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Looking for Claveria's Children: State, Church and the Individual in the History of Philippine Naming Systemsm, May 14, 2008

Colloquium with Professor Francis Alvarez Gealogo, Department of History, Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines.

On 21 November 1849, then Spanish Governor General to the Philippines Narciso Claveria issued a decree compiling a catalogue of family names for the Filipinos to adopt.  The aim of the decree was to put some administrative order on to Philippine naming systems, utilizing Spanish surnames, as well as indigenous words related to plants, animals, minerals, geography, arts, etc.  The result was the organized systematization of Philippine surnames that transformed the naming system.  This act has frequently been viewed by historians not only as patterned after Spain in the imposition of surnames, but intended to eliminate indigenous Filipino surnames and replace them with Spanish ones. 

This paper takes a contrary view, and regards the Claveria decree not as a vehicle to Hispanize Filipino surnames, but rather as an administrative and bureaucratic device to impose order on the colonial record system by requiring the systematic use of surnames, whether of Spanish, Chinese, or indigenous origin.  The paper also ranges over a wide variety of other naming practices in the Philippines -- before, during, and after the Spanish colonial period -- including the common use of nicknames. This and other naming practices can have the effect of erasing or seriously modifying the careful naming system imposed by both Church and state.

Francis Alvarez Gealogo is an Associate Professor of History at the Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines.  Born and raised in Cavite City, the Philippines, he obtained his Bachelor of Arts (History, cum laude), Master of Arts (History) and Ph. D. (Philippine Studies) all from the University of the Philippines Diliman where he taught for ten years before transferring to the Ateneo.  He served as Editor of the Diliman Review from 1996-98, and was Federico Alcuaz Professor of History at the University of the Philippines; Horacio de la Costa Professor of History and Ateneo Class '54 Professor of History at the Ateneo de Manila University.  He is currently connected with the Center for History of Medicine program of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor as a Fulbright Senior Visiting Professor.

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