The Time The Philippines Almost Stole Malaysia’s Name

Oddities of history

Grant Piper
3 min readMay 29, 2022


Unlike other post-colonial nations, the Philippines never changed its name. Many nations opted to choose new names for themselves after throwing off the shackles of their former colonial masters. The Philippines never did despite winning their independence twice.

The Philippines won their independence from Spain in 1899 when the Spanish lost a war with the United States. Unfortunately, ownership of the colony passed from Spain to the US who spent three years pacifying the population.

The Philippines again won its independence in 1946 after nearly 50 years of US ownership and years of brutal Japanese occupation. But after all of that, the island nation has opted to keep the name that they were given centuries ago.

The Philippines takes its name from Philip II of Spain who was the reigning monarch at the time that the Spanish claimed the distant islands as their own.

That is not to say that the Philippines has not tried to shed its Spanish name in favor of a new more local moniker. In fact, during the 1960s, the Philippines attempted to rename themselves Malaysia in an oddity of history.

Philippines -> Malaysia

The Philippines gained their independence following the conclusion of World War II but they did not think about changing their name until 1962. The early 1960s was a turbulent time for Southeast Asia. The Vietnam war was raging, British Malaya was struggling to secure independence and the Philippines were watching on with great interest.

At the time, the British colony that encompassed the modern state of Malaysia was named British Malaya.

In 1962, the Philippines advanced a bill that would have proposed an official name change from the Philippines to Malaysia. The nation wanted to give a nod to the island’s Malay heritage while also making a bid for the mantle of Malay culture. The Philippines also had claims on lands held by British Malaya. There was a sense that inheriting the name Malaysia would give the Philippines more authority in the upcoming negotiations with the nation that was about to emerge from British Malaya.



Grant Piper

Thought provoking articles, when time and payouts permit it.