Why Filipino People Have Spanish Surnames

As husband of a Filipina I have regular social interactions with Filipinos and I know plenty of De La Cruz, Ramos, De Ramos, Lopez, Lachica and many other Filipino people who have Spanish surnames

I also have Pinoy friends who have non Spanish-sounding surnames like Binaban, Macaraig, Macaraeg.

My wife’s surname is Eco and this particular surname is actually common in Italy and Umberto Eco is one of the most famous Italian writers and best-selling authors.

I also know many whose surname is Tolentino, which could also be Italian and, actually, here in Italy we have the town of Tolentino and Nicola da Tolentino is viewed as a saint by the Catholic church.

While a lot of Filipino people have Spanish surnames, their first names are often English sounding like Jennifer De La Cruz or Liberty De Ramos or something like that.

Some first names are Spanish-sounding like Corazon (like a former Filipino president), Raul or Restituto, Juan, Caridad etc.

There are also Chinese sounding surnames like my friend June Chua and, actually, this first name June (or even June June) is not a real name as it stands for “junior”.

But why do Filipino people have Spanish surnames, or, at least, many of them (apart from the Binaban, Macaraeg etc.)?

The Culture Shock Philippines book by Alfredo and Grace Roces says that the fact that Filipinos have Spanish surnames does not indicate Spanish ancestry.

Filipino Catholics started acquiring Spanish surnames like De La Cruz, Santos etc. but, apparently, that created a lot of confusion because there were so many De La Cruz, Cruz, Santos etc that it was difficult to distinguish people.

A decree was later issued in 1849 by govenor Narciso Clavera and Spanish surnames were given by decree.

Here in Rome, Italy, when I walk down any street I look at the intercoms of the various apartment buildings and I try to figure out if the many Spanish-sounding surnames belong to Latin American people (we have a lot of them in Rome) or Filipinos but, by simply looking at the intercom it is tricky to tell, unless they are sharing the apartment with someone with a non-Spanish surname like Binaban.

Close to my house I have seen an intercom with three surnames, two of which are Spanish-sounding while the third is Causapin. I rang the bell and asked “pwede ba kitang kausapin?”………….

On another occasion I rang a bell where there was a Spanish-sounding surname and I asked “Pilipino ba kayo?” and he replied “hindi”!!?!!!????

Well, these are the funny and interesting things about Pinoy surnames.

Filipinos have no Spanish ancestry or blood but their blood has some similarities with Spanish blood, in the sense that Spanish blood is caliente or hot and Filipinos are caliente (mainit) ang ulo….

4 thoughts on “Why Filipino People Have Spanish Surnames

  1. My great lolo is spanish… he was a teacher. That is what i found out when we started talking with old aunts. My father’s side have always looked mestiza and mestizo. My mother’s side are descendants of aeta… haha.. at least that is what my father like to joke

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I heard that the reason why there are many Filipinos with the surname of Cruz is that during time the decree was given for Filipinos to choose a Spanish name, many of them cannot read nor write, so they just put an “”X” mark on the paper. It looks like a cross mark so they were named Cruz. True or not, it’s sounds like a good story.

    Liked by 1 person

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