The Origin Story of Marites and Its Rise to Meme Immortality

Do you know a Marites? I'm sure you do but not exactly the Marites-named person next to you right now. But do you know its origin story?

Do you know a Marites? I'm sure you do but not exactly the Marites-named person next to you right now. Well, if you haven't lived under a rock during the entire length of your quarantine, there has been widespread use of that name in pandemic proportions.

When it comes to the latest gossip, artista controversies, or anything that goes around in your neighborhood grapevine, they are always there. They spread news faster than you make that Facebook post.

So how the hell did Marites become the most infamous name in the Philippines?

Although the name symbolizes the inherent 'tsimisan' culture of Filipinos, the name itself is irrelevant. It only became popular as a convenient way of referring to the act of spreading malicious gossip. Known as a 'tsimosa' in Filipino social circles, they are often branded with the reputation of neighborhood liars. Even if they tell the truth, they end up exaggerating the story just to have something interesting to talk about.

Collectively, most Filipinos are on social media and they consume a lot of online content that often deal with celebrity scandals, political intrigues, and life of people they know. Even mainstream media is dumbing down news stories so that more people would talk about them. Many end up believing more stories posted on social media than those fact-checked articles written by real journalists. Fake news has become a fact of life so that local 'tsimosas' make their own spin on it for personal gain.

Since we talked about gossip culture, some believed that Marites is the acronym for the phrase "Mare, ito ang latest." As Filipinos love to contract phrases into one word, it's something you will find the meaning sensible. However, there is more to it than that.

Behind the Real Name

The name is actually a contraction of Maria Teresa, which is a very common name in the Philippines. When Spain used to rule the archipelago, they brought their naming system so that natives would adopt it. In fact, Governor-General Narciso Claveria issued a decree in 1849 that standardized Filipino names and surnames.

Maria Teresa was the daughter of King Felipe IV of Spain and Queen Elisabeth of France
She caused a scandal in 1667 when she gave birth to a black child as the result of an affair with her African court dwarf Nabo. The child was given to a monastery to become a nun while Nabo was murdered.

One of the most popular names is Maria Teresa, which is the name of Spanish queen Maria Teresa (1660-1683), the wife of French king Louis XIV. Other Spanish monarchs also included Maria Teresa Rafaela (1726-1746), wife of Louis, Dauphine of France.

The name is a variant of Mary from the Hebrew "Miryām," a name of debated meaning. Many believe it to mean "sea of bitterness" or "sea of sorrow." However, some sources cite the alternative definitions of "rebellion," "wished-for child," and "mistress or lady of the sea."

The popularity of St. Therese gave rise to the adoption of her name

Although the name Maria Teresa eventually fell out of favor as more Filipinos assumed English names by the time the Americans arrived, it somewhat gained a resurgence during the 1930s as the name Teresa and Teresita became a popular girl's name after the devotion of St. Therese of Lisieux was introduced by the Carmelites.

Interestingly, the name is also contracted as "Marite" as a term of endearment in other Spanish-speaking countries.

It has been a common practice to add Maria, which is conveniently shortened as "Ma.", as the primary first name followed by the chosen name. That's why a lot of girls were baptised as "Ma. Teresa" and their nicknames became Maritess or Marites.

Who would have thought that a royal name would become the by-word for the queen of gossips in the country?

Cultural Roots

Unlike the widely-known Karen, Marites developed under unique cultural and social circumstances. In the pre-Spanish teams, our ancestors live under a self-governing barangay state of around 30 to 100 families that followed a strict social hierarchy. Those on the top of the hierarchy have household slaves that take care of their needs. Oftentimes, people from the noble class only talk to other nobles and so slaves only talk to slaves. Because everyone knows their place, no one dares disrupts the state of things in the community. Gossip became a form of secret communication.

By the time the Spanish ruled the archipelago, Filipinos used gossip as a coping mechanism against their overlords so they can talk freely about everything that they don't want the Spanish to know about. They were able to disclose important information vital for their survival. They exaggerate things and add unnecessary details to throw the Guardia Civil off guard.

Gossip in Spanish times is hidden under a veil of secrecy. Nowadays, it's out in the open.

