Decree of Don Narciso Claveria, Governor of the Philippines
21 November 1849
Below you will find text from the decree of Don Narciso Claveria, Governor of the Philippines, requiring the use of surnames by residents of the Pilippines.
Following the text there are examples of the name changes and comments on the change.
During my visit to the majority of the provinces
of these islands, I observed that the natives in general lack individual surnames, which
distinguished them by families. They arbitrarily adopt the names of saints and this
practice has resulted in the existence of thousands of individuals having the same surname.
Likewise, I saw the resultant confusion with regard to the administration of justice, government,
finance, and public order, and the far-reaching moral, civil and religious consequences to which
this might lead, because the family names are not transmitted from the parents to their children,
so that it is sometimes impossible to prove the degrees of consanguinity for purpose of marriage,
rendering useless the parochial books which in Catholic countries are used for all kinds of
For this purpose, a catalogue of family names has been compiled, including the indigenous
names collected by the Reverend Fathers Provincial of the religious orders, and the Spanish
surnames they have been able to acquire, along with those furnished by the vegetable and
mineral kingdoms, geography, arts, etc. In view of the extreme usefulness and practicality
of this measure, the time has come to issue a directive for the formation of a civil register, which
may not only fulfill and ensure the said objectives, but may also serve as the basis for the
statistics of the country, guarantee the collection of taxes, the regular performance of personal
services, and the receipt of payment for exemptions. It likewise provides exact information
of the movement of the population; thus avoiding unauthorized migrations, hiding taxpayers, and
Having heard the testimonies of the Most Reverend Bishops, the Reverend Provincials of the
religious orders, and the Honorable Assessor General of the Government, I hereby order:
- A copy of the printed catalogue of surnames, previously prepared for this purpose shall be
remitted to all the heads of provinces of these islands.
- These officials shall assign to every town, in accordance with the number of families
therein, the number of surnames that appear necessary, taking care that the distribution be made
by letters, in the appropriate proportions.
- Having thus formed the catalogues corresponding to each town, the head of the province
shall send these to the respective parish priests for distribution to the cabecerias (barangays); this
distribution shall be carried out with the help of the gobernadorcillo, another municipal official,
and two competent and respected principales. Each cabeza shall be present with the
individuals of this cabeceria, and the father or oldest person of each family shall choose or be
assigned one of the surnames in the list which he shall then adopt, together with his direct
- Natives of Spanish, indigenous, or Chinese origin who already have a surname may retain
and pass it on to their descendant.
- Children whose fathers are dead shall be given the surname of the paternal grandfather,
and in the absence of this, the surnames of the brothers or relatives of their father, thus avoiding
unnecessary multiplicity and ensuring that those of the same family branch shall have the same
- The children of unknown fathers shall be given the surname of the mother, and if this is
also unknown, the surname of the guardian, or baptismal sponsor, or of the parish priest in case
the sponsor does not allow it.
- In the lists that will be made for the cabecerias, in order to complete the register later, each
person shall indicate (a) his baptismal name, followed by the new surname which may be
assigned to him, and (b) the name which, until then may have served him as surname, leaving
him free to retain this as long as he wishes.
- To avoid confusion which might result to the prejudice of those who with their surnames
inherited from His Majesty certain benefits, the names of Lacandola, Mojica, Tupas, and Raja
Matanda shall not be adopted except by those who have a just title to possess them.
- Families who can prove that they have kept for four generations their surname, even
though it may be the name of a saint, but not those like de la Cruz, de los Santos, and some
others which are so numerous that they would continue producing confusion, may pass them on
to their descendants; the Reverend Fathers and the heads of provinces are advised to use their
judgement in the implementation of this article.
- Having notified the elders or parents of the new surname which corresponds to them and to
the members of the family, that is, all those who because of their close relationship should bear
the surname, each barangay shall be assigned two or three days for any objections which may be
made before the parish priest; the latter will act on these objections in accordance with the
provision of this superior decree.
- School teachers shall have a register of all the children attending school, with their names
and surnames, and shall see to it that they shall not address or know each other except by the
surname listed in the register which should be that of the parents. In case of lack of
enthusiasm in compliance with this order, the teachers shall be punished in proportion to the
offense at the discretion of the head of the province.
- The heads of families shall make known their new surnames to their children who may be
absent, in addition to the notification that shall be furnished by the gobernadorcillo to the
gobernadorcillo of the town in which the absent relative is residing. For this purpose, they
will form official expedients or specific communications to this effect, signed by the
gobernadorcillo and the respective cabezas with the approval of the parish priest.
Likewise, they shall remit to the head of the province a list of the names of individuals in the
service of the army to whom a surname has been assigned, so that the said provincial head may
inform the branches of the army, and the surname which corresponds to each soldier may be
recorded in his personnel file.
- For record purposes, the gobernadorcillo of each town shall keep a list of the individuals
who, by virtue of the preceding article, have been informed of the surnames which they are to
- In towns where the residents were born in other places where their families reside, the
gobernadorcillo, without prejudice to the provisions above, shall send a list of their names to the
gobernadorcillos of the towns from which they had come, so that on the one hand, there may be
no alteration or delay in transmitting the surnames which correspond to each one, and, on the
other, there may be no unnecessary duplication. It adds to the confusion to assign a
surname to individuals who should adopt that of the family from which they are descended, and
- The cabecerias in each town shall be numbered, starting from one and so forth; all classes
of people in them shall be enrolled, natives as well as mestizos, no matter what their occupations
may be, such circumstances being duly recorded.
