Struggling through many hard times, Manila is a city that has a toughened exterior. Once known as ‘the pearl of the orient’, this name seems to of been buried under the echo of brutal war, rising crime rates and increased pollution. Despite going through so much, Manila continues to thrive and its people celebrate Foundation Day every June, looking forward to a brighter future for themselves and their city. Dig a little deeper into Manilas underbelly and you will be rewarded with a lively music scene, edgy galleries, outstanding sightseeing and friendly locals. Read on for some fascinating facts that even some locals don’t know about their city.
Secret tunnels underneath the city
The Fort Bonifacio Tunnel runs under the Megaworld amusement park and was built by the military. Construction started in 1900 and it was used to transport medical supplies, food and other military equipment. During World War II, the tunnel became a hideaway for Japanese officials. Other tunnels have also been found running under Makati City and the Global City in Taguig, roughly 3.5 metres under the pavement.
Under British rule for two years
In 1762 British Troops invaded the city of Manila and took it over till the signing of the treaty in 1764. British power never extended beyond Manila and Cavite due to Governer Simon De Anda Y Salazar continuing to fight for his people. The invasion happened while the British were fighting the Seven Years War (1756-1763) against France and Spain. Most of the fighting happened in Europe but when the East India company was created, it seemed the perfect time to invade the Phillipines.
Manilas city hall is a shield
Getting a birds-eye view over Manila City Hall will make you think they shaped it like a coffin! Apparently this was not intentional but it was actually meant to resemble a shield of the Knights of Templar. This is meant to symbolize Manilas strong influence from the Roman Catholic Church.
Tagalog is the language of Manila
Although the majority of people in Manila speak English which is learnt from a young age, the official language is Tagalog. Tagalog is a mash of vocabulary and grammar borrowed from the Chinese, Arabic, Spanish and Sanskrit languages. Spoken mainly in Manila, you will also hear it used in Southern parts of Luzon, Marinduque, the islands of Lubag and in areas of Mindoro.
Muslims used to be the ruling class
In the 16th Century, Sultan Bulkeaiah (Nakhoda Ragam) of Brunei invaded and took over the Kingdom of Tondo. As a result, Muslims became the ruling class as they controlled all the wealth, trade and government in the old Manila. The Tagalogs started to adopt the culture of their conquerors and started to wear turbans, read the Quaran, use Muslim names and even refusing to eat pork.
Basketball is the favorite sport
The most watched and played sport in Manila is Basketball. Manila has its own team and leauge with big games taking place at the Rizal Memorial Stadium and the Araneta Coliseum.
Fort Santiago was a dungeon
Previously used as a dungeon for criminals, Fort Santiago now stands open to tourists to walk its eerie halls. Filipino nationalist Jose Rizal spent his last years here while awaiting trial. His cell was tiny with hardly any natural light. He went on to be executed and gold steps were laid down to show where he took his last steps out on that fateful day.
Manila is named after a flower
Urban legend says that stunning flowers grew on the walls of the newly built city Intramuros (Manila). These flowers became known as Nilads. Tagalog people began describing Manila as; ‘the place where the Nilads are’ (sa Manila) or Manila for short.
Many landmarks were cemeteries
Many of Manilas most famous landmarks like the Harrison Plaza, Espiritu Santo Parish Church and the Remdios Circle were all built on cemeteries. Sometimes the bodies were moved to other cemeteries but often they were left and new buildings placed over the top.
The largest papal event in history
In 2015 Pope Francis led the largest papal mass in history with around six million in attendance. Held in Rizal Park it was the Popes last stop on his four day visit to Asias largest Catholic nation.