The Multiple Names of the People of Capiz

by Leothiny Clavel

The people of Capiz Province predominantly belong to the brown race. Initially,    they were a blend of the indigene, the Negrito, the Indonesian and the Malay, but later the Arab, Chinese, Spanish, American and other races modified the blend. Before the Spaniards arrived in Capiz in 1565, the province was called Ilaya because it was the hinterland of what is now the Aklan Province. In short, in precolonial times, Capiz was part of Aklan (and not the other way around, as many believe) and its people were called Ilayanhon or Ilayanon.

By 2000, the people were known in local print by these four names: Capiceños, Capizeños, Capisnon and Capiznon. This made them the only people in the Philippines who can hardly decide what should be their name and its appropriate spelling.

A colonial legacy, the mix-up started with the way the colonial rulers (the Spaniards in 1693; the Americans in 1901) dealt with the names of Capis (Ca-PIS: accent on the second syllable), the town renamed Roxas City on April 11, 1951, and Capiz (CA-piz), the old province which under the Spanish regime included what is now Aklan.[1]

Before 1693, the year Fr. Agustin Estrada set up the CaPIS section[2] of the town of Pan-ay (Panay), there was no confusion about people’s names in the province. The inhabitants of Capis were called Capisnon (Ca-pis-NON). The name Capiceños entered the cultural world of the Capisnon, Pan-ayanon, Daonhon, Panit-anon and other groups in what is now the Capiz Province after the Spaniards reorganized Panay island in 1703[3] with three component provinces, namely, Iloilo, Antique and Capiz (which included Aklan).

To avoid confusion in 1703, the Spaniards called the people of Capiz Province Capiceños. But it had been the practice of the natives of every barangay[4] (village) in the province to identify themselves with the place where they were living; and to signify that they were from that place, they would attach the suffix “non” (meaning “of” or “from”) to the place name. Thus the natives of Pan-ay called themselves Pan-ayanon; and for the natives  of Capis, their name was CapisNON. Even though the Spaniards kept on calling all the people of the province Capiceños, the folks in all towns, influenced by the traditional practice, called themselves Capisnon (Ca-PIS-non), not Ca-PIZ-non since they had difficulty in articulating the “z”. They said CapisNON when they referred to the residents of CaPIS town; and as natives of Capiz province, they called themselves CaPISnon.

While the elite adopted “Capiceños” as their provincial name, the masses in the various towns continued calling themselves CaPISnon even if they were aware that the name of the natives of Capis which was CapisNON was different from the provincial name only by a matter of accent.

After World War 11, especially from the 1960s until the start of the 21st century, the local broadcast media – radio and cable TV – used CaPISnon, CapisNON, CaPIZnon, CapizNON, Capiceños and Capizeños interchangeably. In print media, “Capisnon” was also spelled “Capiznon.”

Let us trace the beginning of the move to call the people of Capiz CaPISnon. In 1992, the Leopoldo P. Clavel Infoshop (LPCI) of the Center for Capisnon Studies & Development Alternatives revived the distinction between CapisNON as the name of the people of CaPIS and CaPISnon as the provincial name. To the LCPI, the indigenous name of the people of Capiz Province is CaPISnon. The people’s name should be written as they would pronounce it, so the agency asserted that “s,” rather than “z” (as in Capiznon), should be used in spelling the name. The LPCI encouraged the use of the indigenous name in mass media and the Internet, as well as in formal communication. There is no problem in informal interaction because the name CaPISnon is often used in daily conversation. “Capiznon” is an inappropriate name, historically speaking, because it is confusing: The Aklanons from 1703 to 1956 were regarded as natives of Capiz Province too and thus may be called former Capiznon.

The name Capiceños stuck in the colonial consciousness of the elite. It was they and the Spaniards who sustained the use of this name for almost 2 ½ centuries. In contrast, the folks retained – even until 2000 – their original names: CaPISnon for the natives of Ilaya, and Aklanon for the natives of the Aklan Valley.

The name Capizeños has its own story. The Americans introduced it in 1901, thus changing the spelling of “Capiceños.” This puts the name problem back to where it started.

The Americans officially referred to Capis town as CaPIZ (with the “z” articulated) after setting up a civil government in the province on April 15, 1901. In their accounts, they referred to the townsfolk as CapiZEños, not CapisNON.

The elite of the province, like what they did under the previous colonial master, adopted the name introduced by the Americans – Capizeños. However, the masses in Capis town continued calling themselves CapisNON, while those in the other towns referred to themselves as CaPISnon. During World War 11, the Japanese were not concerned about which of the names “Capiceños” and “Capizeños” was the correct one. To them the two names were one and the same, but they also used “CaPISnon” in referring to the people of the province.

When the town of Capis (or Capiz[5]) was renamed Roxas City on April 11, 1951, the natives called themselves taga-Roxas City (meaning “of or from Roxas City”), thus gradually removing the confusion in the use of “CapisNON” and “CaPISnon.” Capisnon (regardless of whether the accent falls on the second or third syllable) would unmistakeably mean the people of Capiz Province after 1951. Both the elite and the masses would admit they were Capisnons, although the former preferred the name Capizeños or Capiceños in formal communication. The name Capizeños came back into popular use in the 1960s. In 2000, the local mass media did not discriminate between “Capiceños” and “Capizeños.”

Today, to call the natives of Capiz either CaPISnons (the Anglicized plural form of CaPISnon), CapisNONs, Capiznons (with the “z” articulated), Capiceños or Capizeños is correct because they use each of these names in referring to themselves. But it is confusing to the uninitiated! The basic argument, though, in favor of the name CaPISnon is: CaPISnon is an indigenous name still in use, while Capiceños and Capizeños are colonial names introduced by the Spaniards and Americans, respectively. Capiznon is culturally inappropriate because the sound of “z” is alien to their traditional linguistic sensibilities.

Another argument in favor of “CaPISnon”: The name does not privilege the male specie because it can refer to either the male or female native, unlike the names Capiceños and Capizeños which are masculine in “form” and “sound.” Calling the people of Capiz CaPISnon (or CaPISnons) is a gender-responsible way of identifying them. After all, in the international community, even the names of their former foreign rulers –  the Spaniards, Americans and Japanese, in that order – have no gender bias.


[1] One of the four provinces of Panay island.

[2] This means that, before 1693, what is now Roxas City was a part (specifically, a “sitio”) of Panay town.

[3] Actually, the decision to reorganize Panay island was made in 1702. The decision was implemented in 1703.

[4] Sometimes spelled “balangay” in Spanish documents.

[5] “Capis” was often spelled “Capiz” from 1946 till April 11, 1951 when the town became a chartered city. Thus in 1950, for example, “Capiz, Capiz” referred to the town of Capiz in the province of Capiz.


2 Comments

Filed under Captivating Capiz, History, Literature

2 responses to “The Multiple Names of the People of Capiz

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Multiple Names of the People of Capiz | Captivating Capiz – Roxas City Seafood Capital of the Philippines -- Topsy.com

  2. Jobert Telic

    I would prefer CAPISNON for the following reasons:

    1) It’s local in terms of accent and suffix used
    2) It’s non-masculine
    3) It’s not foreign-sounding, unlike Capizeños (Spanish) nor Capiznon (English “z”)

    My 2 cents.

    -Jobert of Pres. Roxas/Tiza, Roxas City

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