- Once the lists of the cabecerias are finalized and approved by the reverend parish priest, a
register for each of them shall be prepared so that by assembling all of these, a general register
for each town will result, signed by the gobernadorcillo and approved by the parish priest,
following the customary practice for the annual inventories of the provinces; three copies thereof
shall be prepared, one to serve as a master copy in the parish, another to be conserved by the
head of the province in the archives, and the third to be sent to the Superior Government for
inclusion in the expediente of this decree and for other uses as needed.
- In order to obtain uniformity and to facilitate their completion, a sufficient number of
registers, patterned on the attached model, shall be printed, to be paid for from the general
discretionary funds of the province.
- At baptisms, the parish priest shall demand a sheet of paper whereon, in addition to the
name to be given to the one to be baptized, the names and surnames of his father and mother
shall be written, except as prescribed in article 6. The same shall be done at marriages, in
which case not only the names and surnames of the couple to be married, but also those of their
parents, shall be entered.
- In the margin of sacramental certificates as well as in all public manuscripts or documents
that may be issued by either the provincial notaries or the town judges, the surnames of the
interested parties to whom the documents refer shall be written in clear and legible writing; all
such documents issued under names other than those which had been assigned to these parties,
as certified by the master registers or their baptismal certificates, shall be null and void.
- Neither the heads of provinces, nor parish priests, nor gobernadorcillos shall approve
applications or documents in which the interested parties do not express their names and
surnames; this rule shall be observed in the Capital [Manila], in municipal and provincial courts,
by authorities, military chiefs of the navy, and treasury, and any other officials before whom the
natives may appear or present themselves.
- Any individual who, after being inscribed in the new register, changes his name or surname
shall be punished in accordance with the malice and circumstances of the case. The
penalty shall be no less than eight days in jail, redeemable by a three-peso fine, and this
minimum penalty shall be imposed only in the case of least malice, that is, those caused by
negligence or inattention.
- The register having been prepared with the maximum accuracy in accordance with article
16, the heads of the provinces may easily submit such statistical reports as the Superior
Government may require, and at the same time ensure uniformity and precision, and avoid
frauds, besides establishing the number of those who should serve in communal public works,
contribute to the communal funds, and pay taxes imposed by the law. The said register
shall be prepared in accordance with the master copy, in which there are nine columns for those
who pay tribute, those bound to perform communal labor, the name and surname of each of these
together with those of the whole family, their ages, marital status, and occupation, the reason for
exemptions from personal service and tribute, and a final column to be prepared each successive
year, for recording any changes, increases or decreases in each cabeceria.
- Items in the ninth column, pertaining to alterations of each register, shall be entered most
accurately, for this is the only way by which the course of time it may become as perfect as
possible, with the disappearance of inaccuracies which may occur at the beginning, especially
with regard to the ages of the individuals. The cabezas de barangay therefore shall each
month note all the variations that may have happened in their cabecerias, and shall submit these
annotations on the first Sunday of every month to the gobernadorcillo and the parish priest for
their examination and approval.
- The heads of provinces shall exercise the utmost zeal and the full measure of their
authority, both for the preparation of the registers with the requisite accuracy, and for the strict
implementation of the previous article, by which the desired perfection may be obtained, and
various significant advantages may be derived. It is understood that by the coming month
of June  the registers shall be completed and their submission to the Superior Government
shall be accompanied by a report on the resultant increase in all the classes that compose the
In addition to their administrative and executive functions, as enjoined by the government,
the parish priests should also, by their counsel and exhortations help make their parishioners
understand the advantages which in various respects shall results from the execution of this
decree. To this effect, the secular and regular prelates are requested and enjoined to exert
their pastoral zeal and the full influence of their authority and position so that the parish priests
shall extend their cooperation, which is indispensable for the complete success of what is herein
provided. It is understood that the Government shall take into account, for purposes of
reward, the merit or demerit which each one may earn in a matter of such importance.
Let this decree, with the catalogue of surnames and the model of the register, be sent to the
heads of provinces and to others whom it may concern.
D. Narciso Claveria y Zaldua
El Conde de Manila
Gobernador y Capitan General de Filipinas
Filipino Surnames -1850
Prior to 1850, Filipinos used two names, as illustrated in the example below. As in the
decree, the second name is sometimes referred to as their "surname". However, in
practice, it did not function as such, it was simply a second name. As a result, a child's
name was not necessarily tied to that of his or her parents. Further, in day-to day
activities, individuals were generally known by one of their two names. Thus Josef Silvestre was known as Silvestre, while his
son Francisco Manuel was known as
Before analyzing some examples, it is important to note that Claveria set out a very thorough
and orderly process for assigning surnames. This process was to be carefully administered
by the local officials and the parish priests. In many locations, the local priest was the
only Spaniard present and typically acted as the representative of the central government.
Because the selection of names was carefully administered, closely related members of the same
family would receive the same surname. Thus it is likely that individuals named Cabajug
[the Spanish spelling], shown in the examples below, are closely related to Cabahugs
living in Mandaue. Conversely, it is unlikely that brothers living in Mandaue would end
up with different surnames, as is suggested by a story in the Perez book.
The images below show an examples from the Church records of Liloan, Cebu.
The first example, above, shows the baptismal record of Maria Francisca, baptized on April 13, 1850. Claveria's decree took effect in June of the same year.
Maria Francisca was the daughter of Francisco Manuel and Clara Maria.
The second example shows the baptismal record of Prodencio Cabajug, baptized on May 1, 1852. Note that Cabajug reflects the Spanish spelling of Cabahug.
Prodencio was the son of Francisco Cabajug Manuel and Clara Pilapil Maria. For both parents, their old second name is appended after their new surname,
as required by Article 7 in Claveria's decree. This practice, which served to tie the old and new names, was discontinued after a few years.