Place names print the physical characteristics of the territory they name and Hispanic geographical place names in Metro Manila depict the geography of the region. In the following pages, I extract and explain the living Hispanic geographical toponyms in Metro Manila, and I discuss the different physical features they describe according to these categories: Body of Water, Farming, Fluvial, Land, Sea, Underground, Urban, Vegetation. I conclude that items responding to different categories follow specific space patterns according to the physical characteristics of the territory and the Spanish colonial activity
Interview at The Manila Times, on ocassion of my second doctoral dissertation: Hispanic Place Names of Manila.
Mojarro, J. (2021, December 21). A doctoral dissertation on the street names of Manila [Press release]. The Manila Times. Retrieved from https://www.manilatimes.net/2021/12/21/opinion/columns/a-doctoral-dissertation-on-the-street-names-of-manila/1826688.
MARCO Antonio Joven Romero is a native of Zaragoza, Spain. He spent three years in the Philippines as a lecturer of Spanish language at the University of Santo Tomás. Despite having a Ph.D. in philosophy, he decided to pursue a second Ph.D. in linguistics at UNED, Spain. The topic he chose for his doctoral dissertation was the toponymy of the streets of Manila, a city that, as he has declared many times, he loves so much. Given that I am not only his friend, but also the co-director of his dissertation, I take advantage of this circumstance to interview him for The Manila Times.
Marco, what did you know about the Philippines before coming to teach? And why did you choose this archipelago as your destination for three years?
Honestly, it was quite random. I was going through the worst time of my life: my father died in 2013, I could not — and in some way I still cannot — accept it, and I had never been comfortable in Zaragoza, the place where I was born. A good friend, Jesús, recommended that I go to Asia because of my personality, and there was an option as an AECID lecturer (Spanish Cooperation Agency). I took it. That was the best choice of my life.
You have told me several times that you love the city, that Manila is the best place to be. Why is that when so many people claim this city is unlivable? Is your love for the city what made you carry out research on its street names?
Manila is not an easy city, but it is the city that made me happy, and at the same time, it was the place where I could learn a lot of things about life. It was the city that made me a real adult. People of Manila always loved me, and I loved Manila people too — although sometimes I also hurt some people because of my lack of maturity. I am an active person, and I could not stop meeting people and covering every small alley of Metro Manila. When I arrived in Manila, I was an adventurer, and Manila is the best city for adventures. Before coming to Manila, I also carried out a study of Aragonese toponymy in A Fueba in the province of Huesca in western Spain. So, I had all the academic and personal ingredients to carry out a study of the Hispanic place names of Metro Manila.
How did you carry out your research? Could you tell us any curiosity that happened while doing fieldwork?
There are three main methodological steps in this work: more than 800 surveys of settlers of all the cities and districts of Metro Manila, a research on the previous studies and maps, and my personal fieldwork all over the area.
About curiosities, I covered Aroma and Happyland, two of the poorest slums in Metro Manila, for two days with my friend Alejandro Ernesto, a photo reporter. The first day he left his cellphone in his motorcycle and the second day he forgot the motorcycle keys. After entire days covering the dumps, no one took the cellphone or the keys! On another occasion, I was covering a cemetery where some people live, and I could hear a couple having sex — I suppose on a tomb. And when I went to Señorita Street and surroundings, I could not stop hearing the song “Señorita” by Camila Cabello, which the locals boasted about.
Could you tell us what are the three most remarkable findings of your research?
First, around 55 percent of toponyms from the Spanish period are preserved while around 45 percent are lost. Considering the new toponyms, around 75 percent are Hispanic. I think these figures are interesting when dealing with the recurrent debate on Hispanic place names in the Philippines.
Second, the preserved Hispanic place names of Manila reflect the society of the city during the Spanish period: a kernel in Intramuros, the rising bourgeoisie in Binondo — and to a lesser extent in Ermita — and the rest of the classes and activities further away. The furthest place names refer to farm and logistics activities.
Third, most of the recent place names in Metro Manila do not adhere to popular naming processes or to administrative-political norms, but to pure economic factors. Economic power is creating new cities and districts — e.g. BGC, Ortigas, some places in Makati, and so on — coining new place names according to markets.
What do you think of the habit of local politicians who in an attempt to immortalize their names, replace the previous names of the streets with their own? Do you think the Philippines needs some legislation regarding this topic?
