The Folklore on How Manila Got Its Name

Manila is sometimes the popular name by which the Philippines is known abroad. The recycled and cheap paper popularly used in the Philippines and exported abroad also goes by the name of Manila paper. Ever wondered how Manila got its name? This folklore has some answers to offer.

A long time ago, according to this folklore, when the Walled City of Intramuros was newly built, a peculiar stalky rice-like plant that proliferated near the delta of the Pasig River and the Manila Bay grew abundantly. The Pasig River, the folklore says, was then very clean that people went there to wash clothes or swim. The folklore says the local folks came to know the plant as Nilad because of its gently swaying soft but long trunks when the wind blew from the bay. According to the folklore the arm-like swaying plants that seemed to bid goodbye or welcome at the river banks or at the seashore reminded visitors of the native inhabitants of the area. They were then known to be kind and hospitable. The folklore says they always welcomed visitors who stopped by the coastal vicinity.

Nilad plants boasted of very beautiful flowers of bright white and yellow, which became more spectacular when rayed by the bright tropical sun. According to the folklore, locals and foreigners, kids and old alike, would come to the banks of the river to pick the dazzling flowers. Nilad flowers were made into garlands or laces that, the folklore says, were offered to sacred statues in religious altars or in churches. Because of this, Nilad flower products were soon distributed in other places, and they were known to come from this part of the Pasig River and Manila Bay, the folklore adds.

One day, two Spaniards approached a woman busily arranging Nilad bouquets in a market in the hinterlands. The folklore says, the Spaniards were so intrigued by the beauty of the flowers and wanted to know the place where the flowers had come from. The woman, at a loss where exactly the place was, merely said in the vernacular, “Sa Intramuros, sa mga may Nilad” (in Intramuros, the place where there are Nilads). The natives had since then been referring to the place as such: “Sa may Nilad.” Pretty soon, natives and foreigners came to know the area outside the Walled City or Intramuros as “Sa Maynila,” or Manila.

The folklore on how Manila got its name is amusing and historically possible.

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