"..a bardy view!"

Historical inaccuracy – More fun in the Philippines


The new tourist video from the Philippines Department of
Tourism is quite a change from its last "Wow Philippines"

That was more of a sedate landscape-enriched affair, narrated by a feminine dulcet
tone with a charming if not surreal musical overlay with the key phrase "More
than the Usual"
pervading throughout. It tried to be all things to all
men, portraying stunning beaches, vibrant cities and eclectic food,
entertainment and nightlife.

A revamp by a new invigorated department sells the country
under the slogan "It’s More Fun in the Philippines" (see this earlier Bardiness post) which has proved
to be quite successful, albeit open to some rather pastiche and hilarious memes
on the internet. Indeed, the title of this post is just such an example.
Seconds into the video a basic mistruth is stated: that the country was named
after a Spanish king.

This is clearly done for populist expediency, but it is a
misinterpretation of the truth. Indeed it is downright misleading. And whilst
it may appear a trivial point, historical accuracy is fundamental to education,
and by its absence gives licence to permit all sorts of irregularity and error
(think Hollywood and how it rewrites history with impunity).

Just as it's widely believed that Magellan was the first man
to circumnavigate the globe and gave the Philippines its name, so it's believed
that the Islands were named after King Philip II of Spain. It's true that the
Portuguese navigator claimed the islands for Spain, but the king at the time
was Charles I not Philip.

Nor was it Magellan who completed the circumnavigation, but
his expedition. Magellan was killed in Mactan on 27th April, 1521 when only halfway
around. The remainder of the fleet limped back to Spain seventeen months later,
captained by Juan Sebastian Elcano, Magellan's second in command. It was he who
completed the first circumnavigation, but whose achievement has been overshadowed
by his more renowned contemporary. Indeed, had it not been for Elcano's
seamanship and fortitude, and the accounts of the voyage by a crew member, the
Italian scholar Antonia Pigafetta, Spain would have had little knowledge or
interest in the Philippines, and it was only when Philip became king many years
later that he instigated another expedition to seek out the islands which were
named in his honour.

"But I thought you said that the islands weren't named
the Philippines by Magellan? So why did he think the islands were named after

Well this is where fact gets confused with fiction. In 1543
almost 22 years after Elcano returned to Spain, Ruy Lopez de Villalobos was commissioned
by the Viceroy of New Spain (the Spanish Dominions of Central America) Antonio
de Mendoza
, to head an expedition to the Islas del Ponienta (aka Island of the
West – now known as the Philippines). Villalobos landed on Mindanao and named
it Ceasarea Caroli in 1543, after the King of Spain, Charles I (the same King
who Magellan sailed under) and a year later landed on the islands of Samar and
Leyte naming them "Las Islas Filipinas" (The Phlilippine Islands)
after Charles's son and heir Prince Philip.

In other words the islands were named after both father and
son. Philip eventually became king in 1556. 12 years after Villalobos's landing
and naming. The Philippines was named not after the King of Spain, but his son
and heir.

Only after succession did Philip embark on the colonisation
of the Philippines with vigour. Yet it wasn't until 1564 that he instructed Miguel
Lopez de Lagazpi
(then the governor of Mexico City) to establish settlements in
the Philippines. And it would be a further seven years in 1571 before he established Intramuros in Manila as the capital of Spain's new colony.

Fifty years had passed since Magellan laid claim to the
islands for Charles I. Twenty eight years since Villalobos named them the Philippines
Islands in honour of "Prince" Philip.

The naming of the Philippines was not in honour of a king,
but a prince. That is the fundamental fact. Why is it important? Surely it is pedantic
to argue a seemingly trivial yet salient point?

It's important to ensure that successive generations are aware
of their nation’s history. It's important that they understand where they came
from, how they got there, and where they are going. The history of the
Philippines is a quagmire of misinformation, and poorly taught by historians
and academics too lazy to research and teach the facts.

Magellan was the first man to circumnavigate the globe –
wrong. He named it the Philippines – wrong. The Philippines was named after the
King of Spain – wrong.

The first man to command a circumnavigation of the globe,
from start to finish, was the English adventurer Francis Drake. He reached the
Philippines in 1579, eight years after Legaspi, and had he not been laden with
Spanish booty, he would have sailed up the Pasig River, overwhelmed and cleared
out Spain's fledgling colony and claimed it for his queen Elizabeth I. Less than 200
years later the British Royal Navy did just that and claimed it for George III.
A year later in 1763 under the Treaty of Paris, it was returned to Spain in exchange for some of their American colonies.

That's the true history of the Philippines, and it's a damn
sight more interesting and a damn sight more truthful. 

The video may do what it’s intended for, to generate lively
interest, but that’s no excuse for historical inaccuracy, or misleading facts.
In context it’s akin to saying that New York was named after the king of England
after being ceded by the Dutch when it was New Amsterdam. When in fact it was the English King Charles II who gave it to his brother the
Duke of York (later James II) and whom it was actually named after.

Would the New York tourist department claim that their city
was named after an English King when in fact he was a duke at the time? Hardly. Besides, it’s probably
something they would be happy to forget. Likewise the Philippines should ditch
it’s Spanish royal connection, especially when it is a very ambiguous one, and
certainly not one to promote if they want to escape the colonialist and
exploitative implication, which certainly hasn’t done them any favours and
whose legacy and shackles they still struggle to free themselves from today.

Either state the truth or ditch the debris. Either way, that’s
the only way forward.


October 16, 2012 - Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, History, Politics, Religion, The Philippines, United Kingdom, USA | , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Fascinating read as always. Well I’ve never been to Spain but I kinda like the music. Old El Presley song. I’ve never been to the Philippines either but sure would like to.


    Comment by spookmoor | October 17, 2012 | Reply

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