Geographic Acronyms in the Philippines

As people, we have inherent propensities toward abbreviating terms or names whenever it suits us, and we often create new words in the process. Toponyms are no different. When it comes to place names, acronyms are all around us. Whether they are used to name neighbourhoods, cities, regions, geopolitical associations, or even an entire country, portmanteaus and initialisms are quite commonplace. Acronyms are seen as neutral ways to represent multiple geographic areas or cultural terms in a single word. The Philippines have certainly taken the use of acronyms to heart, with some rather wacky linguistic results.

The acronyms begin at a rather high level: three of the country’s 17 administrative regions. Two of the regions are the result of the splitting of the former Southern Tagalog region in 2002, the largest and most populous in the country at the time. The two new entities required names, and the names had to represent all of the various provinces in each region. The region taking up the portion of Southern Tagalog based on the island of Luzon was named CALABARZON, after its five provinces (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon). It must be said that CALABARZON does have a Tagalog-style appearance to its name. The other region formed from Souther Tagalog takes a more Spanish approach to its pronunciation: MIMAROPA (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan). The winner for most needlessly complicated acronym must be SOCCSKSARGEN (SOCK-sar-jen), the region taking in most of southwestern Mindanao. SOCCSKSARGEN is formed from the initials of four provinces (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani) plus the major city of General Santos.

Ph_regions_and_provinces
Regions of the Philippines. Source: E.A. Villar, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ph_regions_and_provinces.png.Used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation Licence, Version 1.2.

Acronyms are popular at other levels as well, such as the districts of Metro Manila. Does ‘Northwestern Metro Manila’ sound too mundane? Then perhaps you’d prefer CAMANAVA, the name given to Metro Manila’s third district comprising the cities of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela (the poorest and most flood-prone portion of the metropolis). If that part of Metro Manila doesn’t suit you, you can always move to MUNTIPARLAS (Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Las Piñas) in the south or MUNTAPAT (Muntinlupa, Taguig, Pateros) in the southeast. Would you rather live in Metro Baguio, or would BLISTT (Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, Tublay) be a better marketing name for a growing metropolitan area? And while Igacos may be a handy abbreviation for ‘Island Garden City of Samal’, there’s something to be said for the rather evocative official name of the city.

One of the more popular Filipino names for girls in recent years has been Luzviminda. While that may sound vaguely Spanish, it isn’t. It’s an acronym for Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao, the three major geographic divisions of the Philippines. Unconventional names like Luzviminda are a regular occurrence in the country due to the historical Spanish limitations of surnames that occurred in the 19th century, leaving many people with the same surnames. Giving children unique first names like Luzviminda is seen as a way to help make differentiation between people easier both personally and legally (contrast that with another recent acronymic personal name, MelorMarx, Engels, Lenin, Oktyabrskaya Revolutsiya – , created in the Soviet Union by parents eager to reject traditional Christian names).

Further Reading

See, D.A. (2010). Domogan says BLIST will solve Baguio’s problems. Northern Philippine Times, 26 April 2010. Available at http://northphiltimes.blogspot.com/2010/04/domogan-says-blist-will-solve-baguios.html. Accessed 1 January 2011.

Toms, S. (2006). The Philippine name game. BBC News, 14 January 2006. Available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/4609892.stm. Accessed 31 December 2010.

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  • Don't forget the name of the incumbent Philippine Vice President – Jejomar Binay. (Jesus, Joseph, Mary)

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