‘Araw ng Maynila,’ ‘Araw ng Kastila’ | Inquirer Opinion
Looking Back

‘Araw ng Maynila,’ ‘Araw ng Kastila’

If you passed San Juan unprepared on June 24, chances are you were doused with water. This is the traditional way the townspeople celebrate the feast of its patron saint—John the Baptist, better known in the Philippines by his Spanish name San Juan Bautista. June 24 is also a holiday in Manila because it was on the feast of San Juan in 1571 that Spanish Manila was founded. Spanish Manila was the area within the walls of Intramuros, not the Metro Manila of our day. It became the capital of Filipinas and was bestowed a coat of arms by Philip II with the title insigne y siempre leal (distinguished and ever loyal city).

There are a number of contemporary documents on Manila translated from the original Spanish that can be found in a 55-volume compilation familiar to historians as the “Blair and Robertson” (from the names of the editors). After settling in Cebu and Panay, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi heard of a better place in Luzon called Manila that was large and strong, and had an accessible and defensible port. The inhabitants of Manila were, compared to the Visayans, more powerful for they had “twelve pieces of small and inferior artillery and a few culverins.” Early in 1570, Legazpi sent Juan de Salcedo to Manila with orders not to take the city by force—but this was not to be.


Some documents say the name “Maynila” came from the nila that grew there in abundance—hence “may nila” (there is nila). Another says it was “may dila” because the city lay on land shaped like a tongue jutting out into Manila Bay, regulating access to the mouth of the Pasig River.

An uneasy peace was concluded between Martin de Goiti and Raja Laya (Raja Matanda), an old and trustworthy ruler, as well as his young nephew Raja Soliman, suspected of lack of good faith. When Salcedo arrived and joined Goiti in Manila, he asked to meet with Soliman who refused, saying he would not pay tribute like the subjugated Visayans and would not allow the Spaniards passage into the Pasig. Around 2,000 people, including women and children, congregated in the city, far outnumbering the Spaniards. Then Soliman began the hostilities from his fort.


“[At 10 am on May 24, 1570] the Indians, who were in the fort, began to discharge their artillery at two of our ships, which were moored nearby. [Martin de Goiti] was ashore with eighty soldiers, close to this same fort, on a small piece of level ground. The fort was made of palm-tree logs surmounting a very narrow mound, and the pieces of artillery protruded from immense gaps by which the soldiers could enter at will, as I have said above.

“Now when the Moros began to violate the articles of peace and friendship, the master of camp was deeply concerned; because the enemy were in force. Yet, when he saw that the battle had broken out, he put on his helmet, and commenced to encourage his soldiers, telling them that they should acquit themselves as Spaniards as they had always done in critical times. He ordered them to attack the fort through the openings made for the artillery, and it pleased God that not one of the gunners had the courage to fire his piece; and so great was the confusion, that they trembled upon seeing the Spaniards enter with so great spirit, and, turning their backs, abandoned themselves to flight, and slew one another in their mad rush for freedom.

“[Goiti], realizing that the village was large and rich, and that the victory was his by the grace of God, for the soldiers were few, feared lest our soldiers should, through greed, set to plundering the houses and become widely scattered; and that, if the enemy should see them thus scattered, they would return and attack them when unable to reunite. That he might avoid this danger he ordered the village to be set on fire, and the soldiers to collect upon the promontory, which order was obeyed. In this manner, as related, it befell [Goiti], and the victory was obtained over those of Manilla. The artillery that they possessed, and which I have mentioned above—namely, ten or twelve medium-sized pieces and a few culverins—was taken.”

That was how the palisaded city of Soliman was burned and taken by the Spaniards. A year later, on May 19, 1571, Legazpi landed in Manila and took possession of the place as he did in other places—by pulling up plants and shrubs, cutting down leaves and branches on trees, picking up stones from the ground and throwing them about. All the chiefs of Manila, except Soliman, wanted peace. Upon his approach, some people burned their homes and crossed the Pasig to Tondo and placed themselves under the protection of Lakandula. In time the Spanish built on the ruins of Soliman’s fort and what grew from there was Intramuros, or Spanish Manila. Those who had not moved to Tondo moved south to an area outside the walls they called Bagong Bayan (New Town).

Therefore, the annual Araw ng Maynila makes Manileños today forget how Soliman tried to protect pre-Spanish Manila from the invader. Carmen Guerrero Nakpil was right when she said that the June 24 “Araw ng Maynila” should rightfully be called “Araw ng Kastila.”

Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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