I am sad every time a place name is changed or lost, in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world. Let me say that most of what we know about Celtic and Iberian peoples in Spain is because of preserved place names. And some of them seem to refer to local leaders, probably tyrants! Place names have crystallized, and they are preserved more than any other linguistic feature. And following the previous example, Celtic and Iberian languages disappeared in Spain millennia ago, but we still have these names. They are a treasure that allows us to partially know these languages too. The Spanish language is almost lost in the Philippines, but the Hispanic toponyms show the history, the identity and the geography of the country, and they also show some of the characteristics of the Filipino-Spanish language. About legislation, the Philippines and all the countries of the world must be conscious of the significance of place names.
Do you expect to carry out further research on the Philippines or do you want to move on to another thing already?
If possible, I would like to continue studying Hispanic place names in the Philippines. Even more, I would like to return to the Philippines and make a life in the country that has made me happy. However, due to the pandemic and my work, I do not find it easy. Furthermore, when I arrived in Manila, I was an adventurer. Now, I am looking forward to more stability, and I am not sure Manila is the best city for that. But finding such stability in the Philippines is my greatest desire. Let me add that the study of place names in the Philippines is not developed, and while the cities show social place names, the rest of the country presents a vast number of geographic place names to be studied.
Do you believe Metro Manileños should be proud of their city? Why?
Totally. Manila is an unknown city with many attractions. Reporters from several Spanish television networks agree with me: they were delighted when I showed them the “unknown” city. And contrary to what is sometimes stated, it is safe. Actually, Manila is not a city but a set of cities with different cultures and even language differences. Manilans are friendly and that compensates for the traffic and pollution problems. However, far from romanticizing the existent huge inequalities, the city must work to solve them. If there is something the people of Manila cannot be proud of, it is precisely the inequality in the city, which is translated into an extreme daily slavery that I hesitate to say existed any time before.
On December 15, 2021, I defended my second PhD, in Philology at Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED, Spain): Hispanic Place Names of Manila, a research work carried out between 2017 and 2021, which I have introduced in several papers and media.
I obtained a calification of Outstanding with Distinction Cum Laude by a tribunal formed by professors Francisco Moreno Fernández, Celia Casado Fresnillo, and Daisy López Pargas. The advisors for the thesis were professors José Ramón Carriazo Ruiz and Jorge Mojarro Romero.
The thesis will be available soon at UNED’s public repository.
Place names mirror the social history of a territory, the daily life and power relations of its settlers. Hispanic historical social place names in Manila depict the society of the city during the colonial period. Here I extract and explain the living toponyms coined before the battle of Manila in 1945, and I discuss the different activities, peoples, and economic classes they depict. I conclude that different areas were prone to administrative, financial, leisure, military, non-profit, rural, transport, and working-class activities, at different distances from the heart in Intramuros according to their relevance.
Lecture conducted for the University of Santo Tomas on September 25, 2021 (in English).
Location and organizers: Department of Modern Languages, University of Santo Tomas (Manila, online).
Date: September 25, 2021
People want to talk. And people want to talk more and more during crisis periods. And we are living a turbulent period now. So people are talking more and more, and most of the times they are not willing to listen. Of course, I am thinking about Covid-related issues -measures, vaccines, forecasts-, but more in general, about the largest social dilemma nowadays: expertise or democracy?
But before dealing with the dilemma and before giving or considering opinions on topics, three categories of subjects must be established: Experts, Spectators, and Charlatans.
Experts are the ones in the field, those who have studied and worked the topic for many years and present knowledge and skills the rest of people do not have. A virologist when talking about viruses, an auto mechanic when considering cars, or a footballer when playing football are experts in their fields.
Spectators correspond to trained audience. Doctors should be spectators on Covid, as well as any person who has got an interest on the topic followed by hours of witnessing, experiencing, or studying. People who have been recently reading and analyzing studies and measures on Covid are spectators, as well as football fans and sports commentators, or particulars fond of cars having tried many of them: they cannot develop further research, but they can evaluate experts work.
Charlatans are just charlatans. People with no experience or training in the field, but giving opinions and even trying to influence decisions with no idea. Covid commentators grabbing a beer, me in the case of football, or people who have never driven a car are the counterparts here.
When considering the debate expertise vs. democracy, the former sets decisions focusing on experts, while the latter must set decisions giving more relevance to spectators -but never to charlatans!
