By Chris Salido
Manila has its fair share of stories to tell. Aside from being the Philippine capital, the city was the site of several of the most important historical events in the country. As we celebrate “Araw ng Maynila,” let’s rediscover some of this city’s secrets.
MAYNILAD, MAYNILA, AND MANILA
Manila was originally called Maynilad, a name derived from two Tagalog words, “may” (there is) and “nilad,” a shrub-like tree that was abundant along the shores of
Manila Bay and the Pasig River. “Nila” in the word Maynila comes from a Sanskrit word meaning indigo, as the name was a reference to the indigo plants that supposedly grew around an area known as tayum (Guatemalan indigo), what is now known as Tayuman Street. Maynila was eventually adopted into Spanish as Manila.
On June 24, 1571 Manila officially became the capital city of the Philippines. Years later, during the term of Mayor Arsenio Lacson in 1958, he declared June 24 as Manila’s foundation day. It was in 1963, under Mayor Antonio Villegas, that the foundation day celebration was renamed Manila Day.
As the capital of the country, Manila is famous for its many firsts. One particular district with many firsts is Escolta, once called the “Queen of Manila Streets” because of its booming businesses and intricate architectural designs. It was home to the first ice-cream shop in the country, Clarke’s Ice Cream Parlor, which was established in 1899 and named after businessman M.A. Clarke. It was also in Escolta where the first cinema in the Philippines, Salon de Pertierra, opened in 1896.
MANILA HOTEL’S GENERAL
The Manila Hotel is one of the most iconic institutions in the city. Its walls and halls are witnesses to history. Gen. Douglas MacArthur, upon the invitation of Pres. Manuel Quezon to help build the Philippine Army in 1935, went to Manila along with his wife, Jean and, son Arthur. They made the Manila Hotel their home. To compensate for their luxurious living at the Manila Hotel, President Quezon gave MacArthur the honorary title of “General Manager.” As a result, MacArthur got involved with hotel management, attending monthly meetings with the staff.
Another part of Manila with an interesting story is Binondo. According to records, it is the oldest Chinatown in the world, built during the 1590s by the Spaniards as a settlement for Catholic Chinese. Binondo was also the birthplace of the Katipunan.
HOME OF THE CHURCHES
Churches are among the most preserved buildings in Manila. One of these churches is the oldest in the country, the San Agustin church, which was built in 1571. It was recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
RISING FROM THE GRAVE
Over the years, several old cemeteries were converted into urban spaces. One of these is the site of Harrison Plaza, which used to be the old Ermita cemetery. The Remedios Circle or Plaza Plaridel in Malate was an old cemetery too, which was closed down after World War II.
MGA ANAK NG MAYNILA
Manila is home to many of the country’s most prominent personalities. First on the list is Andres Bonifacio who was born in Tondo. Félix Resurrección Hidalgo was born in Binondo. Also born in Binondo to a Chinese father and Filipino mother was San Lorenzo Ruiz, patron saint of Filipino youth, overseas Filipinos, and altar servers.
National Artist Fernando Amorsolo was born and raised in Paco, Manila. Lea Salonga, the first Filipino and Asian to win a Tony Award for playing Kim in Miss Saigon, was born in Ermita, Manila. Pop star Sarah Geronimo was born in Santa Cruz, Manila.