THE CRAFTY OLD SULTAN
The basis for the creation of the Kingdom of Maynila is actually said to be the result of both political intrigue and economic man-oeuvring instigated by a sultan of Brunei named Bolkiah who, not being able to accomplish his objectives militarily, found another far more crafty approach that neutralised the Kingdom of Ton-do’s stranglehold on trade with China. He achieved this simply by arranging a royal marriage between a Royal Prince of Brunei with a High Princess of Tondo’s ruling dynasty. Instead of spilling more blood, the Sultan found it more convenient to mix it.
As part of the Princess’ dowry, the King of Tondo agreed to the establishment of a new city called Seludong located in the river Pasig across from his capital. For the Sultan of Brunei, this location was a perfect site for his Prince’s so-called ‘retinue’ to establish direct trading activities with the China traders who weighed anchor at the mouth of the river in the Bay of Manila. Bolkiah regarded Seludong as a highly-prized ‘Bruneian’ satellite and, for as long as the marriage lasted and produced children and heirs; he considered it a perfect match of interests, mostly to his favour economically as many students of history of that period now believe.
The names ‘Seludong’, ‘Saludong’ or ‘Selurong’ are all interchangeably used to denote an area where the Kingdom of May-nila was later established prior to the arrival of Spanish colonizers in the Philippines in the 16th century. It was the last of three major city-states in the island of Luzon which dominated the area surrounding the upper portion of the gener-ally placid Pasig River.
RAPID EXPANSION OF INTERESTS
The ruling class of this new kingdom rapidly established a num-ber of trade agreements with other Asian neighbors as well as with the Hindu empires of Java and Sumatra creating an exten-ded network of commercial interests they controlled. The name of the early settlement in Majapahit documents is recorded as ‘Saludung’. It is also narrated through the Tausug and Malay ro-yal histories. Over time and because of the prevalent presence of water-borne plants called “nila” (Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea), the emerging city-state was known as “May-nila” or simply Maynila, which transliterates as “There is nila (here)”.
Maynila is also sometimes called ‘Maynilad’ because the term ‘nila’ is generally (but mistakenly) referred to as ‘nilad’ by non-local people unfamiliar with the plant. Adding to the confusion, when the Spaniards returned to colonize the Philippines they shortened ‘Maynila’ to ‘Manila’. Since then, it has been more widely known by that name for those who refer to it as the national capital of present-day Philippines. Even then, locals still use the archaic form ‘May-nila’ whether referring to it in the past or present tense even up to this day.
Under the Malay aristocracy at that time, the city-state established as Seludong was also the same name given for the general region of southwestern Luzon. It was also known as Gintu or “The Land of Gold” and “Suvarnadvipa” by its regional neigh-bors. That term simply acknowledged its strong trade ties with China which were quite extensive, even eclipsing levels enjoyed by the adjacent King-doms of Tondo and Namayan. Contacts with Arabs merchants also developed to be another profitable trading activity. When the party of Ferdinand Ma-gellan first arrived in 1521, they certainly took no-tice of it which adds to the reasons why the Spaniards returned half a century later as the lure of the ‘Jewel of the Far East’ could not be ignored much longer.
Before the return of the Hispanics to the Philippines, however, the rajahs of the House of Soliman – Sulayman III and Matanda, who ruled the Moslem communities south of the Pasig River, unified to become the Kingdom of Maynila.
Knowing of the existence of a prosperous kingdom in Luzon, the leader of the returning Spanish expedition, Miguel Lopez de Le-gazpi sent a reconnaissance mission under Marshal Martin de Goiti and Captain Juan de Salcedo to discover its location and potentials. De Goiti anchored in the area of Cavite, a fishing en-clave on the mouth of Manila Bay. It is said that he tried to im-pose his authority peacefully by sending a message of friendship to the rulers of Maynilad.
Rajah Sulayman III, was willing to accept an offer of friendship without conditions and not one involving submission to sovereignty under Spain. One misunderstanding led to another and fighting broke out between them. As a retaliatory measure, De Goiti and his small army attacked Maynilad in June 1570, captured and looted the city before returning to the island of Panay in the central part of the Philippine Archipelago where the Spanish had established their base. This was just the first salvo.
END OF THE LUZON RAJAHNATES
On the eve of 1571, the unity of the Luzon Empire was already being threatened by irreconcilable differences on how to handle the Spanish. Those differences strained an already uneasy al-liance between Rajah Matanda of Sapa, Lakan Dula of Tondo and Rajah Sulayman III, the rajah muda or “crown prince” of May-nila. To compound the growing strains between them, other local rulers from the neighbouring region of Pampanga in Central Luzon became bold enough to challenge the traditional leadership of the Kingdoms of Tondo and Maynila.
About the same year, the Spaniards returned. This time, they were led by López de Legaz-pi himself who brought along a force consisting of some 280 fully-armored Spaniards and 600 local warriors conscripted from allies established the year before from the islands of Cebu and Panay. Sulayman III and his forces confronted the Spaniards in the sea channel called Bankusay but after losing that skirmish and seeing the Legazpi-led force approach further with much speed, his defenders set ablaze the ancient cities of Tondo and Maynilad along with all the neighbouring towns and then repaired to the hinterlands.
Nevertheless, the Spanish-led force occupied the ruins of Maynilad and eventually estab-lished a fortified settlement there which became the title city of the new Spanish colony in the Philippines. It was administered by a Governor-General who ruled from Manila but was subordinate to the Viceroy of New Spain in Mexico City.
QUEEN CITY OF THE PACFIC
Thus was established a new entrepôt replacing the older one based on trade with China to one that would involve an even more lucrative Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade route between the Philippines and Mexico. That new trade alignment flourished from 1571 until 1815. From the Jewel of the Far East under the rajahnates, Maynila was transformed into the ‘Queen City of the Pacific’ under the Spaniards’ Manila due to trade with Acapulco, one which transported goods westward from Europe and parts of the Middle East to Mexico and then all the way around the Pacific Ocean to Southeast Asia. On their return trips, the galleons sailing back to Mexico and thence Spain were laden with a rich bounty of commodities from all over Asia.
This era of Philippine history marks the end of the long-established Moslem- and Hindu-based rajahnate kingdoms on the island of Luzon and the beginning of 333-years of the Europeanization of the Philippines.