MANILA celebrates Manila Day today, June 24, in observance of that day in 1572 that Spanish Governor-General Miguel Lopez de Legaspi declared Manila the capital of the Philippines and center of the Spanish colonial government. On this day, he organized the Ayuntamiento, the city government, and ordered the construction of a fort to defend the city.
Not many cities in the world can look back that many years. We just celebrated Philippine Independence Day last June 12, recalling the day President Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine independence from Spain 121 years ago in 1898. Today’s Manila Day celebration goes back much earlier to an event 447 years ago in the 16th century.
Even that day in 1572 presided by the rising colonial power Spain in the Far East is antedated by hundreds of years of Manila’s existence. An archeological find known today as the Laguna Copperplate Inscription (LCI), dating back to 3,000 BC, refers to May-nila (where indigo is found) as a fortified settlement and trading center near the mouth of the Pasig River.
The LCI spoke of Tagalogs and Kapampangans occupying lands surrounding Manila Bay, with the Tagalogs centered in Tondo. Rajah Matanda of Sapa, Lakan Dula of Tondo, and Rajah Sulayman of Macabebe are recorded as resisting the Spanish invaders who first came in 1571. Other Filipino tribal groups were then thriving in the north, in the Visayas, Mindanao, and other islands.
The Spaniards led by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan had first come on March 16, 1521, and stayed for the next four and a half centuries until Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo rose in revolt in 1898 and the Americans, fighting Spain in the Spanish-American War, eventually prevailed in 1901.
Our public school education today has much to say on the Spanish and American periods which molded the national character, society, and government of the hardy people who had lived on these islands for centuries. We are now only beginning to learn of the pre-colonial centuries when Filipinos traded and interacted with various peoples in our part of the globe as far away as India in the west and China in the north.
Today, as Manila celebrates Manila Day as a special non-working day by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 731 issued by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea by authority of President Duterte, let us all be reminded that we were a people living on these islands long before the colonizers from Europe and America came. We must continue our search for records of those earliest years of our nation.