History of Manila, the Old Capital of the Philippines


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Nowadays, whenever people use the term “Manila”, they are most probably referring to the National Capital Region (NCR). However, they may also be talking about the old “City of Manila” which is one of the independent cities comprising the NCR, commonly known as Metro Manila or simply, Manila.

Here is the root of the confusion, Metro Manila, as we know it now, used to simply be “Manila”. However, as the population and economic activity increased, the need for local government units to manage every major area gave birth to municipalities that grew and eventually declared by the government as cities comprising the NCR or Metro Manila. At this point, Metro Manila has 16 cities and 1 munipality. The historic and oldest part of the metropolis is named the City of Manila.

History of Manila (Part 1)

The name originated from the word “May Nila”. The words “May (mai)” means “there is” and “Nila (nee-lah)”, denotes the star flowered shrub (Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea) that grew abundantly in the area, during its early days. Maynila therefore means “There is Nila”. Some people used the word “nilad” in referring to the tree but it has been established that the correct word is “nila”.

Initially, the city was just a small tribal community headed by King named Rajah Sulayman. Its growth into what it is now, started on May 24, 1570, when a Spanish armada headed by Marshal Martin de Goiti, an officer under the overall command of Spanish Conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, reached the area. The King stiffly resisted and as a result, the Spanish countered by burning the villages. The following year, expedition leader Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived and claimed the entire Philippine archipelago in the name of the Spanish king and declared Manila as the capital.

Manila was sealed by the double walls of Intramuros and protected by an armed military based in Fort Santiago. It was in the city where the Spanish kept to themselves and led by sending religious missionaries and armed expeditions to conquer the rest of the country.

Spanish tyranny ruled the country for more than 300 years, except for a brief period of British Occupation of Manila (1762-1764). The Spanish rule ended on 1898 when the Filipinos finally revolted. With 300 years of oppression as fuel of the revolution, the complacent Spanish, not used to organized and large scale resistance, started to buckle. The end however, came when the hurting Spanish was massacred by the Americans during the battle of Manila bay on May 01, 1898.


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