Claim: President Duterte claimed that “Maharlika” means serenity and peace, proposed to change the country’s name
The Facts: On February 11, 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte put forward the notion of changing the country’s official name from “The Philippines” to “Maharlika,” citing Former President Ferdinand Marcos’ usage of the word and its association with the pre-Hispanic Philippines. In a broadcast in front of the Muslim-majority province of Maguindanao, Duterte asserted that “maharlika” is a Malay term that refers to serenity and peace (https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=588466219012772).
This is false.
“Maharlika” is derived from Sanskrit and is commonly misconstrued to mean the nobility or the highest social class in the pre-colonial Philippines, due in part to the popularization of the word during Former President Marcos’ term. During his presidency, Marcos conflated the term with royalty to further his “New Society” paradigm (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan), which he used to legitimize and promulgate his 21-year dictatorship.
Historians have since debunked this idea, stating that the “maharlika” refers to the warrior class, which are the free men or non-slave commoners who serve the maginoo or datu–the class that actually ranks the highest in the social strata of pre-colonial Tagalog society. Although the “maharlika” can be considered a lower order of nobility, they were still bound to serve their respective lords or datus during times of war or harvest (https://archive.org/…/LookingForThePre…/page/n5/mode/2up) (https://www.philstar.com/…/historian-says-maharlika…).
During the 2014 Maharlika Summit, which aimed to “provide a safe space for all to discuss from varying vantage points the Maharlika cause and narrative,” The Maharlika and the PROUT movement proposes an alternative interpretation of the Maharlika worldview and definition:
“The Maharlika were the warriors of the light (Mandirigma) and it was synonymous to victory… against all forms and types of oppression, repression and suppression. Maharlika was a symbol of freedom from exploitation.” (https://www.engagedforesight.com/unpacking-the-maharlika…/).
In the last year of his term, which began at noon on June 30, 2016, President Duterte has made no moves to follow through with his proposal to rename the country.
Why we fact-checked this:
In utilizing the distant past in the process of nation-building, we must be aware of the contexts that inform these historical data, which can be vastly different from present-day worldviews. Public figures like presidents are high-profile opinion-makers that have a vast influence in propagating narratives–factual or otherwise–to further specific political agendas. It is thus important that we scrutinize the veracity of historical information to combat distortion and revisionism and to come to the most accurate understanding of our national history.