Even the word "tsimis" has the Spanish to thank for with their word "chismes." Eventually, we have made different word variations and euphemisms of it like "sitsit," "satsat," "alingasngas," "bulungan," and "istoryahan." Even the word "balita" has lost its true value as true information without the negative connotation.

The term Marites did not emerge on its own. It's the mainstream media that built the foundation of it. Why? As mentioned earlier, they have dumbed down the news so instead of presenting real news that matters, they bring up blind items of mundane celebrity life (separated and reunited couples or someone got pregnant) and political controversies that either captivate or stir everyone's imagination. They build up the need for a platform, like celebrity talk shows and news segments, so everyone will know the latest stories of their favorite artists and politicians. Even dirty laundry is aired out live on TV. Someone has to tell these stories. Nowadays, you will have your annoying aunt and the nosy neighbor talking to each other about you.

Road to 'Meme'-hood

There is no definitive account as to when this meme started even though your neighborhood gossip queen already existed before the mobile phone, Internet, and social media. The Karen phenomenon emerged in the 2020s and perhaps, Marites is a variation and category in itself.

By definition, Karen is a pejorative term for a white woman perceived as entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is normal. They are not the gossipy type in Filipino context. However, the prolonged quarantine and lockdown measures during the COVID pandemic gave rise to anti-social behavior which caused the widespread adoption of the term.

In the Philippines, Marites emerged as many ended up using social media to communicate and gossip. Even with lockdown in major cities, that never deterred the Marites spirit of sharing false news of vaccines going to kill you and avoiding social distancing measures.

Some observers have said that the use of these terms is sexist as it plays to the women stereotypes of being emotional and hysterical. As it becomes mainstream, women who appeared to look like a "Karen" or "Marites" are demonized as such even though they don't do what they are expected to be. Some women with those names feel like the meme made them look bad.

It's not unusual that in today's digital culture, specific stereotypes are attached to names used to label specific stereotypes and behaviors. Names like Becky, Chad, Kyle, Stacy, Trixie, or Jock have become all too common.

Reference to Karen

As a developing country, the Philippines has a large population of young people aged 15-30 years old. If you come to think of it, many of the women named Maria Teresa, Marites, Teresita, or Tessie and their variations are probably middle-aged by now. Assuming that the widespread use of that name occurred from the 1930s to the 1960s, the meme may have been attributed to the name eventually. It would be nice to have good demographic data showing real numbers of the usage and frequency of the name.

The Marites origin story probably followed the same possibility of the Karen meme where a once-popular name was used to refer to the social phenomena in 2020. The repeated use of the name on social media and on the street reinforced its status.

Blind Items

As mentioned earlier, Filipinos love blind items because they wanted interesting and intriguing content. Life without these would be boring. As active consumers of this type of journalism, we can collectively admit to ourselves as Marites in our own right. Interestingly enough, a lot of significant political events that happened in our history started with a blind item from Elpidio Quirino's golden orinola to PGMA's Hello Garci. With social media, gossip, and fake news fueling the fire to keyboard activism, Internet bullying, and online slander. Everything is now out in the open and even your skeletons in your closet can no longer hide.

There is always a limit to freedom of expression because even if your intentions are good, there are always unintended consequences. In today's digital landscape, social media magnifies the perceived wrongdoing of someone and spreads the out-of-context story to a much wider audience. Any target to a blind item can lose their credibility and reputation in just a single click.

Earliest Start

At the height of the COVID lockdowns, most people were forced to stay at home and avoid going outside. There was a rise in anxiety and stress as people complained against these measures.

One line started it all and the iconic "Manahimik ka, Marites" trended online in 2020 when Manila mayor Isko Moreno announced that no liquor ban will be implemented under the modified enhanced community quarantine. Although most people celebrate, there was a certain Marites who opposed the popular decision. Then a Facebook user responded with that line.

In January 2021, TikToker Justine Luzares popularized another Marites character in his videos where he portrayed a stereotypical "tsismosa" next-door neighbor in robe and matching towel on the head while sharing rumors and tattle-tales in a faux British accent. In his succeeding videos, he describes Marites as the 'queen of gossips,' 'mother of all tambays and usiseras,' and the 'eyes and ears of the new world.'

