The City of Manila occupies a unique position in Philippine political
geography, for it is both a chartered city, and also it fulfills the
functions of a province for the four cities and thirteen municipalities
composing its metropolitan area. But then, Manila has always been an
exceptional case, defying just about every political formula devised
to govern other towns, cities and provinces. It has required special
laws and governmental systems to rule it, practically from the
beginning of the Spanish rule of the Philippines in the 16th Century
up to the present.
Manila - A History
Manila City proper is bounded on the north by Navotas and Caloocan
City, on the northeast by Quezon City and San Juan del Monte, on the
southeast by Mandaluyong and Makati, and on the south by Pasay City.
It faces beautiful Manila Bay to the west.
A relatively new development is the incorporation of all the cities
and municipalities comprising the Manila metropolitan area into one
unit--a "mega-city"--called "Metro Manila." It is governed as one
unit by a governor, who coordinates its functions and services through
the various city and municipal officials, very much like a provincial
governor rules many towns. And yet, the component cities, provinces and
municipalities retain their previous jurisdictions. Metro Manila is
comprised of the cities of Manila, Quezon City, Caloocan City and Pasay
City, and the municipalities of Navotas, Malabon, Valenzuela (in Bulacan
province), Marikina, Pasig, Mandaluyong, San Juan del Monte, Makati,
Pateros, Taguig (Tagig), Paranaque, Las Pinas and Muntinglupa.
Manila derived its name from two Tagalog words; "may," meaning
"there is," and "nilad," the name of a shrub that originally grew
abundantly along the shores of the Pasig River and Manila Bay. Long
before the Spanish conquest, Manila was settled by Mohammedans, who
carried on a thriving trade with Chinese and other Southeast Asian
merchants. "Maynilad" was the principal bay settlement of these
Tagalogs south of the Pasig River, although it was probably less
important commercially than Tondo, the town on the north bank.
Manila was first visited by Spaniards in 1570. Governor-General
Legazpi, searching for a suitable place to establish his capital
after being compelled to move from Cebu to Panay by Portugese pirates,
and hearing of the existence of a prosperous Mohammedan community in
Luzon, sent an expedition under Martin de Goiti to discover its
location and potentials. De Goiti anchored at Cavite, and tried to
establish his authority peaceably by sending a message of friendship
to Maynilad. Rajah Soliman, then its ruler, was willing to befriend
the Spaniards, but would not submit to Spanish sovereignity peaceably.
Naturally, this was unsatisfactory to the Spanish commander, so after
he secured equipment and reinforcements, he attacked Maynilad in June
of 1570. He captured it after a stout fight, and having formally taken
possession of the city in the name of the King of Spain, he returned
The next year, in 1571, the Spaniards returned, this time led by
Governor-General Legazpi himself. Seeing them approach, the
natives set fire to the town, levelling it to the ground, while the
people fled to Tondo and neighboring towns.
After occupying the remains of Maynilad on June 19, 1591, and commencing
the construction of a fort there, Legazpi made overtures of friendship to
Rajah Lakandula of Tondo, which this time were prudently accepted. Soliman,
however, refused to submit to the Spaniards, despite the wise counsel of
Lakandula, whose aid Soliman solicited in an effort to expel the invaders.
Failing to get Lakandula's support, as well as that of the Pampangans and
Pangasinans, Soliman gathered together a considerable force of Tagalog
warriors, and attacked the Spaniards in a decisive battle at the town of
Bangcusay. There the Filipinos were defeated, and Soliman himself was killed.
With the destruction of Soliman's army, and the friendly interventions of
Rajah Lakandula, the Spaniards were enabled to establish their authority
throughout the city and its adjacent settlemnts, and soon several
Christian missions were established.
Eventually, Roman Catholic missions, parishes and schools were established
by nearly every religious order to come to the Philippines. The first
priests were Augustinians and secular priests, followed by Franciscans,
Jesuits, Dominicans and Augustinian Recollects, with many other orders
following in later centuries.
The rule of the Spanish conquerers of the "City of Soliman" was full of
dangers, since the people were opposed to foreign sovereignty.
Consequently, the city was frequently the scene of serious disturbances.
The Chinese, angered by the loss of free trade, the commercial restrictions
placed by the untrusting Spanish upon them, and the laws forcing them to
pay tribute to Spain, made several efforts to destroy the Spaniards.
The first of these Chinese revolts occurred in 1574, when a force of some
3,000 men and 62 Chinese warships under the command of Limahong attacked
the city. This attenpt proved fruitless, the Chinese being defeated with
heavy losses. As a safeguard against similar uprisings later, the Chinese
residents and merchants of Manila were confined to a separate district,
called "Parian de Alcaceria."
However, this precaution was not totally effective, for at various times in
the following century, the Chinese rose in revolt. In 1602, they set fire to
Quiapo and Tondo, and for a time threatened to capture Intramuros. In 1662,
they again revolted, while in 1686, a conspiracy led by Tingco plotted to
kill all the Spaniards. It is no surprise, then, to learn that at various
times during the Spanish era, the Chinese were expelled (or decrees were
made to that effect) from Manila and from the entire country. Later
reconciliations nearly always permitted the continuation of the Chinese
community in the city, however.
