BY FORMER SENATOR EDDIE ILARDE
The Vedas or revealed knowledge, India’s ancient scriptures and sacred heritage given to humanity and passed from generation to generation since the dawn of time contain the Upanishads, the written record of the spiritual truths revealed by enlightened teachers and sages who have realized the transcendent Reality called God. The Taittiriya, one of the 10 principal Upanishads says that Maha is “manifested Reality which literally is the Self.”
“When bhur is fire, bhuvas air, and suvar the sun, Maha is both the sun and the moon that support the planets and celestial bodies…Maha is Brahman…Maha is food that nourishes vital forces in everyone. Chanting Maha, is to be one with the Lord. Maha is Life, Maha is God Himself.”
There are scholarly exegeses of the world Maharlika where pride and passion in its meaning may be derived by a people named after an ignoble person. Maharlika is part of our ancient heritage long before Western colonialists set foot on our shores. Asian scholars of the Yayasan Kawi Sastra Mandala Foundation attest to the findings through efforts in rectifying historical and cultural inaccuracies, that prior to the advent of colonial impositions, the Indonesian word “Merdeka” which means freedom came from the Sanskrit words “Mahardika” or “Mahardikha,” the mother word of “Maharlika.” It is of consequence to remember that Sanskrit words from India abound in our dialects long before they have been diluted with Spanish and English words.
Why Maharlika? Maharlika has been with us long before Westerners set foot on our shores. Maha is Sanskrit for noble or great as in Taj Mahal, mahal being a word of utmost endearment and affection; Mahatma (a great soul) like Gandhi, not to mention the Taittiriya Upanishad’s revelation that the word stands for the Self and God Himself. The inflectional ending of Maharlika, Likha, is our own word for “create, make, cause, design, breed, conceive.” Maharlika therefore means “nobly created,” “God’s creation,” “the Self personified,” etc. The great philosopher-philologist-spiritual guru, P.R. Sarkar said that “Maharlika means a small container (country) containing great things (people).” Writer William Ecenbarger in the June 2008 issue of the Reader’s Digest mentioned that “For nearly 500 years the Philippines has been named after King Philip II, the ruthless, power-hungry Spanish king who oversaw the colonization of the islands in the sixteenth century, sparking a long-running (and as yet unsuccessful) movement to change the name of the country to Maharlika, a pre-colonial word that denoted a warrior.” The most popular and intelligent quiz program on TV today, Jeopardy, had Maharlika as the final question in one of its episodes, and Alex Trebek, the host added that the word refers to the country’s “ancient royal, free and noble warriors.”
What is wrong with Philippines? History records that Philip was only one-fourth Spaniard, his father Charles V was Hapsburg and did not even speak a word of Spanish when he became king. Philip according to some historians was a “a monster of bigotry, ambition, lust, and cruelty.” His own official court historian described him as a man whose “smile and dagger were very close.” He was the son of first cousins. His grandmother Juana died of insanity. Today she is known in Spain as “Juana la loca.” After being sworn in as king, his policy of auto-da-fe was the burning alive of thousands of Muslims. Not long after he beheaded thousands of Protestants all over Spanish Europe, branding them heretics and agents of the devil. For looting Rome he was ex-communicated by the Pope. Philip died of what historians euphemistically described as a very communicable social disease (syphilis), an ailment that affected his mind. Before his death, thousands of insects festered his body which was covered with ulcers dripping with pus and reeking of unbearable smell. His name is better forgotten. He leaves an unpleasant memory, yet we continue to honor him by identifying ourselves as Filipinos, “descendants of Felipe.”
Astonishment and wonder were the unfavorable reactions of our peers in the Interim Batasang Pambansa when we filed Parliamentary Bill 195 on August 14, 1978, seeking to change the name Philippines to Maharlika. It was as if to say “some members have lost their marbles to even contemplate such a thing”; as if they did not know that Article XVI, Section 2 of the Constitution says that “the Congress, may by law, adopt a new name for the country…which shall be truly reflective and symbolic of the ideals, history, and traditions of the people…such law shall take effect only upon ratification by the people in a national referendum.”
Today after more than 30 years, we see encouraging developments in favor of our proposal. Opposition has started to give way to an open mind from the same people who used to sneer at the idea of renaming the country Maharlika. Recently we have been receiving in our radio program letters from Filipinos living or working broad asking if our proposal is still alive, realizing its relevance today. This country’s image in the eyes of the world today is at its worst tarnished by such epithets as “the most corrupt country in the world,” “ a nation of cheats, drug addicts and thieves,” “a country of slums and hungry children,” “the dirtiest country in the world,” and other negative exaggerations. “We are humiliated in the country we are working in with insults like “the Philippines is a country of prostitutes, maids, thieves,’ and other indignities.” The shared optimism of our listeners is that “if we become Maharlikans our national identity would surely improve and the other countries will stop insulting us as we create a new image and rebuild our reputation.”
We were branded as “Philippines or Filipinas” after King Philip II of Spain even without legal imprimatur from our forebears in 1543 and the name has stuck. We have accepted the name without question through the centuries. While great prosperity has convulsed other countries who courageously changed their names, we have remained impervious to change and have remained timid and afraid to hit the road to our final renascence. Unlike many or our neighbors who have honored their past and redeemed their true identity, this country still clings to the inglorious past.
It is time to accept and treasure with great passion and pride the truth that Maharlika is a name of great significance, a spiritual mantra, a divine name.
(Mr. Ilarde has been elected councilor in Pasay City, congressman of the first district of Rizal, senator, and assemblyman of the Interim Batasang Pambansa. He is the founding chairman of Maharlika Foundation for National Transformation, and is the founder of Golden Eagles Society International, an advocacy group for the rights of senior citizens. Aside from hosting “Kahapon Lamang” every Saturday at 1:30 pm over dzBB, he is also a gentleman farmer in his small farm in the province.)