Pinoy, What’s The Origin of Your Family Name?

Around Christmas and New Year, many Filipino families come together for their family reunions. Among the highlights of said reunions are knowing the members of the clan. Maybe, stories will be retold of origins (secret or otherwise) of the clan’s name. Pinoy, have you heard from your “lolo” or “lola” about the story of the origin of your surname?

Oftentimes, the curator of Museo Santisima Trinidad has found himself being asked if his family name (Gaerlan) was Spanish, Gaelic/Scottish, French (Guerlain), or maybe, just plain Pinoy. Interesting enough, the rise in popularity of the Azkals have raised the consciousness of Filipinos, not just about football, but also about the question of the Filipino identity rooted in family surnames (Younghusband, Hartmann, Etheridge and histories (pure breed, mixed or otherwise).

Around ten years ago, Prof. Luis Camara Dery lamented that the study of family history is a very neglected field of inquiry in the Philippines (A History of the Inarticulate, 2001, p. 1) although today there has been an increase in publications (hard copy or online) related to families tracing the roots of their family tree.  An interesting offshoot of such studies are questions related to the origin of the family’s surname based on oral or documented family histories. Some common explanations of surname naming traditions are as follows:

1. Using First Name of Parents. Luciano P.R. Santiago, in his beautiful book about the life, art, and times of Damian Domingo (http://www.vibalfoundation.org/?books=the-life-art-and-times-of-damian-domingo) described the practice where the first names (a Chinese custom), instead of the family names, were used to name offsprings across generations. As an example,  the name Damian Domingo came from the first names of his father (Domingo Macario) and his mother (Ermenegilda Gabriela). In addition, Santiago listed other examples being “…the Paternos of Santa Cruz in Manila, the De Leons of Bacolor, Pampanga and the Critobals of Lucban in Tayabas” (2010, p.10). Oddly enough, if this was used in the case of this curator, then his full name would have been Rudolfo Catalina.

Image: The Life and Times of Damian Domingo.

2. Retaining or Hispanizing the Chinese Names.

Many Filipinos trace their roots to Chinese ancestry with Chinese family names that were Hispanized as condition for converting to Christianity (or for other reasons as well). As an example, the “Familia Lacson” from Moro Iloilo trace their family name to the Chinese character representing the sixth son. In fact, the official coat of arms of the Lacson clan shows the Chinese characters for Lacson (see http://familialacson.com/index.html).

Image: Familia Lacson Coat of Arms With Chinese Characters

However, it should be noted that there are families who were able to keep their Chinese names. A very good example of the fruits of a family’s devotion to understanding their roots can be found in the Limjoco clan website (http://limjoco.net/). Family legend of the Limjoco clan traces their origin to a mighty Chinese warlord who tried to invade the Philippines.

Image: The Limjoco Clan of Batangas and Pampanga Family History Website

3. Being Born or Descended from Spanish Blood.

While commentators lament the decline, if not death of the Spanish mestizo, (see Carlos Celdran’s musings on the topic (http://celdrantours.blogspot.com/2006/07/my-writings-on-wall.html, the interest in the history of Spanish descended families in the Philippines continue to be strong especially with the publications on immigrants to the Philippines from the Basque and Galician regions of Spain (see http://curatormuseo.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/the-untold-story-of-the-catalans-in-philippine-history/). As an example, in his book, Basques in the Philippines, Marciano R. de Borja, listed some of the more famous Basque family descended names (Aboitiz, Ayala, Elizalde, Eizmendi, Loinaz, Loyzaga (yes, of the basketball fame), Larranaga, Inchusti, Garriz, Itturralde, Uriate, Ynchausti, etc.).

The town of Carcar in Cebu boasts of a very interesting and well done website that deals with family history and heritage. Examples of families descended from Spain are the following: del Corro, Fortich, Barredo, Rodriguez, (http://carcarfamilies.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/the-mestizo-espanol-families-of-carcar/).