In 1595, Manila was decreed to be the capital of the Archipelago, although
it had already in fact served that function practically from its founding
in 1571. Besides being Spain's pre-eminent city in the Philippines, and
dominant over other provincial capitals, it was itself a provincial capital
over a province whose territory at one time covered nearly all of Luzon,
and included the modern territorial subdivisions of Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal,
Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, Mindoro, Masbate and Marinduque. Later, these
subdivisions were themselves made provinces, leaving Manila province
with a territory roughly equal to the present City of Manila proper
(except Intramuras, the capital site), and the northwestern two-thirds
of Rizal province. The boundary of Manila province went from northeast to
southwest, including Antipolo, Cainta, Taytay and Taguig, and all of the
towns north and west of them, in Manila province; and Angono, Teresa,
Morong, and the towns south and east of them, in Laguna province. Early
in the province's history, the provincial name was changed fran Manila to
"Tondo" province, by which it was known for most of the Spanish era.
In 1762, during the "Seven Years' War," the British occupied Manila,
remaining in the city until 1764. The fleeing Spaniards destroyed many
of the records, and in the sack of the town by the British, many historical
documents of great value were destroyed or stolen from the archives.
In about 1853, four pueblos or towns of Tondo province were joined with
the northeastern towns of Laguna province to form the politico-military
"Distrito de los Montes de San Mateo," or District of the San Mateo
Mountains. Tondo province annexed to this new district the towns of
Cainta, Taytay, Antipolo and Boso-boso, while Laguna contributed the
towns of Angono, Binangonan, Cardona, Morong, Baras, Tanay, Pililla and
Jalajala. But the name of the new district proved unwieldy, too long,
and misled many into thinking the town of San Mateo (in Tondo province)
was the capital of the San Mateo Mountain District, when in reality
the district capital was in Morong. So, in about 1859, following common
practice of the day, the district was renamed after its capital; namely,
Morong District. At about the same time, Tondo Province was renamed Manila
Being the traditional seat of education and liberal thinking in the
Philippines, Manila was a rich field for anti-Spanish propaganda. But
outwardly it remained quiet until July 7, 1892, when the secret
revolutionary organization devoted to the overthrow of Spanish rule
of the country, called the Katipunan, was organized in Manila's suburb,
Tondo. Although initial skirmishes between the Filipinos and
Spanish were brief and nearly always lost by the Filipinos, the
movement grew until open rebellion broke out in 1896, with the Spaniards
losing the Philippines to the combined Filipino-American forces in 1898.
But Spain ceded the country only to the Americans, who exerted their
control militarily, defeating the Filipinos in the "Mock Battle" of Manila
on August 13, 1898. Thereafter, the Americans pursued the retreating
Filipino forces province by province, until General Emilio Aguinaldo
(then president of the Republic) surrendered in Palanan, Isabela, on
March 23, 1901. Manila continued under an American military government
until civil government was established for the city on July 31, 1901.
Along with the establishment of the civil government, the Philippine
Commission dissolved the former province of Manila, and merged its
pueblos with those of the District of Morong, forming the new province
of Rizal. Afew weeks later, the Philippine Commission
provided for a new charter for the city of Manila, defining its boundaries,
and thus annexing some of Rizal Province's towns to the city as districts.
These boundaries were slightly revised and redefined on January 29,
1902, when the suburb of Gagalangin was annexed to the city district of
Tondo, and the former pueblo of Santa Ana was annexed as a district to
Manila City. On July 30 of that year, the city board officially divided
the city into 13 political subdivisions named districts, and the boundaries
of each were defined. On August 15 of the same year, Pandacan
pueblo was annexed as a city district. The boundaries and city districts of
Manila City proper have remained essentially unchanged ever since.
With the outbreak of World War II, Manila entered a five-year period of
sorrow and destruction. Hoping to minimize the loss of life and property,
government officials declared Manila an open city on December 26, 1941. The
following New Years' Day, 1942, President Quezon decreed the merger of the
towns of Quezon City, Caloocan, San Juan del Monte, Mandaluyong, Makati,
Pasay and Paranaque with Manila City to form the town he called "Greater
Manila," to sinplify the administration of the metropolitan area during the
war. Being practically destroyed in the process, the city was liberated
from Japanese control in March of 1945 by the joint Filipino-American
forces. Soon thereafter, "Greater Manila" was dissolved, and its towns
returned to their pre-war status.
In 1948, Quezon City was declared the national capital of the new Republic
of the Philippines, thus robbing Manila City of an honor it had held since
1595. But on May 29, 1976, President Ferdinand Marcos' Decree No 940
returned the national capital to Manila, declaring that "the area
prescribed as Metro Manila by P. D. 824" was to be the seat of the national
Not even a hundredth part of Manila's rich and lengthy history can be
written here. Therefore, the reader is referred to other works for more
details.(See the Valuable Printed Sources, and the Selected Bibliography
of Chapter 10.)
It is probable that nearly every dialect spoken in the Philippines is
spoken in Manila, for this cosmopolitan city receives its population
from the entire country. Many foreign languages are also spoken, mainly by
foreign nationals engaged in the diplomatic corps or business enterprises.
But Tagalog is the predominant dialect, spoken by 76.4% of Manila's
population, followed by Iloco (4.9%), Samar-Leyte (3.3%), Pampango
(3.0%), Bicol (2.8%), Chinese (2.6%), Cebuano (1.9%), Hiligaynon (1.9%),
Pangasinan (1.7%), and the remaining 1.5% speak any of the other dialects
used in the country. Pilipino can be spoken by 98.0% of the population,
English by 66.1%, and Spanish by 8.4%.
Roman Catholics predominate, comprising 93.5%, followed by Iglesia ni
Cristo (1.9%), Protestants (1.8%), Buddhists (1.1%), Moslems and others
comprising the remaining 1.4% of Manila's population.