Furthermore, we often tend to consider that experts’ studies and opinions must converge, while that is not true -actually, I would say that is false most of the times. That does not mean that some experts are efficient and reliable while others not: there may be better and worse experts, but if they are not efficient and reliable enough, then they are not experts at all but probably charlatans. It is just that their studies drove them to different results. And, at the very first, all of them are correct if they followed a rigorous scientific methodology.
Establishing boundaries between the three categories is challenging too, especially between spectators and charlatans. When does an individual have training enough in order to be considered a spectator? Obviously, it depends on the case, and not all the spectators are equally trained and reliable in their opinions. But just let me argue that some rhetorical and philosophical universal tools are useful in order to detect charlatans, and they are also suitable for becoming a good spectator in most of the fields -clue: often charlatans are not able to listen to others and they tend to devalue experts.
And what about the common individual who wants to become an spectator? Now the last clue of this post appears: dissemination, that is, the bridge between the experts work and knowledge, and masses, done by the very experts and experts on dissemination. Unluckily, many current media pretend to disseminate while they are not -many times masking non-scientific purposes-, and masses have not some basic tools to detect fake dissemination, feeling they have reliable information when they do not. Again, philosophical tools are essential to counterpart machination, and they should be included in our education systems since a very early age.
Aragonese Language / Lengua aragonesa
Lecture conducted for the Instituto de Letras of the Universidade de Brasília on May 24, 2021 (in Spanish).
Location and organizers: Universidade de Brasilia (online), in collaboration with MAEC-AECID (Government of Spain).
Date: May 24, 2021.
When I moved to Manila in 2017, many people in Zaragoza seemed to be worried about me: Why are you going to such a dangerous place? Haven’t you heard about the ‘War on Drugs’? Honestly, I did not care: many of those people only showed jealousy and toxicity during their lives, and their comments would never be positive. On the other hand, I was exhausted of Zaragoza and Spain -I still am-, and I needed to flee as far as possible.
I lived in Manila for three years and I did not experience any violence against me. Just the opposite. And I frequented extremely poor places at any time. I remember two days with my good friend Alejandro Ernesto covering the barangays of HappyLand and Aroma, two of the poorest slums of the city -and I would say of the world-, plenty of garbage where people crammed into tiny shacks. One day, we forgot a cellphone in the motorbike, but we came back after half an hour and the cellphone was still there. And believe me, everybody was looking at us and realizing from the very first moment. The second day, we left the motorbike key inserted. We spent the whole day in the area and when we came back, the motorbike was still there, and an elderly woman came to us: she kept the key for us.
It is two months since I arrived to Rio de Janeiro, and when I moved similar comments were made: be careful, it is not safe, and avoid favelas! Well, I have been a few times to different favelas, and even if they are not as safe as Filipino barryos, they are not as dangerous as it is usually said. I would say they are safer than more touristic spots like Copacabana, Ipanema, or Lapa. People in favelas are poor -not as poor as in the Philippines- but again friendly, and even if they have a parallel cartel government, they follow their laws and they do not want stupid concerns. So, if you are not willing for troubles and you are intelligent enough, you will be safe, or at least, safer than in touristic hotspots.
But why the western perspective focuses so much on violence and poverty? Here I give three reasons: violence is morbidness, poverty is associated to violence, and violence devalues emerging tourist competitors.
(i) Violence is morbidness. Violence, as well as power and sex, attracts attention. And media want to get your steady attention. Then, they will monetize such attention. Violent content is a good strategy to achieve this goal, although it does not limit to slums violence. Any violence is suitable.
(ii) Association between poverty and violence. A self-defending human psychological strategy is to associate the unknown and danger. Middle-class and upper-class people tend to associate poverty, the unknown, with violence, the danger. Western people are mostly middle-class and upper-class people in a global scale, and they fit this thinking, as well as upper-class people in poor countries, who live close to these lowly areas but panicking them. This association between poverty and violence is unjustified.
(iii) Emerging countries are tourist competitors. Tourism benefits western countries more than emerging countries: western population tend to travel to other western countries, while middle and upper-class people in the emerging and poor countries also travel to western countries, the cultural references. However, emerging countries like the Philippines and Brazil offer tourist appeals western countries do not have, and they are increasing their tourist activity in detriment of traditional western tourist countries like France, Spain, or the United States. Promoting a reputation of danger and violence on the former is a means to halt this evolution.
There is no totally safe place or situation in our lives. Even if reduced, there is always a possibility for a problem. Are poor “dangerous” places totally safe? Of course not. Are poor “dangerous” places really dangerous? Not as much as many non-poor places.