Image: Carcar Families: A Genealogy Blog

The Leano clan traced their branch of DE LEAÑO family in San Roman, Santander, Cantabria Spain, from one JUAN ANGEL DE LEAÑO who arrived in the Philippines in 1565 and married a native of Tingguian tribe Princess Maria Bubuisan. ( see http://leanoclan.com/1801.html).

The Obias clan of San Jose, Naga, traced their roots possibly to Mexico due to the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade (http://obias.wordpress.com/2007/03/23/roots/).

4. Choosing from Claveria’s Surnames Catalog of 1849

The modern day Filipino seeking to understand his/her family roots will inevitably come across the story of how in 1849, the then Governor and Captain General Narciso Claveria y Zaldua, issued a decree and released an accompanying “Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos.” Town officials were expected to assign surnames taken from the catalog to every town in their jurisdiction. As an example, Domingo Abella, former director of the National Archives of the Philippines, described how “…in the Bikol region, the entire alpahbet is laid out like a garland over the provinces of Albay, Sorsogon, and Catanduanes. Beginning with letter A at the provincial capital, the letters B and C mark the towns along the coast beyond Tabaco to Tiwi.” We return and trace along the coast of Sorsogon the letters E to L; then starting down the Iraya Valley finish the alphabet…“(1973, vii).

a. Assigned Names.

As an example, the Serrano clan from Lobon, Albay, trace their family name to the Claveria decree (see their website at  http://amingangkan.com/2006/07/10/the-serrano-family/). Another clan from Sorsogon, the Gacias, concluded that their family name was assigned to them as per the Claveria decree (http://gaciasclan.blogspot.com/2008/12/gacias-historical-background-first-part.html). An examination of the “Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos” showed that the name Serrano is in the catalog (p.119, column 2). However, there is no Gacias in the catalog although there is a “gacia” (p. 51, column 5).

b. Chosen Name.

While the Claveria decree seem to direct the town officials to assign names from the catalogo to the towns in their control, the question remains as to the extent to which individual families were allowed to choose their own names within the “letter” assigned to their town.

Tangonan Clan. According to Loida Viray-Tangonan (http://www.tangonan.com/origin.htm), the original surname of the Tangonan’s was Ygarta, however, to escape the curse of a stain in the Ygarta name, the family chose the name Tangonan (the name tangonan is included in the Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos, p. 127, column 6). The story behind this stain in the family’s honor is quoted in full below:

“During the Spanish times, several generations past, the Ygarta family were known to be well-mannered and respected members of the community. However, they were equally known to exact retribution once they were wronged or maltreated in any way.

One day, an incident occurred that involved an ancestor of this clan who was then the “hepe” (chief of police) in Sinait, Ilocos Sur.

A rich man by the name of Don Manuel met up with the said Ygarta gentleman in a local cantina (canteen). Don Manuel started berating and belittling him. The Ygarta gentleman remained unperturbed and did not rise to the bait, but Don Manuel kept on with his tirade.

Finally, when the Ygarta gentleman could not take it any longer, he stood up, aimed his gun at Don Manuel and ordered him to kneel down and pray. With that, he shot Don Manuel in the head killing him instantly.”

Thus, to prevent future generations from the curse of this Ygarta gentleman, the family chose the name Tangonan.

Gaerlan Clan.

According to Sabas Gaerlan, in his Ilocano memoir “Casuratan Ti biagco, Sinurat ni Don Sabas Gaerlan” translated in English by Jane G. Guerrero and published in 2009 (see http://curatormuseo.wordpress.com/2011/12/24/bibliographic-history-of-sabas-gaerlans-diary-born-dec-5-1854-tagudin-ilocos-sur/), the origins of the Gaerlan name can be traced back to the Claveria decree.

“At that time (during the Spanish Occupation) an order was issued by the highest authority of the Philippines to the effect that families bearing similar surnames have to cease using them and to change these surnames accordingly. Because of this order, the San Juan and Tagudin families agreed to adapt the surname Gaerlan” (2009, p.133).

