Why is Filipino Spelled with an ‘F’ When the Philippines is Spelled with a ‘Ph’?

Why is Filipino Spelled with an ‘F’ When the Philippines is Spelled with a ‘Ph’?
Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash


In 2015, Steve Harvey became entangled in a double whammy: Apart from announcing the wrong winner in that year’s Miss Universe pageant, he also mistakenly addressed our delegate as “Miss Philippians,” pushing him further to the center of Internet ridicule.

But for anyone who ever worked in a call center and took calls from irate Americans, this is anything but unusual. In reality, some people from all over the world who are clueless about world geography assume Philippines is the land of the Philippians. 

After all, Italians live in Italy and Australians are the people of Australia. So why can’t we call them Philippians or Philippinos?  The Philippines as we know it was nonexistent in the pre-colonial era.

Our ancestors had no sense of nationhood yet. Instead, they were divided into different chiefdoms, each of which had its own leaders and laws.

Ferdinand Magellan |
Ferdinand Magellan |


Everything changed when the Spanish colonizers arrived. Ferdinand Magellan was the first one to lay claim to the islands, which he referred to as “San Lazaro,” before dying at the hands of Lapu-Lapu’s fierce warriors.
Many years later, Miguel López de Legazpi finally succeeded in putting the islands under the Spanish crown, christening it Las Islas Filipinas, after their King Felipe II.

Since Philip is the English counterpart of Felipe, several names for the country appeared in various sources from the 16th and 17th centuries. Among these are Philipinas, Philippinas and Piliphinas.

When control over the colony shifted from Spain to the U.S. in the late 19th century, the country was officially called the Philippine Islands. Sometime during the post-war era, they finally got rid of the “Islands,” which then gave birth to the Philippines, a name that remains unchanged.

However, the US  couldn’t come up with a name to call the inhabitants of their new colony, now called the Philippine Islands. For some reason, they found “Philippian” or “Philippinian” unsuitable, so they ended up adopting the Spanish-era term Filipino. 

The 1973 Constitution paved the way for the adoption of “Filipino” as the national language. In contrast with its predecessor, this language would now include foreign-sounding letters, such as “F,” as well as loanwords.

The change was formally applied through the 1987 Constitution. From the “abakada” alphabet, they now have the enriched version which includes “foreign” letters (i.e. not part of the original baybayin) like x, z, c, f, v and j among others.




Akhyari Hananto

I began my career in the banking industry in 1997, and stayed approx 6 years in it. This industry boost his knowledge about the economic condition in Indonesia, both macro and micro, and how to More understand it. My banking career continued in Yogyakarta when I joined in a program funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB),as the coordinator for a program aimed to help improve the quality of learning and teaching process in private universities in Yogyakarta. When the earthquake stroke Yogyakarta, I chose to join an international NGO working in the area of ?disaster response and management, which allows me to help rebuild the city, as well as other disaster-stricken area in Indonesia. I went on to become the coordinator for emergency response in the Asia Pacific region. Then I was assigned for 1 year in Cambodia, as a country coordinator mostly to deliver developmental programs (water and sanitation, education, livelihood). In 2009, he continued his career as a protocol and HR officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Surabaya, and two years later I joined the Political and Economic Section until now, where i have to deal with extensive range of people and government officials, as well as private and government institution troughout eastern Indonesia. I am the founder and Editor-in-Chief in Good News From Indonesia (GNFI), a growing and influential social media movement, and was selected as one of The Most Influential Netizen 2011 by The Marketeers magazine. I also wrote a book on "Fundamentals of Disaster Management in 2007"?, "Good News From Indonesia : Beragam Prestasi Anak Bangsa di dunia"? which was luanched in August 2013, and "Indonesia Bersyukur"? which is launched in Sept 2013. In 2014, 3 books were released in which i was one of the writer; "Indonesia Pelangi Dunia"?, "Indonesia The Untold Stories"? and "Growing! Meretas Jalan Kejayaan" I give lectures to students in lectures nationwide, sharing on full range of issues, from economy, to diplomacy Less
View all posts

Thank you for reading until here