Historical, Social, and Geographical Hispanic Place Names in Metro Manila
Lecture conducted for the Department of Modern Languages of the University of Santo Tomas on March 12, 2021 (in English).
Location: University of Santo Tomas (online)
Date: March 12, 2021
Pluralistic ignorance is usually analyzed in terms of social norms. Recently, Bjerring, Hansen and Pedersen describe and define this phenomenon in terms of beliefs, actions and evidence. Here I apply a basic epistemic approach to belief – believers consider their beliefs to be true –, a basic pragmatic approach to belief – beliefs are useful for believers – and a mixed epistemic-pragmatic approach – believers consider their believes to be true and such considerations are useful – to pluralistic ignorance phenomena. For that, I take the definition given by Bjerring, Hansen and Pedersen.
Download the whole pdf article here.
Abstract: Here I propose a Mathematical Coefficient to easily analyze Covid-19 incidence and evolution in different territories, allowing fair comparisons. The final goal is to provide a tool to avoid biased and unfair information, showing transparent and easy data in Media and Public Administration.
On October 12, 2020, the UK registered 17.232 new Covid-19 cases. The Spanish region of Aragon notified 357 cases (both data were given on October 13, 2020). At first sight, it seems that Aragon is having much better numbers than the UK, but if we take into consideration the total population of each territory -and we should- that is no longer the case. Aragon comprises 1,328,753 people, while the UK comprises 66,796,807 people, so that may explain the initial difference in the number of positive cases. A good measure to take into consideration the total population is to divide the number of positive cases by the total population:Aragon presented slightly worse numbers than the UK on October 12. However, the total population is not the only parameter we may consider if we want to be fair when analyzing and comparing. PCR tests are another hotspot, as some places are testing more than others. It is clear than the more testing in a territory, the more positive cases. Similar, a good measure to take into account the number of PCR tests done is to divide the total number of positives by the number of PCRs done:Aragon is depicting much worse figures. However, with this other measure we forget about the total population.
My proposal gathers these three different parameters: number of positive cases, total population and testing numbers. Coefficient of Joven-Romero is a number between 0 and 1, in which the closer to 0, the better, while the closer to 1, the worse: 0 ≤ CJR(x) ≤ 1. Note that 1 would mean that all the population in a territory have been tested and all of them have got positive Covid-19 results. On October 12, Aragon had a Coefficient of Joven-Romero of 0.0070606316 and the UK had a Coefficient of Joven-Romero of 0.0045051869. That means that Aragon had a 63.80713731% more Covid-19 impact that day (CJR(UK) / CJR(Aragon)). Public Administration and Medical Experts would establish limits and thresholds in this Coefficient of Joven-Romero in order to declare different Covid-19 impact levels, and subsequently, different measures.
Other parameters like the number of casualties or the ICU units occupied by Covid-19 patients may be considered too. However, they are not easy to establish: there are different criteria for ICU, some Covid-19 deceased patients presented other diseases, additional data are difficult to obtain in some territories, the weight these other factors must have in the final formula is debatable, etc.
The purpose of this coefficient is to easily communicate accurate information that allows fair and precise analysis and comparison. Coefficient of Joven-Romero is not addressed to Mathematicians, Statisticians or even Scientists in general, but to Media and Public Administration in order to avoid the spread of biased or unfair data, and to facilitate easy but accurate information transmission on Covid-19. According to this coefficient and this information, different Covid-19 impact levels and subsequent measures might be established.
- I only consider PCR testing as that is currently the only feasible testing method to detect Covid-19.
- At the beginning, I was willing to exemplify the proposed Coefficient of Joven-Romero with data from the UK and Spain. Unfortunately, Spanish official data are incomplete and unclear, and that made impossible such comparison. Then, I decided to use the Aragonese official data, well collected in the below-stated link.
Abstract: Reggaeton is one of the main musical and cultural exponents of the Hispanic contemporary world. Feminist analysis and criticism are common, and the style itself is evolving. Here I defend that Reggaeton is not just a feminist issue, but a class phenomenon.
In the attached clip, Spanish X-Factor judge Eva Perales strongly criticizes Reggaeton music, and more specifically, an amateur couple made of two Hispanic migrant men. Some of the sentences and arguments of Perales are:
(i) Have you ever listened something else apart from Reggaeton?
