‘Gen. Artemio Ricarte’s Rizaline Constitution’
By: Quennie Ann J. Palafox

       Decades ago, debates cropped up concerning the appropriateness of “Philippines” as our national name, “Filipinos” as our nationality, for the name Philippines is said to denote the slavery and colonization of a great country. Some proposed to abolish the name “Philippines” and adopt instead, a more patriotic name in order to establish what they believe to be an authentic national identity. One argument they raised was that the image of the Philippines abroad has been stained by such titles as “the most corrupt country in the world,” a “nation of domestic helpers and OFWs,” and other negative connotations. Others, such as certain regional groups have voiced their disfavor “Philippines” and “Filipinos” because of they consider these a disgrace to our country’s honor.

        In 1978, Sen. Eddie Ilarde filed Parliamentary Bill 195, seeking to change the name Philippines to Maharlika. According to Ilarde, Maharlika is our ancient heritage, long before Western colonialists set foot on our shores. Maha is Sanskrit for noble or great while Likha is our own word for create, thus, Maharlika means “nobly created”. Further, as Ilarde averred, the memory of King Philip II, after whom the Philippines was named, should give us pride since his character and deeds do not merit emulation or perpetuation. During his reign the Moors of Granada and the people of the Netherlands revolted against his misgovernment which according to some historians contributed to the decline of the Kingdom of Spain and led to its bankruptcy. Not only was he criticized for his cruelty, but also for not being a good husband and father. Ilarde’s proposal to adopt “Maharlika” was attacked of its link to President Ferdinand Marcos, as Marcos himself had in mind the same name. “Maharlika” was the name of his guerrilla unit which supposedly fought the Japanese invaders. Marcos’ claim later on was exposed as a hoax.
        In his paper “Why We Should Change the Name Philippines”, historian Celedonio O. Resurreccion wrote that changing the colonial name is a world tradition: Nueva España was changed to Mexico, Formosa to Taiwan, Malaya to Malaysia, Dutch East Indies to Indonesia, and many others. What we were transformed from a colony to commonwealth, we changed the name of our country from “Islas Filipinas”, or “Philippine Islands”, which were plural concepts, to simply “Philippines”, which was a collective concept.  Etymologically, the name “Filipinas”, or “Philippines,” which means “islands of Felipe” refers to King Philip II of Spain. The name “Filipinas” was given by a Spaniard Ruy Lopez de Villalobos. Before Rizal, no one proclaimed himself a Filipino because the Spanish addressed the natives as Indios. The name “Filipino” was exclusively reserved for pure-blooded Spaniards born in the Philippine Islands. It was the martyred Fr. Jose Burgos, mentor of Jose Rizal’s older brother Paciano, who first used the name “Filipino” during the campaign to secularize and “Filipinize” Catholic parishies. Jose Rizal however, revived the idea of the Indio as Filipino when he wrote his 1879 poem, “A la Juventud Filipina” (To the Filipino youth). 

        Other national names that suggested to replace with the name Philippines are: Solimania (after Raja Soliman), Luzvimin (first syllables of the three major islands Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao), Perlas ng Silangan (from Rizal’s “Perlas del mar del oriente”), and Rizalinas (“islands of Rizal”). Jose Rizal aficionados strongly favor the name Rizalinas for they believe that Jose Rizal is the pride of the Filipino race and epitome of Filipino nationalism. For them, it is only right to name the country after him. In fact, Bolivia, a country in South America was named after Simon Bolivar, a leader who played a key role in the Latin America’s wars of independence from Spain.
          Gen. Artemio Ricarte, known by his nom-de-guerre “Vibora” or viper and considered by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as the “Father of the Philippine Army”, drafted a charter which he called the Rizal Constitution while in exile in the Island of Lamah in Hong Kong on March 31, 1913.

           The Rizaline Constitution was an act of defiance against the American colonization of our country and a roadmap of a government attempting to eradicate foreign influence. When the forces of Aguinaldo were defeated by the Americans, Ricarte was among the revolutionary leaders who refused to take the oath of allegiance to the US government. In contrast with other revolutionists, Ricarte dreamed of freeing the Philippines from foreign invaders.

        Although Ricarte never met Rizal, Ricarte’s immense admiration and respect for this great hero inspired him to name our country “Rizaline Islands” and call its citizens “Rizalines”. Ricarte’s tribute to Rizal evokes that of the Katipunan of 1896. While Jose Rizal was not involved in the organization and activities of the Katipunan, the Katipuneros drew inspiration from him and venerated him.  Rizal’s name was used as a password by the highest-ranking members who were called bayani. 
          Vibora’s Rizaline Constitution consisted of twelve chapters. In the first chapter of the constitution our country which was named “Filipinas” by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos would, according to him, be known as the “Rizaline Islands” with the inclusion of Guam and the Marianas Islands.  It also provided that all citizens of the islands would be called “Rizaline” including foreigners who would help the Rizalines acquire absolute independence and those who were born in another country of Rizaline parents. The Rizaline Republic will also adopt as a flag the ancient and well-known emblem of three colors (red, blue and white), with a sun and three stars. Perhaps, Ricarte was referring to the flag unfurled in Kawit, Cavite whose description is similar to what Ricarte had mentioned. The Rizaline constitution also provided a supreme government composed of “Three Powers,” each of them having president and vice president. These powers were the Executive Power, Advisory Power and the Judicial Power. The Constitution also maintained that the official language of the republic would be Spanish.

         Unfortunately for Ricarte, his Constitution of the Rizaline Republic did not materialize. This charter, nevertheless, was a clear manifestation of Ricarte’s aspiration to have a free nation and perpetuate the memory of our foremost hero, Jose Rizal. The changing of our national name Philippines to a more nationalistic name continues to be a topic of debate up to this day.