Metro Manila · A Short History Of Manila
For a long time, the history of Manila was shaped by foreign powers. In fact, few cities in the world have such a long history of colonization. Here is a brief overview of the city's and the country's checkered past.
During the 1500s a Kingdom of Maynila was established in the Manila area, which flourished thanks to trade relations with China. Its name probably derives from the Yamstick Mangrove, whose local name was nila or nilad.
In 1571, Spanish conquistador Manuel López de Legazpi founded Manila and it became the capital of the Philippines. Today, this old Manila forms the district of Intramuros. The Spaniards would control the city and the islands for the next 300 years, only interrupted by a short occupation of the city by the British from 1762-64.
In the late 1800s, the Filipinos fought Spanish colonization and declared independence in 1898. That did not last long though, as the Americans – in the aftermath of the Spanish-American war – annexed the Philippines shortly after. They established an “insular government” in 1902. The Catholic Church was disestablished as state religion, English superseded Spanish as the official language, and plans were made to transform Manila into a modern and prestigious capital.
In 1935 the Commonwealth of the Philippines was instituted based on the American system of government, as the second to last step towards independence. In 1942, Manila was occupied by Japanese military forces during the struggles of the World War II. It was the second most devastated city in World War II (after Warsaw), with some 100,000 civilians killed during battles in 1944/45. American and Filipino troops recaptured Manila in March 1945.
The city – now the capital of an independent Philippine nation – was quickly revitalized and, for a time, became one of the most progressive cities in Asia. The post-war decades are therefore also known as the “Golden Age”.
Faced with civil disturbances, Ferdinand Marcos, president of the Philippines since 1965, declared martial law in 1972. The actions conducted under martial law led to the persecution of any opposition and effectively put an end to the democratic system and to most civil liberties for more than a decade.
In August 1983, popular opposition leader Benigno Aquino was assassinated when he left the plane that had brought him back from the USA to Manila. Opposition to Marco´s reign increased even faster afterwards and eventually led to the People Power Revolution, also known as EDSA Revolution, named after the place where they took place: a long strip of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue. In 1986, Marcos was forced into exile and the Fifth Republic was established. Benigno Aquino´s widow, Corazon “Cory” Aquino, became its first president.
The Filipinos 'repeated' the EDSA Revolution in 2001, when mass protests overthrew President Joseph Estrada after he was accused of heavy cases of corruption.
The EDSA Revolution or People Power Revolution from 1986 is the most important event in contemporary Philippine history. Being a crucial element of the country's identity as a democratic nation, the successful campaign against the Marcos regime is commemorated on February 25th each year.