When we think about last names, the first thing that comes to mind is probably family history: tracing your family tree back through the generations to learn what you can from ancestors who shared your name. But last names are also an important part of cultural and political history, providing us with a glimpse into the major events (both good and bad) that shaped a nation. Filipino last names are a good example of this. For centuries, Filipinos used descriptive last names, most commonly, indicating that they are the mother or father of [their child’s name], or taking names referring to one of their physical traits, like being tall. But this all changed once Catholic missionaries came to the Philippines in 1565.
At that point, many Filipino families began adopting last names paying homage to various Catholic saints while others had Spanish surnames imposed on them. Filipino culture is a mixture of Spanish heritage. But they also have Chinese, American and Latin influences as well. Filipino heritage balances between all of these different cultures but at its base, their use and appreciation for last names are tied to their love and respect for family and religion. Their belief in Bayanihan is known as the “community spirit.” (Fun fact: they also have one the longest Christmas celebrations).
So many families took on the same handful of names it made it difficult to keep track of the population. After that, in order to use a particular last name, Filipinos had to prove that it had been with their family for generations. Then, in 1849, the Spanish authorities decided to create a standardized system for Filipino last names. That sort of took, but many families (understandably) opted to keep their traditional Filipino last names instead. After all that history, here’s a look at 15 of the most popular Filipino last names, along with their meanings and origins.
If you’re interested in the last names and meanings of other countries, check out our package on last names from around the world. See how many you recognize: Irish, French, Russian, Spanish, Mexican, Brazilian, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, Welsh, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, and African last names, among others.
Meaning: Father of many
Meaning: Servant of the gentle or “servant of the”
Origin: Filipino, Maguindanao, Dagestani, Avar, Kumyk, Indonesian
Meaning: Desert tunes
Meaning: To stand beside
Meaning: To guard
Meaning: Hill or mound. This is a name based on the region someone lives.
Origin: Bacolod on Negros Island in Western Visayas, Philippines
Meaning: This last name comes from the Cebuano word “bakunawa,” which is a serpent or dragon in Visasyan mythology.
Meaning: This name is the Minangkabau title for prince.
Origin: It comes from the Mininakabau prince of Sulu Archipelago, Rajah Baguinda Ali.
Meaning: This name refers to someone who is from the city of Balaguer in Catalonia Spain.
Meaning: Bag, sack, or pouch
Origin: Derives from the Hiligaynon word baluyot
Meaning: Kingly or royal
Origin: Ilocano, Filipino. It derives from the word “bakiran.”
Meaning: Stone, iron, or steel.
Origin: Tagalog, Filipino. This name is a blend between the name “bato” and “bakal.”
Meaning: Talkative or eloquent
Origin: Spanish and Portuguese
Meaning: Admiral or officer
Meaning: To tell, to narrate
Meaning: Cold mountain
Meaning: To breach or burst forth
Origin: Spanish, Hebrew
Meaning: Standstill or resting place
Meaning: Young king
Meaning: Kings or royals
Meaning: To strengthen