Saturday, February 25, 2012

EDSA and the use of Surnames

During this time of the year I always look back to that time when Filipinos of all ages and occupation gathered in and around a stretch of land called Epifanio de los Santos to protest the Marcos regime. My generation is perhaps one of the last few to still truly hold this peaceful uprising close to our hearts; the current younger activists who were still infants or not yet even born at that time who continue to use the "spirit of EDSA" for their various causes are probably only aware of this event based on the recollections of others or from history books.

In recent years I have also realized one little flaw in the naming of this historic street. Or rather, the use of the acronym based on Epifanio de los Santos's name. The Spanish naming pattern has always been very structured. Many of our indigenous ancestors who mimicked their Spanish masters did not probably know how the Spaniards named their children. For instance, many churches in the country list the names of their Spanish-era parish priests wrongly. Many local historians based their list on the church records. The problem here is that when they started listing down these friars' names, they read these names in the same way modern Filipinos write their names: FIRST NAME, MOTHER'S FAMILY NAME, LAST NAME. This was not how the Spanish friars, or any Spaniard for that matter, wrote their name. When they wrote, for instance, Jose Santos Gomez, this meant that Jose's last name was Santos and Gomez was his mother's surname. This is actually a variation of the more traditional naming pattern using the particle "y", meaning "and", such that the name would be written as JOSE SANTOS Y GOMEZ. In most cases and in most records he would have signed himself as Jose S. Gomez. These type of records would have definitely made modern local historians think that the last name was Gomez.

Another common mistake modern Filipinos make when looking at and using Spanish names lies in the use of particles. Common particles in family names are "de", "de los", and "de la". In modern times, Filipinos have simply lumped these particles together, such that surnames using "de" followed by a name beginning with a vowel are usually combined (such as Deparine from de Parine, Deabordo from Deabordo, Delima from de Lima, and so on). "de los" and "de la" have also transformed into "Delos" and "Dela"; thus, Epifanio Delos Santos. If we were to be really strict about it, the acronym for Epifanio de los Santos should have been EDSLA and NOT EDSA.

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Because of the Claveria edict, many Filipino surnames are Spanish in form and origin. This means that while most people may carry a Spanish family name, the chances of being of Hispanic descent are not always high. If one can prove that their surname existed in their family prior to 1849, then chances are that they have some Spaniards lurking in their family trees.

Aside from the common surname types enumerated in a previous post, Philippine surnames also include everyday objects and nouns, such as Estrella, “star”, Sales, “salt”, and others. The list below shows the most common Spanish surnames in the country (notice that most can be seen even among movie stars):
  1. García
  2. Fernández
  3. González
  4. Rodríguez
  5. López
  6. Martínez
  7. Sánchez
  8. Pérez
  9. Martín
  10. Gómez
  11. Ruiz
  12. Hernández
  13. Santos
  14. Jiménez
  15. Díaz
  16. Álvarez
  17. Moreno
  18. Muñoz
  19. Alonso
  20. Gutiérrez
As can be seen, there is an abundance of patronymics in the list of most common Spanish names. There are other surnames that exist in the Philippines, and, other than the list above the other most common surnames are of indigenous origin. These are authentic Filipino surnames culled from various dialects and languages in the country that have been used prior to the 1849 decree. Many of these were also incorporated into the Catalogue of Surnames. It is difficult to have a clear list of these names, because only Spanish and Chinese surnames have thus so far been studied in depth. Maybe someday, someone will have the patience to do a statistical work on indigenous Filipino surnames.

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