Saturday, September 8, 2012

Claveria's Decree and Some Thoughts on Surnames of Nobility

I remember reading in Stephen Birmingham's America's Secret Aristocracy that Jackie Kennedy Onassis's grandfather released a genealogy of the Bouvier family which traced the family to various aristocratic and royal dynasties in France. Many of the Bouviers grew up believing that in their veins flowed the bluest of blood, only later to discover that Grandpa Bouvier's family history was based on pure imagination and wishful thinking.

This is the stuff that many undocumented genealogies start with. Many family histories always begin with "according to this family member and that family member..." and many members of families with purely oral histories grow up believing these tales. I have nothing against oral histories; in fact, in a previous post, I extolled the value of oral traditions and how they make documented genealogies more personal and complete. However, with the advent of modern technology and social networking sites I always am skeptical of some Filipino families' genealogies when they write about this and that history without the slightest documentation.

A portion of the original Claveria decree of 1849
While skimming through my copy of the Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos I noticed some surnames which should not have been there to begin with. As seen in the photo above, section 8 clearly stipulated that the surnames Lacandola, Mojica, Tupas, and Raja Matanda should not be adopted as these names were held by families with certain privileges from the Spanish crown. 

This provision in the Renovacion has been the cornerstone of the belief of many "aristocratic" families in the Philippines that their families are descended from the early native nobility of the Philippines. Added to these are the last names of Macapagal, Salonga, Magat, Salamat, Magat Salamat, Dula, Gatdula, Gatchalien (or the present Gatchalian), Gatbonton, Gatpandan, Gatmaitan, Gatbanao, and so on. Indeed, it is the belief of many that these names or portions of these names in modern Filipino surnames are true indication of descent from ancient Filipino blue-bloods. The names Macapagal, Salonga, Magat Salamat (and their variables), Gatdula, and Dula (and its variables) were the last names carried by descendants of Lakandula (or Lacandola). Surnames such as Gatmaitan, anything with the prefix "Gat", was believed as a sign of descent from ancient nobility as this was a title borne by ancient Filipino nobility, which meant "prince" or "great lord". 

Unfortunately, carrying any one of these names isn't an immediate proof of being a descendant of Filipino nobility. For one thing, though clearly specified by Claveria that these names were not to be adopted, the surnames mentioned above can be found in the Catalogo Alfabetico de Apellidos. 

The surnames Lacandola, Mojica, and Tupas are found on pages 71, 87, and 132 of the Catalogo, respectively, while the others were:  Macapagal (page 79), Magat (page 80), Salamat and Salonga (page 115), Dula (page 41), and the "Gat" names all found in page 54 of the Catalogo. 

As such, having Dula or Gatdula or Macapagal as a last name does not mean these people's ancestors did not simply pluck these names from the Catalogo. Mere stories of descent cannot prove validity of the claim. Even former President Macapagal and his daughter's claim to be from the line of Lakandula is still to be verified. Because these surnames were included in the list, the only way for the bearer of these names to prove descent from these noble houses is to check the records from the National Archives which enumerate the descendants of Lakandula. Another great source are the church records, especially from Pampanga, as many of the records there have been preserved.

Of course, there is simply nothing wrong with people believing the things their elders had told them. In this day and age, who cares if your ancestor was a prince or pauper? However, in the context of making Filipino genealogy more professional, a semblance of validation is needed so that future genealogical works will be taken seriously.

Comments are very welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Sir Todd.

    May I ask po if the surname Tomelden was included in the Catalogos? Also, if it was derived from precolonial Filipinos.