From last name to last day: the Claveria administration

Narciso Claveria
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
First off, who is Claveria? Narciso Claveria y Zaldua, 1st Count of Manila, was the 71st governor general of the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period. He was born on May 2, 1795 in Gerona, Catalonia to Antonio Maria Claveria y Portu and Maria Jesus Zaldua y Murrieta. His father was a colonel who died during the Wars of Independence in South America. Meanwhile, his own military career began in 1813. At 18 years of age, he was assigned in Andalusia, but only saw action during the closing stages of the Peninsular War (at the siege of Pamplona during the same year). Later on, he served in the division led by General Luis Fernandez de Cordova during the First Carlist War. In 1839, he was promoted to brigadier general. However, due to his rivalry with Baldomero Espartero, Prince of Vergara, he was exiled to France two years later. In 1843, he returned to Spain. Then, he was assigned by Queen Isabel II to the Philippines on July 16, 1844. While Spanish governors in the Philippines served 33 months (2.8 years) on average, Claveria was able to keep office for more than five years. Meanwhile, the longest serving governor was Rafael Maria de Aguilar (12 years).

Even by 1888, this map from a German encyclopedia
shows that the Philippines is one day behind,
causing a big bulge in the International Date Line
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
With this brief background on the person laid down, the article turns to the discussion of his administration. One of his first acts as governor was reforming the calendar. Before the voyage of the Buen Consejo in 1765 and the conclusion of the galleon trade in 1815, the Spanish had to go the long way through South America and the Pacific Ocean in order to reach the Philippines. However, the Spanish keeps bad time because they fail to add one day to their calendars after crossing the International Date Line (an imaginary line at 180° longitude). This made the Philippines one day behind most Asian nations since it kept dates based on the Spanish calendar. To correct this discrepancy, Claveria made a decree to skip December 31, the last day of 1844. That is, after December 30, 1844 (Monday) would be January 1, 1845 (Wednesday). This is perhaps the first major effort to correct the timekeeping error caused by crossing the Date Line. In Jules Verne's novel Around the World in Eighty Days (published 1873), the main protagonist Phileas Fogg failed to note that by crossing the Date Line from the west (he went around the world going east, in contrast to Ferdinand Magellan's journey going west) he had an extra day to spare and win his wager to travel the world within 80 days. Evidently, the existence of the Date Line is not common knowledge even during the 19th century.

Spanish bombardment of Balanguingui in Sulu
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Owing to his military background, the introduction of steam-powered ships such as Elcano, Magallanes, and Reina de Castilla in the Philippines helped Claveria in his campaigns in Mindanao. In 1845, the Governor of Zamboanga and the Sultan of Basilan (a vassal of the Sultan of Sulu) signed a treaty wherein the latter recognized the sovereignty of Spain. In the same year, another treaty was signed with the Sultan of Maguindanao, who had friendly relations with the Spanish since 1837. This allowed the Spanish to expand influence inland. Finally, in 1848, an expedition of 600 soldiers were sent to Sulu, with Claveria himself taking command. Despite being inferior in number (the enemy numbered at least 1,000), the Spanish prevailed and managed to free more than 200 captives. The Spanish victory also disrupted Dutch operations in the area. Due to his successful campaigns against the Moros, he was awarded the Cross of San Fernando and was given the title Count of Manila.

Nevertheless, Claveria was best known for his decree on November 21, 1849, which caused the creation of the Catalogo alfabetico de apellidos (Alphabetical catalog of surnames). A governor for more than five years, he had ample time to travel the archipelago more than most of his predecessors. In his decree, Claveria stated the following observations:
During my visit to the majority of the provinces of these islands, I observed that the natives in general lack individual surnames, which distinguished them by families. They arbitrarily adopt the names of saints and this practice has resulted in the existence of thousands of individuals having the same surname. Likewise, I saw the resultant confusion with regard to the administration of justice, government, finance, and public order, and the far-reaching moral, civil and religious consequences to which this might lead, because the family names are not transmitted from the parents to their children, so that it is sometimes impossible to prove the degrees of consanguinity for purpose of marriage, rendering useless the parochial books which in Catholic countries are used for all kinds of transactions.

For this purpose, a catalog of family names has been compiled, including the indigenous names collected by the Reverend Fathers Provincial of the religious orders, and the Spanish surnames they have been able to acquire, along with those furnished by the vegetable and mineral kingdoms, geography, arts, etc. In view of the extreme usefulness and practicality of this measure, the time has come to issue a directive for the formation of a civil register, which may not only fulfill and ensure the said objectives, but may also serve as the basis for the statistics of the country, guarantee the collection of taxes, the regular performance of personal services, and the receipt of payment for exemptions. It likewise provides exact information of the movement of the population; thus avoiding unauthorized migrations, hiding taxpayers, and other abuses.
Facsimile of the Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos
The decree had 24 provisions, mainly concerned on providing last names to all inhabitants of the Philippines. The catalog of last names were already compiled prior to the decree. Meanwhile, the register was expected to be finished by June of 1850. The register must already reflect the surnames given to those who do not initially have them, and the surnames of those who were allowed to keep theirs (Spanish, Chinese, or indigenous in origin). Of course, there are surnames which are better described as European than Spanish, mainly due to the surname origins. For instance, Raposas was listed in the catalog, but it is of Portuguese, not Spanish, provenance. As witnessed by the short introduction of Claveria's family, it is evident that Spain had an organized system of surnames, which the Philippines did not possess even after 280 years of Spanish colonial rule. There is little problem to those who were allowed to keep their surnames, but the issues begin with those who do not have surnames in the first place. Since the catalog contained all existing surnames in the Philippines at the time (mainly gathered from parish records), it was possible to have the same surname despite lacking actual family relations. Besides, the catalog would only contain last names, not the history behind them. This is despite the provision in the decree which states:
Families who can prove that they have kept for four generations their surname, even though it may be the name of a saint, but not those like de la Cruz, de los Santos, and some others which are so numerous that they would continue producing confusion, may pass them on to their descendants; the Reverend Fathers and the heads of provinces are advised to use their judgement in the implementation of this article.
Even parish records, the major source of the catalog, are limited and vulnerable to inaccuracies. There are also instances that towns ripped off a single section or page of the catalog and made the people choose within that roster. For example, the municipality of Oas, Albay and Sibuyan Island, Romblon had a number of surnames beginning with R. That is why there may be claims in both locations the origin of the surname Rizal, among others. Rizal was actually a surname chosen by the family of the national hero in the catalog, because his great grandfather (father's side) was Chinese (Domingo Lam-co). As for Claveria, he was succeeded as governor general by Antonio Maria Blanco on December 26, 1849, one day after Christmas. He died in Spain on June 26, 1851. Still, it is perhaps the decree of providing surnames which gave Claveria his lasting legacy. One who would try to trace his or her family tree would be likely to stumble upon the Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos.

See the references by clicking here.
Access the list of Filipino surnames here.
Access the list of Chinese surnames here.

From last name to last day: the Claveria administration From last name to last day: the Claveria administration Reviewed by Al Raposas on Wednesday, December 21, 2016 Rating: 5

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