CHICAGO (jGLi) – There is no doubt symbols, abbreviations and codes were among the best known methods used by man to get ahead of the competition and to get his message around.

There was Constantine, the first Christian ruler, who said, “In Hoc Signos Vinces!” (In This Sign, Ye Shall Conquer), as he told his soldiers to paint the cross symbols on their shields.

Facing Maxentius and his soldiers four times in number than his, Constantine, the cross-bearing Roman general and his army, marched into Rome and went on to defeat Maxentius soldiers at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 Anno Domini.

Although symbols, abbreviations and codes are not really meant to be pronounced but merely to be seen to be appreciated, the advent of mass communications has promoters conjuring fancy signs to gain wider recognition.

One of the gatekeepers that promote various commercial products worldwide is now putting to good use codes to reach across the world. Taking the name, International Organization for Standardization (ISO), this little-known non-government organization based in Geneva, Switzerland has used alphanumeric codes to tell one country and its commercial and industrial products from the other.

While this is another layer of bureaucracy to reckon with, I believe it is a baby step towards coming to some form of understanding of the specifications of a product and the spread of commerce around the world.

It is similar to the introduction of standard of measurements like the English and the metric systems.

When Magellan named Philippines in honor of King Philip (Felipe in Spanish) II of Spain, its initial name was “Filipinas,” a Spanish word.

When the United States bought “Filipinas” from Spain after a mock battle, Americans Anglicized its name to Philippines. And this Southeast Asian country was later known as “P.I.” for Philippine Islands. P.I, unfortunately, later stirred an unflattering image of it with an uncivilized and subjugated people.





That is why, right after, the Philippines declared its independence from America after nearly half century or being a colony, the Filipino people rejoiced with their brand new name, Republic of the Philippines, and its initial, RP.

The Philippines has been known as such for that initial ever since. Until recently, although years after becoming a voting member of ISO, the Philippines, suddenly without warning, agreed to the ISO’s uses of the Alphabet two-code, “PH,” and Alphabet three-code, “PHL.”
I have no beef with the initials change, if “RP” carries derogatory meaning in English language like “BS,” a popular initial for “bull shit,” for Bahamas or “BO” for “bad odor” for Bolivia or the three Alpha three-code of “SLV” for “slave” for San Salvador. Or “CG” for “call girl” for Republic of Congo, when “RC” would do, or “DOM” for “dirty old man” for Dominican Republic.

However, if I were these countries, I will not complain either if they send flattering or positive messages in French and Russian, which are the two other languages used by the ISO.

If we go by the popular American saying, “if ain’t broke, why fix it?”

Why not stick by “RP” when other country codes have outlandish initials?

Take, “GQ” or “GNQ” that stirs an avant-garde image for “General Quarterly” for Equatorial Guinea; “CS” or “SCG” for Serbia; “CH” or “CHE” for Switzerland; or “EH” or “ESH” for Western Sahara. Their English initials do not even come close to the names of these countries.




Ialways subscribe to a primer taught me by my favorite managing editor of the pre-martial law Philippine Daily Star, Manny Benitez. Mr. Benitez told me when in doubt of the spelling of a town or city’s name, I should consult how it is spelled by its town’s or city’s official seal.

Similarly, when it comes to pronunciation, if there is debate in pronouncing a Tagalog word, the pronunciation by a native of Bulacan province, the seat of Pilipino language, and the rest of the Southern Tagalog region prevail.

If it is a Spanish word that is called into question, the pronunciation by natives of Madrid, Spain is the accepted version. In much the same way that natives of London, England are the leading authorities in the way English words are pronounced.

Why would the Philippines thru its Philippine Department of Trade and Industry‘s Bureau of Product Standards easily gave up the “RP” initial without a fight is beyond me?

It is like a stranger telling a native to change his name because that is how the native is known to the stranger.

But if the Philippines will not register its protest against the use of “PH” or “PHL,” I will prefer the use of “PH” to “PHL.” “PH” could be pronounced, “pee” as in going to the washroom (aka “comfort room” slang among Filipinos). Or it could be pronounced “pee-aitch,” a tongue-twisting diphthong, which is actually two-syllable initials. It also means “a measure of acidity or alkalinity of a solution,” which will take some doing to make sense with it.

On the other hand, “PHL” is a diphthong whose sound carries a concrete meaning for “fill” or “feel” to rhyme with “phil.” And if you put a human face into it, it will be “PHILLAR” as in “pillar,” which evokes image of a stable structure or stability.

Later, headline writers will now have an alternative for the use of “Pinoy” as nickname for a Filipino. They can now use “Phillar” to describe somebody from “PHL.” (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)