Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the Philippines under the Spanish. Filipinos were instructed by the decree of November 21, 1849 to take on permanent Hispanic surnames. The author of the decree was Governor (and Lieutenant General) Narciso Claveria y Zaldua, a meticulous administrator as determined to rationalize names as he had been determined to rationalize existing law, provincial boundaries, and the calendar." He had observed, as his decree states, that Filipinos generally lacked individual surnames, which might "distinguish them by families," and that their practice of adopting baptismal names drawn from a small group of saints' names resulted in great " confusion." The remedy was the catalogo, a compendium not only of personal names but also of nouns and adjectives drawn from flora, fauna, minerals, geography, and the arts and intended to be used by the authorities in assigning permanent, inherited surnames. Each local official was to be given a supply of surnames sufficient for his jurisdiction, "taking care that the distribution be made by letters [of the alphabet]." In practice, each town was given a number of pages from the alphabetized catalogo, producing whole towns with surnames beginning with the same
Each local official was to be given a supply of surnames sufficient for his jurisdiction, “taking care that the distribution be made by letters of the alphabet.” In practice, each town was given a number of pages from the alphabetized [catalog], producing whole towns with surnames beginning with the same letter. In situations where there has been little in-migration in the past 150 years, the traces of this administrative exercise are still perfectly visible across the landscape. “For example, in the Bikol region, the entire alphabet is laid out like a garland over the provinces of Albay, Sorsogon, and Catanduanes which in 1849 belonged to the single jurisdiction of Albay. Beginning with A at the provincial capital, the letters B and C mark the towns along the coast beyond Tabaco to Wiki. We return and trace along the coast of Sorosgon the letters E to L, then starting down the Iraya Valley at Daraga with M, we stop with S to Polangui and Libon, and finish the alphabet with a quick tour around the island of Catanduas.
The confusion for which the decree is the antidote is largely that of the administrator and the tax collector. Universal last names, they believe, will facilitate the administration of justice, finance, and public order as well as make it simpler for prospective marriage partners to calculate their degree of consanguinity. For a utilitarian state builder of [Governor] Claveria’s temper, however, the ultimate goal was a complete and legible list of subjects and taxpayers.
Friday, March 17, 2017
Traces of this administrative exercise are still perfectly visible
From Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed by James C. Scott, page 69. One of Scott's central theses is that states require legibility of their populations - they need to know who, how many, what, etc. States will go to great lengths to convert the messiness of human activities, processes and traditions into something that is more legible to the state. An example from the Philippines regarding the earlier tradition of using only a single name.