Skip to content

Short Historical Background of the Cities in Metro Manila, Philippines.

Metro Manila is the fifth most populous urban area in the world with over 13 million people and is home to 16 cities and one municipality. At present, it is the center of the Philippine culture, politics, government, and economy. Before it transformed into a sprawling metropolis, the area is composed of farmlands and small countryside villages.

The origin of these cities and municipality are still evident in their present-day names.


The city traces its long colorful history to the Old Town of Polo, derived from the Tagalog word “pulo,” or island. then part of the province of Bulacan, which was established in 1623. The city began as a tiny settlement of fishermen along the coast of Manila Bay. The city was renamed Valenzuela, in honor of its most famous son, the Filipino doctor and revolutionary leader Pio Valenzuela y Alejandro of the Katipunan (revolutionary movement during the Spanish occupation).



The name Navotas is derived from the Tagalog word “nabutas” or “pierced through.”

It was originally a contiguous part of Malabon known then as San Jose de Navotas, in honor of its patron saint, San Jose. However, the tumultuous waters of Manila Bay gradually eroded a weak strip of land between this town and the district of Tondo in Manila until an opening was created and developed into a regular waterway that has come to be known as the Navotas River.

In 1827, the principales (nobles, ruling and educated class in the pueblos of the colonial Philippines) as San Jose de Navotas and Bangkulasi asked the Spanish government to consolidate and separate the villages from Malabon, to form a new pueblo or town.

This move was due to the difficulty encountered by the townsfolk in doing business, and attending the church due to the physical separation brought by the Navotas River. In February 16, 1859, after three decades, the request was granted as can be seen in the existing documents; the barrios of San Jose de Navotas, and Bangkulasi, were separated from Malabon.



Caloocan is derived from the Tagalog root word “lo-ok,” which means “bay,” because of its proximity to Manila Bay. Its name was then Hispanicized to Caloocan but some locals still spell it as Kalookan.

A short history of Caloocan City. (Courtesy:


Algoreth’s “Etimologias Filipinas” says that Malabon. once a quaint town, was named “Tambobong” more than four hundred years ago.

Tambobong was said to have been one of the tribal domain of Rajah Soliman, cousin of Rajah Matanda of the nearby Manila area. The former name originated from the numerous tambo trees growing in the area. However, the name that endured describes the abundant tender and edible shoots of the bamboo: “labong” (maraming labong) which was one of the original ingredients of Malabon’s signature dish: the Pancit “Malabon”.

During the Spanish period, the riverside town became the convenient vacation destination for the friars and government officials of the Walled City (Intramuros). They were known to call the place Malabon, from “mala” or mud that dirtied and ruined their expensive leather shoes and exquisite, long robes imported from Europe; and it was “bon/buen” for its restorative, fresh air and excellent cuisine.



Local folks call this city as “Maynila“ or “May-nila” referring to the plant species “Nila” from which you can extract natural indigo dye. Nila is the Sanskrit word for indigo, hinting at the travel and exploration of Asians prior to colonization.

Nilad (google images)

The clock tower, was designed by Antonio Toledo and was completed in 1930’s. It is the largest clock tower in the Philippines, reaching close to 100 feet in elevation. It stands out during nighttime when the whole of the tower lights up. It has now become the icon for the city of Manila. The clock tower was renovated in 2013.


The clock itself was upgraded and digitalized so that it will always be synchronized with the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) for Philippine Standard Time.

Quezon City

The City was named after former president Manuel Luis Quezon, while he was still in office in 1939. He never signed the bill, however, it passed into law after the efforts by the National Assembly of the Philippines.



The Augustinians were the first to arrive at the Marikina Valley in 1500, at the place known as “Chorillo” in Barangka. Next came the Jesuits in 1630, in a place now called Jesus dela Peña (Jesus of the Rocks). Here, the Jesuits established a mission and built a chapel.

The city’s name originated from the word “Marikitna.” The tail points to a scenario that centers on language barrier. During the construction of the chapel of Jesus dela Peña, a priest what would be called of the structure, one worker answered “Marikit-na po”, thinking that what was being asked was the condition of the chapel. The Spaniards had difficulty in expressing the letter “T” thus, the Marikit-na was believed to be said as “Marikina”.

Another story has it that in the Province of Nueva Viscaya in Spain, there was a beautiful town called “Mariquina,” which is located beside the Charmaga River. It is the place of origin of the Jesuit Priests who came to the Philippines and established Jesus dela Peña. They named the place “Mariquina” in honor of town where they came from. Later in 1901, Commissioner de Tavera changed the letter “Q” to a more vernacular “K”.


The name “Makati” means “ebbing tide.” When Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, founder of Manila and the first Governor-General of the Philippines discovered Makati, he asked a local Tagalog resident what the name of the areas was, the Tagalog couldn’t understand him and pointed to the Pasig River and said, “Makati, kumakati na,” (the river”s tide was ebbing).by the residents – “Makati na, Kumati na.” Legaspi thought this was the response to his query as to what the place is called.

Later, the settlement was renamed San Pedro de Makati after its patron saint. And in 1890, San Pedro de Makati was decreed a public town of Manila.



There are several stories that explain the origin this city:

One is the story of a huge balete tree that stood at the mouth of the river (now known as the Parañaque river.). The residents named the tree “Palanyag” taken from the term ‘palayag’, which means “point of navigation”.

Another story was that of the merging as a sign of cooperation of the farmers or tagaPalayan from neighboring Muntinglupa and the natives living close to the Manila Bay whose livelihood is paglalayag or fishing. They thought of crafting a name for the entire area while they were drinking tuba or fermented coconut wine. Several suggestins were raised but the best one came from a drunken guest who shouted, “Mabuhay ang Palanyag at ang mga taga-Palanyag!” They liked this word better and ever since then, the place was called Palanyag.

