By Severino C. Samonte

The proliferation of acronyms in PH and elsewhere

November 24, 2022, 2:14 pm

Have you ever noticed the seemingly unending proliferation of acronyms of almost all kinds not only in the Philippines nowadays, but also in other countries throughout the world?

An acronym is defined by the dictionary as "a word formed by the combining of initial letters or syllables and letters of a series of words or a compound term."

When I was younger and still in high school decades ago, I always enjoyed and got impressed whenever I read or came across nice acronyms in the newspapers, magazines, books, periodicals and other publications.

Oftentimes, I would re-read them a number of times so that I would remember and know their meaning when I came across them again, whether together with the actual group of words they stood for or not.

At that time, there were still few acronyms in the Philippines and even in the rest of the world, including in the United Nations which was initially composed of 50 countries in 1945.

To my mind, however, one of the most historical and memorable acronyms I had come across was about the "KKK" which stood for the "Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan" (highest and noblest association of the sons of the country) "organized by Gat Andres Bonifacio and his group in the 1890s to fight for the Philippine independence from Spanish occupation. The Philippines gained its independence from the United States of America (USA) in July 1946.

Today, the most commonly read acronyms in the newspapers are those of the national government departments represented by the Cabinet members of President “Bongbong” Marcos (BBM), including the infant Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).

Among the most common acronyms that could be found in local newspapers, magazines, periodicals and books in the 1950s-1960s were (in parentheses): Philippine Islands (PI), Commonwealth of the Philippines (CP), Republic of the Philippines (RP), Philippine General Hospital (PGH), North General Hospital (NGH), Philippine National Bank (PNB), Central Bank of the Philippines (CBP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine Constabulary (PC), Philippine Air Force (PAF), Philippine Navy (PN), Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Manila Electric Company (Meralco), and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT).

There were also the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP), Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP), National Economic Protectionism Association (NEPA), National Economic Council (NEC), San Miguel Brewery (SMB), National Power Corporation (NPC), National Rice and Corn Corporation (NARIC) which later on became Rice and Corn Administration (RCA), United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), Clark Air Force Base (CAFB), Supreme Court (SC), Court of Appeals (CA), and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

A year after the bombing by unknown groups of the proclamation rally of the Liberal Party (LP) candidates in Plaza Miranda, Quiapo, Manila on Aug. 21, 1971, stepped-up activities by militant groups belonging to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) and the secessionist movement in Mindanao prompted President Ferdinand E. Marcos (1965-1986) to declare a nationwide state of Martial Law (ML) on Sept. 21, 1972.

The President said he proclaimed martial law "as a final recourse to combat two principal sources of grave danger to society and the government --a rebellion mounted by a strange conspiracy of leftist and rightist radicals, and a secessionist movement supported by foreign parties." He was then referring to the movement by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to separate the former Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan (MinSuPala) from the Republic of the Philippines (RP).

During the administration of President Corazon C. Aquino (1986-1992), steps were taken to quell the secessionist problem in southern Philippines. Under the 1987 Constitution, an Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was created, which was upgraded to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) during the 2016-2022 term of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

A Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) in northern Philippines was also proposed but its creation remains pending after 35 years. What is there today is the CAR meaning Cordillera Administrative (not autonomous) Region.

In 1975, President Marcos decided to integrate through a presidential decree (PD) 17 local government units (LGUs) from the then Greater Manila Area (GMA), Rizal and Bulacan provinces and created the Metropolitan Manila Commission (MMC) headed by then First Lady (FL) Imelda R. Marcos as governor. This led later to the creation of the Metro Manila Transit Corporation (MMTC), among many other agencies with their corresponding acronyms, and also to the birth of the present Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA composed of 16 cities and one municipality represented by the Metro Manila Mayors' Council (MMC).

In recent years, the compound words Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), South China Sea (SCS), West Philippine Sea (WPS), Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) also began to surface.

In July 1993, the Congress passed a law creating the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to replace the original Central Bank of the Philippines (CBP) established in 1949.

Originally, the National Press Club (NPC) of the Philippines was the only national organization of journalists in the country and its office can be found at the NPC Bldg. along Magallanes Drive in Intramuros, Manila. Later, the Federation of Provincial Press Clubs (FPPC) was born, followed by the National Union of Journalists (NUJP) and local press clubs in almost every province and city in the country.

There are also acronyms for known colleges and universities in the country. They include: University of the Philippines (UP), San Beda College (SBC), Manuel L. Quezon University (MLQU), Manila Central University (MCU), Philippine Women's University (PWU), Jose Rizal University (JRU), Centro Escolar University (CEU), Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), De La Salle University (DLSU), University of the East (UE), Far Eastern University (FEU), National University (NU), Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSJL), FEATI University (FU), Mapua University (MU), Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU), University of Manila (UM), Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), Arellano University (AU), Technological University of the Philippines (TIP), University of Santo Tomas (UST), Adamson University (AdU), Philippine Normal College (PNC), Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), College of St. Benilde (CSB), San Sebastian College-Recoletos (SSC-R), University of Perpetual Help System-Dalta (UPHSD), and Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC).

In the political field, only two major political parties dominated the elections in the country --the Nacionalista Party (NP) and the Liberal Party ( LP) -- under the 1935 Constitution. Later, there was the emergence of the Progressive Party of the Philippines (PPP).

After the ratification of the 1973 Constitution, the 1976-1978 Batasang Bayan (BB) called for the election of the members of the Interim Batasang Pambansa (IBP) on April 7, 1978 and several political parties emerged, further increasing the number of acronyms. Among them were: Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL), United Democratic Organization (UNIDO), Grand Alliance for Democracy (GAD), Lakas ng Bansa (Laban), Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP-Laban), and Partido ng Bayan (PnB), among others.

For the religious groups, the most common existing acronyms are those of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).

Elsewhere in the globe, there are the United Nations (UN) with 193 member countries at present, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), European Union (EU), and Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries (OPEC).

It seems that as the population of a country and the whole world continues increasing at a fast rate, reaching the eight-billion mark this November, there is a corresponding rise in the number of organizations, associations and other grouping of people, resulting in the unending proliferation of acronyms.


About the Columnist

Image of Severino C. Samonte

He began his journalistic career by contributing to the Liwayway and Bulaklak magazines in the 1960’s. He was the night editor of the Philippine News Service when Martial Law was declared in September 1972. When the Philippine News Agency was organized in March 1973, he was named national news editor because of his news wire service experience.

He retired as executive news editor in 2003. He also served as executive editor of the Malacanang-based Presidential News Desk from 1993 to 1996 and from 2005 to 2008.