Two nations have changed their names recently: Macedonia to North Macedonia and Swaziland to Eswatini.
North Macedonia, a former republic of the now defunct Yugoslavia, had used the name Macedonia since its independence but met resistance from neighboring Greece, which feared that it would gradually lose its Macedonian Region to the namesake newly-independent state. Greece and the then Macedonia came up with a solution—Macedonia should change its name to North Macedonia to differentiate itself from the Greek Macedonia. All’s well that ends well.
The small Kingdom of Swaziland, which has long complained of being confused with the more famous Switzerland, has changed its name to Eswatini, which means “a place of the Swazi People.” The Swazis had felt uneasy that the name of their country was a bad mix of the native language and English.
Eswatini is the latest African country to revert to its precolonial name. It has been the trend in Africa to let go the vestiges of colonial past by either using the old name of the country long before European powers came to conquer much of the continent or naming the country in its native tongue. Rhodesia has become Zimbabwe. Gold Coast has become Ghana.
This week, the long moot proposal to rename the Philippines is talk of the town again and our country could soon take the footsteps of North Macedonia and Eswatini if the proposal of President Duterte to change the name of the country to Maharlika would be taken seriously.
Of course, we have learned to take the President words not just with a grain of salt but a big chunk of it. Nevertheless, the proposal, which is actually Marcosian, is valid. To think that a number of nations have done it legitimately and with just enough reason to justify messing with History.
I can live with the fact that my country is named after a foreign king whose legacy is blurry. (King Philip II is widely recognized as an above par monarch who prevented the collapse of the Spanish Empire with his intelligent and decisive policies but he was also known as the devout Catholic King who did not lift a finger when the Inquisition turned bloody.)After all, America, arguably the world’s lone superpower, is named after an almost obscure Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci. But America, although it does not have its old influence in today’s balance of power, is great with it.
There’s wisdom however in seeking to rename our country if only to prove that we are way beyond our colonial past, that we have risen from being vassals of a defunct empire and have claimed our rightful place in the community of nations.
We are no longer the islands of a crown prince after all. We are a middle power.
However, if we are to change our name and consequently our identity as a nation, the new name should be the result of a thorough research and deliberation, and should not be the product of one man’s caprice or devotion to a long dead dictator. We should come up with a name that better reflects the ideals of our race that is not unilaterally insisted by anyone.
Or we must be ashamed before the people of Burkina Faso, who despite being in a more desperate and dire situation, have come up with the brilliant idea to rename their country as the “Land of Incorruptible People.”