. A barangay was a basic unit of local administration used during Spanish occupation from 1565 to 1898. Today a barangay refers to communities of 1,000 inhabitants within a city or municipality that is administrated by a group of elected officals. A number of barangay could have made up a municipality.
More information on Philippine surname customs and a long list of native Filipino surnames can be found on the Internet at the following address:
Many Filipinos modify their names to match their environment. For example, a man named Roberto may anglicize his name to Rob or Robert after moving to a city. Jose would likely become Joe, and Guillermo may change his name to Bill. This is a common practice to keep in mind when tracing a family’s movements. The following book can help you trace such names:
- Garcia, Mauro. Philippine Pseudonyms, Aliases, Pen Names, Pet Names, Screen Names, and Name Aberrations. Manila, Philippines: Bibliographical Society of the Philippines, 1965.
Another Philippine naming custom is the Spanish practice of assigning a mother’s maiden name as her child’s middle name. Hence, the mother of a child named Bernardo Juarez de la Cruz may very well have the maiden name of Juarez. There are exceptions to this rule, but this custom may be very helpful as you trace family relationships.