I’m writing about traditional Filipino family names to coincide with the Philippine observance of National Heroes Day on August 31. Our forefathers were able to keep Filipino family names despite colonization of our country and I consider it a strong sense of patriotism or nationalism for them to keep our culture and identity as a people.
I thought about this topic when I was watching a Filipino-American ( with an American father and a Filipina mother and now resides in the US) stand-up comedian who said in his spiel that we Filipinos are Spanish-Asians as can be gleaned from our family names which are much the same as Mexicans’ family names. Definitely, many or majority of Filipino family names are Spanish in origin. This dates back to the Spanish decree at that time to use Spanish family names to facilitate transacting with the government. However, I can easily call to mind Filipino family names which are not Spanish. There are Filipino surnames spelled in Spanish but are Filipino words or derived from Filipino words.
In my own family, there are really more Spanish surnames but I can trace Filipino surnames. Tolentino from my paternal grandfather is not Filipino as well as Geneblazo my paternal grandmother’s family name. Ramos, my maternal grandmother’s is definitely Spanish but Lerum from my maternal grandfather doesn’t sound Spanish. (I’ve searched on Lerum because there is no equivalent Filipino word for it but that calls for another article, perhaps another Family website for the purpose)
Down the generations of my immediate family , I gathered these Filipino-sounding family names.
Then I looked at the family names of our neighbors, relatives and friends in our hometown. There are a few families descended from Spaniards who married Filipinas e.g. Morato, Pica, Urrutia. There are many more Spanish surnames like those of my grandparents’ but there are also Filipino surnames like the following:
There are more traditional family names from other regions based on people I personally encountered when I went to Metro Manila for my tertiary education and eventually settled to pursue my career.
In the national scene we have Presidents, government officials, businessmen and other public figures who bear traditional Filipino family names.
In my research about traditional Filipino family names, I found sites dedicated to them. This shows the longing of the people to know their roots. And by the simple act of asserting their freedom to use their own names, our forefathers have left us a valuable and enduring legacy.
You might also like to read Filipino Naming Traditions and Practices