The Philippines is sometimes called the Pearl of the Orient or Pearl of the Orient Seas.
As an expat living in this beautiful country I can think of 7107 magnificent Filipino pearls, or the many beautiful Filipinas living in this country. There are so many wonderful orchids and other flowers, or so many other delicious things, that it is not difficult to find superlatives for the Philippines.

The Philippines was named after Philip, Prince of Asturias (1527-1598), later Philip II of Spain and other territories (1556-1598)

One of the historic names and romantic moniker for The Philippines is: Pearl of the Orient Seas
Other places in Asia also claim to have this name: Hong Kong has it as a nick name, just like Ho Chi Minh City and Penang, but there’s only one place rightfully entitled to have this name: The Philippines.

Other uses of the name are seen:

  • Pearl of the Orient Tower, a residential skyscraper in Manila, Philippines.
  • Pearl of the Orient, a song which sings praises to Hong Kong in 1991, written by Lo Ta-yu.
  • Pearl of the Orient, the Chinese name of Glittering Days, a Hong Kong TV programme in 2006.
  • Pearl of the Orient Series, the Series of books by Christopher Nicole.

The Pearl of the Orient Tower, previously known as Embassy Pointe Tower, is a residential skyscraper in Manila,  owned by the Philippine Estates Corporation. Standing at 168 meters (551 feet), it is one of the tallest buildings in the City of Manila. The building has 42 floors above ground, wherein 6 floors are for parking spaces, 5 floors for office and commercial purposes, 30 floors for luxury residential units, and 2 floors for penthouse units. There are also 4 basement levels for parking. Location: 1240 Roxas Boulevard cor. Arquiza Street, Ermita, Manila, Philippines.

Some History

The name of the Philippines (Filipino/Tagalog: Pilipinas, Spanish: Filipinas) is a truncated form of The Philippine Islands, derived from Philip, Prince of Asturias (1527-1598), later (King) Philip II of Spain and other territories (1556-1598).

During his expedition to the Islands, Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos used the name Las Islas Filipinas in honour of the then-Prince of Asturias, originally referring to the islands of Leyte and Samar.  The name itself is Greek, and can be traced to the name of the father of Alexander the Great, Philipp II of Macedon, Greek: philos (meaning beloved, loving); hippos (meaning horse). Despite the presence of other names, the name Filipinas (Philippines) was eventually adopted as the name of the entire archipelago.

The official name of the Philippines, however, has changed throughout the course of its history.
During the Philippine Revolution, the state officially called itself República Filipina, now referred to as the First Philippine Republic.

From the period of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War until the Commonwealth, United States colonial authorities referred to the Philippines as the Philippine Islands, a direct translation of the original Spanish.

It was during the American Period that the name “Philippines” began to appear, a name that was officially adopted.

Historical names

Islas de San Lazaro (1521)

Las Islas de Poniente (1521)

Las Islas Felipenas (1543)
  • Ma-i.  According to the Chao Ju-kua’s Zhufan Zhi ( Chu-fan-chi, literally “Description of the Barbarous Peoples”) written around 1225 AD during the Song Dynasty, there was a group of islands found in southern China called Ma-i or Ma-yi, known to locals as Mait. The island group was identified by the Spanish to be the island of Mindoro. This was further proved by Ferdinand Blumentritt  ( a friend of Jose Rizal) in his 1882 book  “Versuch einer Ethnographie der Philippinen” (An Attempt to the Study of Ethnography of the Philippines) that Mait, which means “country of the Blacks” was the local name of present-day Mindoro. On the other hand, later historians claimed that Ma-i was not an island, but Manila itself, which was known to be in contact with the Chinese as early as the 9th century CE.
    • Ma-i consists of the San-sü (“Three islands”) group of islands: Kia-ma-yen (Calamian), Pa-lau-yu (Palawan) and Pa-ki-nung(Busuanga).
      • Aside from San-sü, Ma-i also consists of the islands of Pai-p’u-yen (Babuyan), P’u-li-lu (Polillo), Li-kin-tung (Lingayen), Liu-sung (Luzon) and Li-ban (Lubang). It was said that these islands had contacts with Chinese traders from Canton (Guangdong) as early as 982 AD.
    • Liu-sung was the name given by the Chinese to the present-day island of Luzon, originated from the Tagalog word lusong, a wooden mortar that is used to pound rice. When the Spanish produced maps of the Philippines during early 17th century, they called the island Luçonia which was later re-spelled as Luzonia, then Luzon.
  • Las islas de San Lázaro (St. Lazarus’ Islands). Named by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 when he reached the islands of Homonhon in the island of Samar (now present-day Eastern Samar) at the feast day of St. Lazarus of Bethany.
  • Las islas de Poniente (Islands to the West). Another name from Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 when he learned that the Las islas de San Lázaro also included Cebu and Leyte islands. However, various sources claimed that Magellan was not the one who renamed the area, but his chroniclers instead. The name came from the fact that the islands were reached from Spain en route approaching the left part of the globe. Conversely, the Portuguese called the archipelago Ilhas do oriente(Islands to the East) because they approached the islands from the east of Portugal in late 1540’s.
    • The Portuguese referred the whole island of Luzon as ilhas Luções, or Luzones Islands.
    • Mindanao was formerly called ilhas de Liquíos Celebes because of the existence of Celebes Sea south of Mindanao.
  • Las islas Felipenas(Philippine Islands/Islands belonging to Philip). Named by Ruy López de Villalobos in 1543 to Samar and Leyte, honoring the Prince of Asturias, the then Philip II of Spain.
    • Caesarea Caroli was the name given by Villalobos to the island of Mindanao when he reached the sea near it. This was named after the Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire (and I of Spain).
    • The island of Sarangani was renamed by Villalobos as Antonia, in honor of Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco, the Viceroy of New Spain who commissioned Villalobos expedition to the Philippines.
    • Villalobos also named the littoral zone between the islands of Samar and Leyte as Tendaya.
  • Las islas Filipinas, or simply Filipinas (Philippines). Vernacular piracy of Las islas Felipenas, irrevocably became the archipelago’s name.
  • Pearl of the Orient/Pearl of the Orient Seas (Spanish: Perla de oriente/Perla del mar de oriente) is the sobriquet of the Philippines.  The term originated from the idea of Spanish Jesuit missionary Fr. Juan J. Delgado in 1751.   In his last poem Mi último adiós, Dr. José Rizal referred the country with this name.   In the 1960 revision of the Philippine national anthem “Lupang Hinirang”, the Tagalog version of this phrase was included as the translation from the original Spanish.
  • The Philippine Islands. This was the anglicised version of the original Spanish name, used under direct American colonial rule and the immediate Commonwealth Era.
Mi último adiós, original Spanish (1896, first stanza) English translation
Adios, Patria adorada, region del sol querida,
Perla del Mar de Oriente, nuestro perdido Eden!
A darte voy alegre la triste mustia vida,
Y fuera más brillante más fresca, más florida,
Tambien por tí la diera, la diera por tu bien.
Farewell, my adored Land, region of the sun caressed,
Pearl of the Orient Sea, our Eden lost,
With gladness I give you my Life, sad and repressed;
And were it more brilliant, more fresh and at its best,
I would still give it to you for your welfare at most.
“Lupang Hinirang”, official Filipino lyrics
(1958, rev. 1960s, first stanza)
Original Spanish lyrics
Bayang magiliw,
Perlas ng Silanganan
Alab ng puso,
Sa Dibdib mo’y buhay.
Tierra adorada,
hija del sol de Oriente,
su fuego ardiente
en ti latiendo está.