'Enlightened' Marites

Can we consider so-called 'enlightened Marites' as citizen journalists, whistleblowers, or fact-checkers? If there are responsible people like them they would be nosy and inquisitive not on insignificant, trivial pursuits but all the things that matter in society. They would be the exact opposite of the Marites we all know.

What would be the future incarnation of Marites be like?

What Makes One

Not everyone becomes one but there are many factors that make one a Marites. It's not just about the love for gossip and badmouthing people, it's in their socio-cultural circumstances.


As mentioned earlier, we have grown up with the gossip culture and you can't escape from it. However, it takes one to become good at it that they make it into an art form unto itself.


We live in a developing country where the majority are below the top half of the economic ladder and most barely scraping by the poverty line. In a society where there is tremendous inequality and injustice, some people avoid the monotony and drudgery of everyday life by living in a fantasy world revolving around gossip.

If you come to think about it, the art of talking tall tales and exaggerating stories can be therapeutic in a way because a Marites feel like they're in control of the situation even though they are not. Some can be so deluded that they even believe in their own lies. Gossiping with the next-door neighbors serves as a breather to escape from the problems inside their homes.


If you live in a hand-to-mouth existence, you often seek something new and exciting so a Marites are the type of people who seek gossip as a pastime to get things by. That means when people gather together at birthday parties or drinking sessions with friends, pretty sure any Marites would catch up with everyone with the latest 'tsismis.'

After a long day of household chores, they seek some spare time to relax so they seek conversation. When watching their favorite telenovelas and TV news, they always seek juicy showbiz updates. Now with the Internet easily accessible on smartphones, spilling tea is already one click away!


Who would have thought that weather plays a big role in this subculture? Why?

We live in a hot and rainy tropical climate so someone has to go out somewhere to relieve the sweltering heat and cold rainy day to talk with the neighbors on the latest 'tsismis.' You know the drill.


When you say survival, it's not just about life and death situations but getting ahead of everyone in order to avoid getting into that situation in the first place. We often compare what people are doing right and wrong so we can brag about what we did to avoid their failures and follow their successes.

According to the evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, gossiping gives us the ability to spread valuable information to very large social networks. It also means gossiping is a form of cultural learning.

Character Traits

There are distinctive character traits that make Marites the national nickname of enthusiastic nosy neighbors and blabbermouth aunts who constantly keep track of the latest gossip, rumor, and bizarre thing they stumble upon on the grapevine and social media.


They are the enthusiastic type when it comes to probing everything about you and other people's personal lives. They keep tabs on everything that you do as thorough as any secret police. They often share what they know through a blind item on Facebook.

They swallow fake news quite easily even if they act full-detective mode on something that interests them. They can be investigators, messengers, and even sources for evidence of third parties slandering the reputation of other people.


When you ask them about any rumor, they know everything that needs to know about it. They feel like the expert on that subject matter.

Common Friends

"Tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are" rings true. A Marites will never be one if she doesn't have people to talk to. Her group of friends will definitely share the same interests and characteristics. There is strength in numbers as they spend time talking about and making fun of other people's business.

Fault Finder

They never enjoy a dull moment because they go to great lengths to find something wrong to point out. Oftentimes, they look at someone head to toe and have something to complain about.

Bad Rap on the Name?

Imagine yourself having that name but the meme is bringing the bad reputation into it, how will you feel? Remember the film "Office Space" when two office guys talking about Michael Bolton's name, the Indian guy Samir asked Michael if he could go with the name Mike instead. He insisted he got the name first and the real Michael Bolton sucks.

Will you change your name because of the bad reputation it has?

In "24 Oras" segment on TV, some people laugh it off as they are not the gossipy type while others worry about it as they see it as a bad joke.

If you happen to be a Marites or Karen by name, don't worry yourself too much about it. In the end, it's just a name.




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Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger: The Origin Story of Marites and Its Rise to Meme Immortality
The Origin Story of Marites and Its Rise to Meme Immortality
Do you know a Marites? I'm sure you do but not exactly the Marites-named person next to you right now. But do you know its origin story?
Istoryadista | History Blog | Cebu Blogger
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