(ii) Reggaeton damages me as a woman (…) I do not like sexist lyrics (…) Why don’t you talk about women in other way?
(iii) [After mocking] Reggaeton kicks my ass.
The song, sentences and arguments from the Crazy Boys state:
(i) [Song The Maniatic Girl] Look, I fancy the Maniatic Girl (…) I like your body, and you all (…) You make me brutally horn (… ) You are easy, you flirt me and I become crazy, crazy.
(ii) [To Perales] You are abusing the weak.
(iii) Reggaeton is music too.
(iv) You are a racist of the music.
Even when this episode happened in 2008 and it might be intentionally prepared and streamed, similar scenes following same patters have happened during the last decade. In general terms, feminism activists and scholars have analyzed and criticized Reggaeton, and former and new Reggaeton singers have lately adapted (Merlyn 2020, Morales 2020, Villagra 2007). Sexism is highlighted, but Reggaeton is also considered violent and vulgar in comparison with already settled genres. The attached clip perfectly prints Reggaeton hotspots.
Reggaeton spread during the 90’s in Hispanic America among lower class societies and it tended to print their reality characterized by discrimination, sexism, violence and vulgarity. Upper class Hispanic American societies criticized and ridiculed the new style. Spanish society, richer in average and many times far from Hispanic American contemporary currents, first ignored Reggaeton and then criticized it, similarly to upper class Hispanics. However, the new style has been powerful enough to permeate into the whole Hispanic -and Global- society (Carballo 2007). On the other hand, singers are adapting and blurring its sexism, violence and vulgarity, and sometimes it is used for vindicating feminism and women. Here I remark that there also are geographical, racial and normative aspects, and all of them, together with the feminist issue, rely on a class difference.
Reggaeton spread in Hispanic American countries. Only after a decade, it was introduced in Spain among criticism. The America-Europe difference towards Reggaeton is still present. Reggaeton in Spain responds to Hispanic migrants and global tendencies more than to linguistic, cultural or historical ties. Economic standards in Spain tend to be higher than in Hispanic American countries, while Hispanic migrants in Spain tend to hold worse positions.
Inside Hispanic American countries, racially speaking Reggaeton is more popular among Hispanics than among Europeans and Caucasians. Links between race and class in Hispanic America are well known and deeply studied, showing a tendency of middle and lower classes being Hispanic mestizo and aborigines, while upper classes maintaining Caucasian features (Domínguez 2018; McCaa, Schwartz & Grubessich 1979). In Spain, Reggaeton is far more popular among Hispanic migrants.
Reggaeton has been devalued in comparison with mainstream already established genres: the norm. Reggeaton’s sexism, violence and vulgarity, derived from lower class styles and ways of living, is attacked from upper class people and established genres creators. However, as it happened with many other cultural manifestations, Reggaeton -or at least, a soft Reggaeton- is permeating, convincing global spectra and making norm.
Eva Perales and the Crazy Boys discussion was rapidly analyzed from feminism. But it is much more than a feminist matter: it is a woman criticizing sexist singers and styles, but also a Spanish criticizing two Hispanic American migrants, a white manager criticizing two dark-skinned mestizo creators, a rock lover criticizing Latin music, and ultimately, a rich person criticizing two poor people.
The real difference underlying the whole discussion is economic. Poverty and discrimination explain rough sexism among low class people, the refusal to mainstream styles and the emergence of new subversive styles. Upper class people tend to defend the establishment, in this case represented by settled genres. In the Hispanic America context, economic difference is linked to race difference, and the same economic difference partly defines differences between Spain and Hispanic America. Many times, Spanish and upper class people criticize sexism, vulgarity and violence, but they do not focus on the real problem: poverty.
Carballo, P. (2007). Reggaeton e identidad masculina. Intercambio, 3 (4), 87-101.
Domínguez, J. I. (2018). Race and ethnicity in Latin America. Routledge.
McCaa, R., Schwartz, S. B., & Grubessich, A. (1979). Race and class in Colonial Latin America: A critique. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 21(3), 421-433.
Merlyn, M. F. (2020). Tell me what you listen to and i will tell you who you are. Representing women in 100 of the more popular reggaeton songs in 2018. Feminismo/s, (35).
Morales, C. D. (2020). Una propuesta para el análisis de los estereotipos femeninos en los videoclips de reggaeton: Caso práctico de los cuatro vídeos más vistos en 2018 en YouTube. Revista Internacional de Cultura Visual, 7(1), 13-26.