A check of the catalogo confirms that “gaerlan” was included in the list of surnames (p.51. column 6). However, Sabas Gaerlan did not mention how the San Juan and Tagudin families chose “gaerlan” among the more than 4,867 choices under the letter “g” (pp.51-62). Interestingly, Sabas Gaerlan mentioned that some of the ‘Gaerlan” families chose to retain the pre-Claveria clan name of Gavino and Gavina instead of changing their surnames to Gaerlan. Similarly, the Cacanindin from Aringay, La Union, claim that the family kept the same surname even after the Claveria decree (the earliest birth certificate record, that of Antonio Cacanindin, goes back to 1834, http://www.cacanindin.com/2011/01/erese-cacanindin-clan-photo-circa-1960s.html). Note that “cacanindin” is listed in the catalogo (p.23, 6)

Image: gaerlan listed in “Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos.”

5. Retaining Pre-Claveria Names of Pre-colonial Ruling Native Families.

According to Prof. Luis Camara Dery, surnames like “Lakandula, Soliman, Punslang, Makapagal, Gatdula, Gatpolintan, Gatbonton, Gatbondok, Gatmaytan, Sunga, Salonga, Dumandan, Talampas, Yambao, Nuguid, Pagoyo, etc.,..” descended from these pre-colonial ruling families (Iisang-Dugo: Kinship and the Origin of the Filipino People, pp. 1-20 in A History of the Inarticulate, 2001, New Day Publishers).

Some Additional Random Thoughts.

This curator completed his secondary studies at Cainta, Rizal where some his classmates were descendants of the Sepoys who remained in the Philippines after the withdrawal of the British from the Philippines. In would be interesting to find out how the present descendants of these Indian Sepoys carried the names of their ancestors.

Reference:

National Archives of the Philippines (1973). Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos.

Recommended Blog on Geneology:

Origin of Hispanic Surnames (http://surname-villavicencio.blogspot.com/)

Remembrance of Things Awry. One of the better blogs on family history written in a very warm and personal stlye. http://remembranceofthingsawry.wordpress.com/

Fajardo-Jacinto Genealogy (http://fajardojacinto.flying-v-gas.com/index.htm)

Family Search (https://www.familysearch.org/). This curator prefers using the newer search engine of Family Search. Clicking on the Asia and Middle East option will show the available records for the Philippines including around 6,197,955 online images of births, marriages, and deaths for the City of Manila (1899-1994).

~ by Martin Gaerlan on December 29, 2011.

79 Responses to “Pinoy, What’s The Origin of Your Family Name?”

  1. Saan po makikita ang Catálogo alfabético de apellidos?

    • Mickho,

      The book is no longer available for sale. However, I have a copy. What specific family name/s are you looking for?

      Mr. Gaerlan

      ________________________________

  2. can you find covarrubias, abejuela, miramontes for me? thanks.

  3. How about ENRIQUE?

  4. ABEJUELA IS LISTED.

  5. hello po this is a very interesting post. is the family names Rosario and Madrid included in the decree?? thank you!

  6. Madrid is included (page 80). Rosario is included but note that the complete phrase is “rosario (a) salinas (page 113).

  7. can you give me a copy of the book? the spanish influence will be my topic for my lesson, and i want to tackle that topic. thank you.

  8. [...]  Among the top ten blogs for 2012 included “Pinoy, What’s The Origin of Your Name (http://curatormuseo.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/pinoy-whats-the-origin-of-your-family-name/) ranked second reflecting a growing interest among Filipinos in terms of their ancestry. American [...]

  9. How about ‘Fonollera’?

    • There is no Fonollera in the catalogo. The closest is a “Fonolle?as” where the third letter to the last is unreadable. If it was an “r” then it would have read as a Fonolleras.

  10. Nice post. I’ve been trying to find a copy of the book too.
    Can you check if there is a Pelletero/Pellitero on the list?
    Thanks.

  11. Maglente and Mangubat po na apilyido po nan dyan po ba sa catalogo? Tnx po

  12. Hello

    Can you please check if there’s a Reclusado/Recolizado, Temporal and Moldez?

