Back before the Philippines came to have its official name, the Greek geographer Ptolemy referred to it as Chersonesus Aurea (Golden Peninsula) or The Golden Chersonese in reference to the Malay Peninsula, the Indians who traded with the natives called it Suvarnadvipa, and the Malays already had a name for Manila – Seludong.

It’s pretty amazing to trace back how the Pearl of the Orient got called as such, and how it had evolved through time to what we call it today. If you’re one of those history buffs-turned-travelers that can’t resist a good back story, here’s how the country’s history shaped its different names:



… by the Chinese, who gave the name to several islands around the 2nd century, including what is now Mindoro.


Islas Del Poniente (Western Islands)

… by the Spanish, upon explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition in 1521, which traveled west from Europe to the Philippines. He also called it Le Islas de San Lazaro.


Lihas Do Oriente (Eastern Islands)

… by the Portugese, who traveled there not long after traveling east.


Las Islas Filipinas (The Philippine Islands)

… by the Spanish, bestowed by Ruy López de Villalobos, commander of the fourth expedition, who named the islands of Samar and Leyte, Felipenas, in honor of the Prince of the Austrias and heir to the Spanish throne, Philip II. Las Islas Filipinas later became the name of the entire archipelago.


Indias Orientales Espanolas (Spanish East Indies)

… by the Spanish under the Vice-royalty of New Spain (a.k.a. Mexico). It encompassed the country’s colonial territories in Asia-Pacific, including the Philippines.


Perla Del Mar De Oriente (Pearl of the Orient Seas)

… by Spanish Jesuit Missionary Father Juan J. Delgado in 1751, a nickname that was later immortalized in the national anthem. The Spanish original has since been translated into Filipino, Perlas ng Silanganan.


República Filipina (Philippine Republic)

… by the people during the first Philippine Revolution in 1896, when Spanish was still the official language.


Philippine Islands

… by the United States of America during the 1898 Spanish-American War and later during American colonial rule, when the name Philippines also appeared.


Republika ng Pilipinas (Republic of the Philippines)

… by the people again, this time up on independence and in the Filipino language. The name, commonly Pilipinas, has endured to this day.


Photo Credit: