Filipino Catholic bishops
have laughed off a proposal by President Rodrigo Duterte to change the name of the Philippines to "Maharlika," which reportedly means "noble." Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said the proposal was "distasteful," especially at a time when the country is preparing for the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in 2021. "The history of our country is very much connected with the arrival of Christianity in 1521," said the prelate who heads the bishops’ Episcopal Commission on Mission. Bishop Bastes said Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan
placed what is now known as the Philippines "under the crown of Christ the King" and the crown of King Philip II of Spain. The Philippines was named after Spain's King Philip II in the 16th century, when the country was a Spanish colony. Spanish explorer Ruy Lopez de Villalobos named the archipelago "Las Islas Filipinas." Bishop Bastes said it was that "historic act" that made the group of islands in the middle of the Pacific a "united nation." Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo
dismissed the proposal as "another musing of an old man that is not worth commenting about." "There are so many issues that are important to our country that [the president] should talk about and address," said the bishop. Earlier this week, Duterte announced he might change the name of the Philippines to "Maharlika," which was once proposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. "The Philippines was discovered by Magellan using the money of King Philip. It's OK. Someday we will change that," said the president. During Marcos' dictatorship, former senator Eddie Ilarde proposed changing the country’s name to "Maharlika," which supposedly refers to kings and nobles. Historians, however, said it was a mistranslation, adding that the word "maharlika" actually means a "free man."