Frutas y Plantas: Place Names in Manila


Tamarind Leaves

It is peculiar how place names are derived. In the city of Manila, it is interesting how names take root from endemic plants, fruits or the nature of the land. Take for example Quiapo. The name comes from the water hyacinth kiyapo which abounded in Quiapo’s estuaries. Its nearby district of Sampaloc comes from the tamarind trees, which sadly are no longer around, or maybe just in a mere scattering along the district’s few private gardens and street islands. Binondo comes from binundok or the once hilly terrain of the land. Pandacan was from pandanan, or the pandanus plant, the tropical plant with aromatic leaves used for cooking. Its other variety has its leaves used for making the all-around Filipino banig or mat, and bayong or basket. Nearby Paco is a nickname for the Franciscans, who administered spiritually to its citizens. But, Paco has a long history that dates back to the 17th century when it was founded as a village called Dilao, after the turmeric plant which abounded in the area. In fact, the very old district of Santa Ana was the seat of the pre-colonial kingdom of Sapa, so named after a brook or stream, referring to the nearby Pasig River. Mandaluyong comes from “may daluyong” referring to the surging sound of the river current, and Makati is from “ma kati” or the place where the river current is strong. Malate comes from maalat for the salt beds that were cultivated there. Intramuros stands on the old Maynilad kingdom of Raja Soliman. Maynilad literally means may nilad or where there is nilad. Nilad is a type of mangrove plant or scyciphora with white flowers tinged with pink . Thus, may nilad or or manilad means there is nilad or a proliferation of nilad.   Somehow the “d” at the end was dropped.  It is enlightening how etymology can give us bits of the past and how the city must have been in all its raw and natural beauty ages ago, before it has become a jungle of concrete, traffic and busy lives.


Tamarind Leaves Photo By Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


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