Yet another story during the Spanish era tells of soldiers riding a horse-drawn carriage. When they asked the coachman to stop saying, “Para aqui, Para aqui,” he did not understand the Spanish soldier’s pronunciation and kept going. The soldiers repeated the instruction, “Para aqui, Para aqui.” Then the coachman left the carriage and told the townspeople that, “These Spaniards are repeatedly saying para aniya ake… para aniya ake” to which the townspeople just laughed. The incident circulated and was repeated around for days and the term para aniya ake stuck.

Photo: Parañaque City Facebook Account/Google Images

Las Piñas

It is said that Las Piñas is Spanish for “Pineapples.” It is believed that farmers from Cavite and Batangas used the city as the trading place for their pineapple products. Records, however, show that for a time in the early 1800s, the city was called “Las Peñas,” which means “The Rocks.”

On the other hand, the city was one of the first settlements on the outskirts of Manila. In 1797 Fr. Diego Cera, a Spanish missionary, was brought to a barrio in Parañaque with a mere 1,200 inhabitants and persistently worked to transform this barrio (what was later to become Las Piñas) from a sleepy fishing village to progressive city. Fr. Cera’s efforts led to the establishment of the Las Piñas Church in 1819, the six-year construction of the bamboo organ, as well as the building of roads and bridges that spawned the industries of dye making, salt production, and handicrafts.



Mandaluyong has several origin stories. One is a forbidden love story of a tribal couple, Manda and Luyong. Manda was adaughter of a Barangay chieftain, while Luyong was a Maharlika despised by Manda’s father.

The custom at that time was to give the maiden’s hand to whoever wins a series of tribal challenges or competitions in the barangay. Luyong emerged as the victor and the couple was eventually married, amidst the objection of Manda’s father. The couple ran away and settled on the land now known as Mandaluyong which is a literal concoction derived from their names.

Another story claims that the place was named after a tree called Luyong, a kind of tree that was abundant in the place. Yet the more probable origin is that the place was called Madaluyong to describe its rolling hills which resembles giant waves of the sea.


San Juan

The history of the City of San Juan can be traced from a large pre-colonial kingdom ruled by Lacantagean and his wife Bouan at Namayan (in what is now known as Santa Ana, Manila), but their kingdom encompassed several other settlements along the Pasig River and in the nearby hills.

In 1578, the kingdom of Lacantagean became the Parish of Santa Ana, ran by the Franciscan priests, and the “hilly, wooded, deserted place, to the East, up the Pasig River, with some few huts or native houses scattered here and there,” was renamed San Juan del Monte. Its patron saint, John the Baptist, was likely chosen for the area’s proximity to the river and the presence of many natural springs.

Dambana ng Pinaglabanan (Photo:


The name of the city of Pasay, came from the cry of a brokenhearted lover boy. Jose and Paz were in love but in those days their love was forbidden. Jose was the son of one of many tenants of the hacienda of the father of Paz. When Jose was ordered to stay away from Paz, she died from loneliness.

At her funeral, Jose stood at a distance, and when everybody left, dug a tunnel into the earth to be with her. Once joined, he let out a sharp and anguished cry “Paz-ay!” In sorrow and regret, the parents of Paz named their hacienda Paz-ay.

There are other stories but the most convincing one is that it was named after a princess of the Namayan Kingdom, Dayangdayang Pasay composed of several barangays (balangays) around 1175. The kingdom stretches from Manila Bay to Laguna de Bai. It inherited the lands now comprising the territories of Culi-culi, Pasay and Baclaran. The royal capital of the kingdom was built in Sapa, known today as Santa Ana.

Kingdom of Namayan (Photo:


One story suggests that the name Pasig came from the Sanskrit word “pasega,” which means sand. Another story traces the origin of the name from the tagalog word “mabagsik,” which refers to the Pasig River’s strong “terrifying” current. The most convincing story comes from the late Dr. Jose Villa Panganiban, he said that “Pasig” is an old Sanskrit word referring to a “river flowing from one body of water to another,” in the case of Pasig River, from Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay.



It is the lone municipality in Metro Manila. The name Pateros is the Spanish for “duck-raisers.” The town is known for its duck industry. Pateros can also be related to the word “sapatero,” or “shoemaker,” another main industry of the municipality.



The area was a former settlement under the Kingdom of Tondo with a population counting 800 farmers and fishermen mixed with Chinese settlers as evidenced by archaeological artifacts like glasses, cups, porcelain plates.

The farmer-fishermen were referred to as “mga taga-giik” because they are good at threshing rice after harvest. The Spanish colonizers in 1571 had difficulty pronouncing “taga-giik” and could only produce the phrase “tagui-ig.” Later, “tagui-ig” was shortened to the present day “Taguig.”



The area is named after its topography. The name Muntinlupa refers to mountain land. One story claims that the na,e originated from the phrase “munting lupa,” which means “small land.”


Sources:ñaque City Facebook Account

Google Images

1 Comment »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Pastorbluejeans Unplugged

Friend of A Jewish Carpenter

Rum and Robots

We Survived and Arrived - Now as Warriors We Thrive

Lift Up Your Eyes!

Jesus Is Coming Back!


All about the Philippines - its history, its culture, and its people

My Soul In A Piece Of Paper

Diary Of A Born Again Black Woman

Seeking Solace in the horizon of life & beyond




Welcome to blogs and essays about health and lifestyle & to my sci fi, serial, i



Living with God #LiveLove

Understanding Christianity

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: