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June 24, 1571 Manila was proclaimed as the capital of the Spanish colonial administration in the Philippines.

Before the arrival of the Spaniards in 1570, two polities were situated on the delta at the mouth of the Pasig River, opening up to Manila Bay. The north bank of the river was Tondo, while the south bank (of the present site of Fort Santiago) was Manila. Manila was guarded by a fort with a defensive fence of earth and coconut tree trunks at the point of the delta. At the time, the area served as one of the archipelago’s main ports, where exports were stored and imports were redistributed through a very complex system of trade from the sea to inland. The polities were ruled by three leaders: Ache or Raja Matanda (“old rajah”) and Ache’s nephew, Sulayman, in Manila (the “young raja” who succeeded Matanda after his death in 1572); and Ache’s cousin, Raja Lakandula, in Tondo.

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After several unsuccessful Spanish expeditions to the Philippines looking for an alternative route to the Moluccas, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi finally succeeded in establishing a settlement in Cebu in 1565. He then heard of the lucrative trade in Manila Bay and sent Martin de Goiti, a Spanish master-of-camp, to survey the area. Upon Goiti’s arrival, Rajah Matanda and Lakandula agreed to let Goiti stay, but Sulayman refused. One day, the Spanish fired a cannon to signal some messengers to return to the ship, but the Tagalogs mistook this as a sign of aggression and fired their lantakas (bronze cannon). Goiti took the settlement by force, set it on fire, and took the Tagalog lantakas back to Panay, where Legazpi had established his new settlement.

Just as before with Goiti, Raja Matanda and Lakandula welcomed Legazpi upon his arrival in 1571, but Sulayman ordered his people to burn their settlement and flee to Tondo. Assuring the inhabitants of Spain’s good will, and having the leaders declare themselves “his friends,” Legazpi claimed the locale for Spain, formally founding the Ciudad de Manila (the City of Manila) where Sulayman’s settlement had been on June 24, 1571. Philip II of Spain granted Manila the title Insigne y siempre leal (Noble and Ever Loyal City) in 1574, and granted the city its coat of arms in 1596.

However, Hernando Riquel, notary-in-chief and governmental notary of the Spanish government stated in his certification that the title City of Manila was given on the 3rd of June 1571. Read below.

I, Hernando Riquel, notary-in-chief and governmental notary for his Majesty in these islands of the West, do hereby certify most solemnly, to whomsoever shall see this present, that the most illustrious Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, governor and captain-general in these said islands, gave the title of city to this colony of Manila, on the third day of the month of June of the past year, seventy-one; and on the twenty-fourth day of the same month and year, which was St. John’s day, he appointed two alcaldes in ordinary, one alguacil-mayor, and twelve regidores; and on the day following he appointed one notary for the cabildo and two notaries public for the court of the said alcaldes, as is set forth in greater detail, and appears by the list of the said appointments, which are in my possession. Therefore, that this might be manifest, I have been ordered by the aforesaid governor to draw up the present document; which is done in the said city of Manilla, on Page 153the nineteenth day of the month of June, in the year one thousand five hundred and seventy-two.

Fernando Riquel

[Endorsed: “June 19, 1572. Copy of the [notarial record of the] bestowal on Manilla of the title of city, and the establishment of alcaldes and regidores.” And, in another hand: “For the first article of the 7th, consult the viceroy.”]

The Philippine Islands, Vol. III.

Manila became a replica of a European medieval city. There were churches, palaces and city hall built in the Spanish baroque style. In 1574, Manila was bestowed the title “Insigne y Siempre leal Ciudad de España” (Distinguished and ever loyal city of Spain) by King Philip II.

By the end of the 16th century, Manila had become a leading commercial center of East Asia, carrying on a flourishing trade with China, India, and the East Indies.

Sources: The Philippine Islands, Vol. III.

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