    Thank you very much :)

  13. Can you please check for the last name Licarte? I am having a hard time finding its origin. Thank you!

    • There is a possible “Licarte” in page 75, column two. Possible because the text is not too clear. The name that follows after this “licarte” is “licartin.” Hope this helps

      • Do you mind posting a picture of page 75 so I can try to see if the name “Licarte” is there?

  14. Hi Martin – Could you please check if Aucena is in the book

  15. Jon, there is no Aucena. the closest is “ausencia” on page 9, column 5.

  16. Can you check the orgin of liga, palmeres, fernandez and barrientos? Thanks

    • No Barrientos but there is “Barrietos” (p.15 column 1). there is a LIGA, page 75, column 4. There is no Fernandez. There is no Palmeras. The closet is a Palmero.

  17. Is Ricamora as surname of chinese descent?

  18. Hello. We have this paper for school that requires us to find the history of our family name. I’ve been looking for help until I have found this. May I know if the surname Cabalo and Emvile are listed in the Catalogo? Thanks.

  19. Sorry, both Cabalo and Emvile are NOT listed in the catalogo.

  20. Ricamora is listed in the catalogo, page 110, column 6.

  21. How about Brillantes, Lopez, Collado and Albayalde? Thanks.

  22. Is Arzaga in the book?. My ancestor Florencio Arzaga married Maria Ballesteros, and lived in Dingras, Ilocos Norte through at least the 1920s. In a photo from 1921, he appears to be about 70.

  23. I’ve been looking for a copy (even if institutional) of this book for years, but the nearest one is in a library 500 miles away. Could you tell me if the names Moya and Cariaga (with one or two rs) are listed?

    If a name is *not* listed, was the arbitrary assignment of Spanish surnames common practice outside of the Claveria’s decree?

    If a name is known to be assigned via the decree, do records typically exist of the first family to assume that name and, if so, is it possible to trace a line much farther back in time than 1849?

    Thanks.

  24. Hello Sir,

    May I know if the any or all of the “Dae…” surnames are in the catalogue:

    Daen, Dael, Daet, Daep, Daeo…

    Thanks!

  25. Hello sir what about camero and danganan po is it included on the list. Maraming salamat po

    • camero seems to be included (the last letter is not the legible in the copy of the book that I have (p.26 column 4). Danganan is not listed although the closed name is danga (p. 36 column 6).

  26. hi sir,i just want to know if their is ferolino surnames listed in the book?

  27. Yes, Ferolino is found, page 49, column 2.

  28. Is there Borromeo, Castro, nery or Neri in the list? Thanks

  29. thanks a lot sir,,,

  30. Borromeo is on the list, page 20, column 3. and Castro, page 29 column 4. Neri is on page 91 column 1.

  31. Our relatives use cabajar and Kabahar as family names. I wonder which one came first or is either one listed in the book.

  32. Is the last name “Llanes” listed in the catalog?

  33. Hello Sir,
    Can you please check if SUPSUP and CACDAC are listed in the catalogue. Thanks

  34. Llanes is listed, page 79, column 2
    Casdac listed, page 23, column 6
    Supsup is not listed.
    Cabajar is listed, page 22, column 6
    Cambalisa is listed, page 26, column 4

  35. Sir, is the last name “Vecina” listed in the catalogo? Thanks!

  36. Is Amadeo included in the list of surnames?

  37. My surname is Eusebio. We’re from Los Banos, Laguna. Was the surname just freely assigned by Claveria to various provinces in such a way that the Eusebio’s of Los Banos and Bulacan are not necessarily related?

    • The actual implementation varies depending on local government officials. Bicol is famous as the government decided what letters will be assigned to specific places. However, it is possible that families from other provinces could have been assigned (or chosen) similar names. Best approach is to conduct proper ancestral tracing via birth/death certificates, etc.

  38. Hi! Is Faeldon found in the list? Thanks a million!

  39. how about borja family…?

