A Glimpse into Manila’s Past

The bustling city of Manila has a humble past that made it a city of gentle and friendly people always open to foreign tourists and tourism. Back in the 16th century, Manila was even friendlier to Spanish invaders. Why does Manila continue to attract the tourist’s fancy?

A short visit into its past may reveal the secret.

Manila was that harbor east of Manila Bay. The small Muslim settlement along the river bank near the mouth opening to the bay was friendly. It was ruled by Rajah Sulayman, Matanda, and Lakandula. In 1570 Spain started keeping an eye at the settlement, invaded it, and made it the Philippine capital in 1595. Still, the people were cooperative and earned the title “Distinguished and Ever Loyal City.” Spain saw an ally in most Manilans, along with others in the country, who fought with Spain to repel British occupation.

Manila rapidly grew as an international trading city. It traded with China, Malaysia, and Indonesia, and much later with Japan and Mexico. Through the “Galleon Trade” Philippine products sometimes even made it to Europe. This early international exposure inculcated in the city’s mindset cordiality and openness to tourism.

Manila, or Maynila in the vernacular, originally was “May nilad.” Nilad is a tall shrub that grew along mangroves and sandy beaches. Manila area was said to be full of Nilad, and folks that time referred to it as the place where there’s Nilad. In concise vernacular, it was “May nilad.” So when referring to it, folks would say, “ah, I know that—it’s where there are nilads.”

Nilad, preferring to settle on shores or banks in clusters, could’ve been seen as a welcoming shrubbery to visitors. Its flowers of white and pink were soft welcoming gaieties of tourism, waving in the wind that blew intermittently from the South China Sea. It characterized the friendly gesture of the city’s tourism.

The Americans also first landed on the shores of Manila after the mock Battle of Manila Bay. It found a suitable camp in the Walled City, Intramuros, where it set up a command post. Later, in World War II, Manila was an “open city,” again welcoming Japanese invaders without resistance.

Thus, Manila, through centuries of exposure to foreign visitors, has raised up generations of friendly people always open to tourism. It has been molded by its history of meek and tolerant hospitality, plus a dash of accommodating symbolism in the Nilad plant where it got its name.

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