The Name of the Philippines

    The Philippines has been garlanded with numerous names since ancient times; but until the Spaniards came in the 16th century, there really was no name for the archipelago as a whole, although some islands with people or outside contact had place names given them individually. The official name "Filipinas" was given to the archipelago in 1543 by the ill-starred Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, in honor of Prince Felipe (Philip) of Asturias, who later became Philip II, the greatest king of Spain. This name for the archipelago first appeared in a rare map published at Venice in 1554 by Giovanni Battista Ramusio, an Italian geographer, in the most popular collection of early travels and voyages at the time. The Spanish "Felipinas" or "Filipinas" was later Anglicized to "Philippine Islands" during the American colonial regime, and then to "Republic of the Philippines" after decolonization in 1946.

    Long before the coming of Magellan, the Philippines was already known to the early Chinese traders and geographers. Various records and archaeological artifacts antedate Sino-Philippine contacts to 3rd century A.D., and the name "Ma-yi" appears in Sung Dynasty sources in 982 A.D. Chau Ju-kua, a Chinese trade official gave a detailed account of his trip to various islands in the Philippines in 1225, which he called the country of "Ma-i." Another prehispanic Sino writer, Wang Ta-yuan n 1349 wrote of his travels to "Ma-i," "Mintolang" (Mindanao), "Malilu" (Manila), Sulu and Pishoye (Visayas). "Ma-i" is generally accepted to refer to the island of Mindoro in Luzon, because of its gold and proximity to the Chinese mainland.

    Modern authors have garlanded the Philippines with other names, including "Gems of the East", "Emerald Islands", "Treasure Islands of the Pacific", "Isles of Fears", "Isles of Hope", "Orphans of the Pacific" and "Land of the Morning."

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