“Michelle Marquez Dee, Filipinas!” This is how our delegate introduced herself in the opening portion of the Miss Universe 2023, sparking a bit of confusion among Filipinos with her choice of words.
Dee explained that her decision to use Filipinas over Philippines was influenced by her efforts to learn Spanish in preparation for the competition in El Salvador, with reporter Dyan Castillejo adding that the Spanish-speaking crowd might be more inclined towards contestants who speak their native language.
“That’s actually true because during rehearsals, I believe you were there when we were doing our introductions, Day one pa lang, actually even before arriving in El Salvador, I knew I wanted to say Filipinas,” Dee said in an interview with ABS-CBN News. It seemed to have worked. “It was after the first time I said it, a lot of the Latinas said, 'Oh, I love that you said Filipinas, Filipinas, Filipinas.'"
Dee's choice to use Filipinas at an international stage was a strategic one, yes, but it is also rooted in a significant linguistic and cultural debate about the country’s official name for over 20 years now. So, is there a difference?
What’s the difference between Philippines and Filipinas?
“Las Islas Filipinas” was the official name given by Spanish colonizers in 1548 and was used throughout their occupation and a bit beyond. This name was coined by Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos in the 16th Century to honor King Philip II of Spain.
"The Philippine Islands" would only be adopted during the American period in 1898 when the U.S. military and civilian occupations took over. The state name was officially changed to the Philippines during the Third Republic, which was when the country gained independence from the U.S.
National Artist for Literature Rio Alma has been a strong advocate for the use of Filipinas over Pilipinas, arguing that it is the original name of the country. It was a suggestion that the Malacañang Palace expressed openness to in 2013, but nothing has come of the discussion.
The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) was on board with this decision under Alma’s leadership, with the argument that doing so could unite Filipinos via a better sense of history, but the policy was reversed in 2021 with the entrance of the new KWF Chairman Arthur Casanova. They pointed out that the letter “F” was not part of the old alphabet based on Tagalog. In addition, "Pilipinas" was the spelling officially used in the Tagalog translation of the Constitution from 1935 to 1987.
Beyond the KWF, Alma’s proposal to change the country name to Filipinas has been met with criticism. Some historians and cultural experts argue against the change due to the colonial origins of either choice.
To this, Alma responded: “Maybe true because it is derived from the name of King Philip of Spain, but it is also a symbol for the linkage and union of the barangay, tribes, and islands of our archipelago. Before Filipinas, what Legazpi referred to as Indios were a disjointed, scattered lot. He colonized us but also gave us a first means towards national unity.”
We can only guess if Michelle trying to do the same with Filipinos in El Salvador.
This story originally appeared on Spot.ph. Minor edits have been made by the Preview.ph editors.