Cebu before and after Claveria

HISTORY MATTERS - Todd Sales Lucero - The Freeman

A continuing interest and confusion of Filipinos about their surname origin is due to the fact that no one has bothered to dig deeper into the implementation of the Claveria decree. One needs to go through all the available parochial records and this is not only extremely tedious, but also frustrating because not all towns in the country have complete records. On the 174th anniversary of the enactment of Claveria’s surname decree today, let’s use Cebu Province as an example of the implementation of the law.

There was no standard practice in the Philippines in terms of surname usage prior to the Claveria decree. In many parts of Luzon, “surname” usage --that is, the use of Spanish-sounding last names attached to given names-- started to become regular sometime in the first to second quarter of the 18th century. Many indio families began to carry surnames, with most of these being passed on to their children. In the Visayas, however, the earliest pre-Claveria names found in existing records used the two-Christian names system, the prevailing practice throughout most of the Visayas.

While the decree was enacted on November 21, 1849, a follow-up by Claveria’s successor, Governor-General Blanco, found out that the decree was not being implemented and so Blanco made several orders to guarantee the decree’s implementation. This is why towns in Cebu started complying only in 1850, with some as early as January, and some as late as September. Let us look at Cebu Province and find out what the practice was before the decree and what were the first surnames that appeared in parochial records.

Many of Cebu City’s gentry already started to give their second name as a surname to their children, but this was not necessarily universal. Families used this practice to show their connection to their father, especially for legal transactions. Families like the Osmeñas whose male members had started to use “Agaton” as a surname of sorts after their patriarch, Don Severino Agaton; or the Velosos who used “del Rosario.” Only members of creole families, such as the Dutertes (yes, the family of former president Duterte) and the Cabreras, already had real and legal surnames before Claveria. In Opon, its early 18th-century parish registers suggest that indigenous second names, like Tumulak and Dimataga, were used as second names, although these were not passed on to their children. By the mid-18th century these indigenous second names disappeared and people from Opon were again using two given Spanish names. So while indigenous names from Lapu-Lapu today appeared in Opon’s old church records, families should not automatically assume there is an unbroken connection between pre- and post-Claveria usage of these native surnames. All other towns, as already mentioned, had no transferrable surnames, although a few families transmitted the father’s second name as the second name of the children, though not always consistently. The following towns have enough records to illustrate the first surnames registered in baptismal records after the implementation of the Claveria decree:

Alcoy: Janginon, Mosqueda, and Gervacio, February 2, 1850;

Argao: Alcarez, March 2, 1850;

Bantayan: Villaflor, Salbanes, Villarente, Disabayla, Zafra, and Alvares, February 4, 1850;

Boljoon: Yncierto, January 26, 1850;

Carcar: Jimeno, May 18, 1850;

Dumanjug: Carreon, April 15, 1850;

Ginatilan: Avila, June 1, 1850;

Liloan: Pacul, June 15, 1850;

Madridejos: Feriol and Escanio (now Escaño), February 18, 1850;

Malabuyoc: Del Campo, Sevilla, Delos Reyes, Patiño, Saol, and Lumba, January 12, 1850;

Naga: Manapsal, September 1, 1850;

Samboan: Dinopol, April 13, 1850;

Santa Fe: Tabuog, March 4, 1850;

Sibonga: Ger and Avila, February 9, 1850;

Tuburan: Taneo, March 2, 1850.

Unfortunately, other towns do not have available records anymore, or in some cases, like Dalaguete, records from 1849-1850 are no longer available. So for now, these towns are the only examples we can give to illustrate how soon, or late, Cebu towns implemented the Claveria surname decree.

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