  40. Faeldon is not listed.

  41. Borja is listed. page 20 column 3

  42. My ancestors original family name from Narvacan Ilocos Sur was Dy and they changed it later to Zulueta. Does zulueta is included on the list? And how about Hagad?

  43. Hi! Can you please check if Genove is included in the list?thanks

  44. I’m so glad to find this site and that you are offering to let us know if our family names are in this (very hard to find) book. I really appreciate it.

    My family’s last names are as follows:

    father side:
    Lucero, Ragunton

    mother’s side (the various spellings are due to discrepancies in church records I could find):
    Quesada/Quezada/Quisada, Solomon,
    Botín/Batin

    I know it’s a lot, but if you don’t mind letting me know if these surnames are in the catálogo and where they are in the book.

    Thanks so much!!!

  45. Dear Sir,

    My surname is Eusebio, from Los Banos, Laguna. The oldest baptismal record I found of my ancestors is that of Monico Eusebio, dated April 1, 1831. How come we already had that Spanish surname even before the 1848 Claveria decree hispanizing Filipino names? Also I have a copy of the Catalogo of Claveria, but the surname Eusebio is not listed. Why so? Thanks in advance for your reply!

    Eric

    • Well, there are really some catalogo names which were already existing even before the publication in 1848.

  46. Follow-up. The parents of Monico Eusebio (1831) are identified in the baptismal record of Los Banos, Laguna as Don Thomas Eusebio and Dona Juana Bulactala. They must have been born around 1810 or even earlier. From an article by Prof. Luis Dery that I read, the Bulactala’s are descendants of Rajah Matanda of Manila. In fact, the daughter daw of Rajah Matanda was Dona Maria Bulactala. Also Rajah Lakandula’s great great granddaughter was named Dona Luisa Mandig Bulactala. Bulactala is the corrupted form of the phrase “bulaclac ng tala” which literally means “beauty of the dawn”.

  47. Hi Martin,

    I have been doing research on the Cadelina (n is “enye” but I could not type it in my laptop) Family of Bacarra, Ilocos Norte and the migration of many descendants to the fertile valley of Isabela. I have listed around 1,500 names in the website http://www.cadelinafamily.tribalpages.com. Imagine my surprise when I realized that in the late 1800s there were also big clans with the same surname in Lucban, Quezon and in Jagna, Bohol. I was trying to find a connection, a common ancestry but I realized after reading your post that the more plausible explanation is that separate clans chose the same surname in response to the decree by the Spanish General. I The same pattern appeared for the Visaya family (my dad’s mother side). Same surnames for people separated by great distances. If you have a copy of the Catalogo Apellidos, are both surnames listed?

  48. Yes, Cadelina is listed, page 24, column 1. just let me know if you need anything else. good luck on your research

  49. Thanks a lot, Is the surname Visaya also listed?

  50. As what I heard from my grandfather our surname was change to Apa during ww2 when the japanese colonise the island of mactan cebu they don’t gave them their real surname that’s why you can heard a lot of funny surnames here in mactan is it possible?

  51. Hi sir! Can you please check if Blanco, Antonio, Lanuza, Diaz, Almires, Medel, Hernandez, De Los Reyes is included in the list? thanks

  52. hi sir. kindly check if Varela, Dollano, Carbacillas & Porras were included. thank you so much.

  53. hi, can you check the following surnames: alitin (aletin), bunao, & duque? i believe they are from baguio, pangasinan or tarlac area. thank you.

  54. Hello, is Enriquez or Liquido included in the list? Thank you!

  55. hello po. i am from iloilo and my family name is mallorca. meron pa ba sa list nyo sir. ngaun po meron na rn ako. peregrino po family name. pwede po bang ma chek na rn. thank you po sir.

  56. hello po. i am from iloilo and my family name is mallorca. meron pa ba sa list nyo sir. ngaun po married na rn ako. peregrino po family name. pwede po bang ma chek na rn. thank you po sir.

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