When a new nation is born or established, a proper name must be chosen. Some proposed names for the Philippines which didn’t make it:

  • Haring Bayang Katagalugan (Sovereign Tagalog Nation). Andrés Bonifacio’s suggested name for the Filipino nation, intended to be governed by the 1896-1897 Republika ng Katagalugan (Tagalog Republic). This was later used by Macario Sakay for his 1902-1906 government that was suppressed by the Americans.
  • Kapatiran (“Brotherhood”), or its semi-equivalent Katipunan (“Assembly”/”Gathering”).
  • Luzviminda. Portmanteau of the first syllables of the country’s three major island groups: Luzon; Visayas; and Mindanao. Appears more nowadays as a dated female given name.
  • Mahárlika. In Pre-Hispanic Philippines, the mahárlika was the “noble warrior” class whose members were essentially the same as the common man, albeit with the duty to serve the ruler in battle. The word mahárlika came to mean “nobility” due to its Spanish translation. In 1978, former President Ferdinand Marcos supported a House Bill mandating the country’s re-naming to Mahárlika.
  • Rizalia. Named after national hero José Rizal in a similar fashion to Bolivia being named after its hero (Simón Bolivar).
  • While exiled in Japan, former revolutionary general Artemio Ricarte proposed the name República Rizalina (“Rizaline Republic”) and had already drafted a constitution for this attempt at a revolutionary government.

And of course there are also disputed names:

  • Maniolas. According to Fr. Francisco Colin in 1663, a Jesuit friar and an early historian of the Philippines, Maniolas was the name used by Claudius Ptolemy to refer to the group of islands south of China. Colin quoted Ptolemy’s writings speaking about the Maniolas islands, which is probably Manila. This theory was further supported by José Rizal and Pedro A. Paterno. Rizal also said that the country was recorded to Ptolemy’s maps when a sailor named Hippalus told him the existence of “beautiful islands” in southeastern Far East. However, Trinidad Pardo de Tavera rejected this notion on his 1910 book, Notas para una cartografia de Filipinas (Notes for the Philippine Cartography).
  • Ophir (from the Hebrew) is a region of islands mentioned in the Bible, most famous for its wealth. Accounts mention that King Solomon received the riches of the region every three years. At the emergence of the hydrography of Spanish colonies in Asia in the early 17th century, Dominican Gregorio García wrote that Ophir was indeed located in the Moluccas and the Philippines. In 1609, Juan de Pineda wrote a diverse collection of literature relating Biblical accounts of Solomon, Ophir and the islands. Former Prime Minister Pedro A. Paterno said in one of his works on conjectural anthropology that Ophir is the Philippines because the scented wood Solomon received from Ophir also exists in the Islands. This notion was however, later dismissed by modern historians as merely alluding and comparing the Philippines’ position to the Spanish economy with that of Ophir to Solomon’s kingdom — the sudden discovery and colonisation of the Islands bringing wealth and prosperity to the realm.

Source: various websites on the Internet, one of them: Wikipedia and

Article Name
Pearl of the Orient
The Philippines is sometimes called the Pearl of the Orient or Pearl of the Orient Seas. But other places in Asia also claim to have this name