Early records claim that Maynila was named after the Yamstick Mangrove (Scyphiphora hydrophyllacea, whose local name was "nila" or "nilad", by the time the Spanish colonizers arrived in the late 16th century. The name "maynila" itself transliterates as "There is nila (here)", and an alternate name for the place is "maynilad."
Nila or Nilad
There is some argument among historians as to whether the plant was actually called "nila" or "nilad."
Historians Ambeth Ocampo and Carmen Guerrero Nakpil assert that nila is popularly referred to as nilad by people unfamiliar with the plant. On his Facebook page, Ocampo notes that "Some idiot added a 'd' to give us: Maynilad, Maharnilad, and Lagusnilad! In Fr. Blanco's Flora de Filipinas circa 1877 we find the ixora manila. There is no "d" after nila."
A number of early sources disagree, however, noting that the plant referred to as "nilad" is the Indigo plant (Indigoferra tinctoria), a different plant altogether. Emma Helen Blair, in the multi-volume collection of Philippine documents The Philippine Islands, notes "The name Manila is derived from a Tagal word, ' Manilad ', meaning 'a place overgrown with Nilad' which is the name of a small tree, bearing white flowers."
Julio Nakpil asserted that the dropping of the "d" at the end of the name was probably a mistake on the part of the Spaniards: "Maynilad seems to us reasonable for the following reason: the prefix 'may' means "to have" or "there is" (mayroon) ; and the prefix 'ma' means abundant (marami); and 'nilad' is a shrub, also called sagasa, growing profusely on the banks of Manila, and for that reason it was called Manilad before and after the coming of the Spaniards who, because of their defective pronunciation of our language, dropped the last letter, converting it into Manila."
It has also been suggested that the name may have come from the Arabic word (في امان الله) "Fi Amanillah", which means, "In Allah's safety."
The early inhabitants of the present-day Manila engaged in trade relations with its Asian neighbors as well as with the Hindu empires of Java and Sumatra, as confirmed by archaeological findings. Trade ties between China became extensive by the 10th century, while contacts with Arab merchants reached its peak in the 12th century.
During the reign of Sultan Bolkiah (1485–1521) the Kingdom of Brunei decided to break the Kingdom of Tondo's monopoly in the Chinese trade by attacking Tondo and establishing the city-state of Seludong as a Bruneian satellite. This is narrated through Tausug and Malay royal histories, where the names Seludong, Saludong or Selurong are used to denote Manila prior to colonization.
Beginning of the Spanish Colonial Era
In the mid-16th century, the areas of present-day Manila were governed by native rajahs. Rajah Matanda (whose real name was recorded by the Legaspi expedition as Ache) and his nephew, Rajah Sulayman ("Rajah Mura" or "Rajah Muda" (a Sanskrit title for a Prince), ruled the Muslim communities south of the Pasig River, including the Kingdom of Maynila, while Rajah Lakandula ruled the Kingdom of Tondo north of the river. These settlements held ties with the sultanates of Brunei, Sulu, and Ternate, Indonesia (not to be confused with Ternate in present-day Cavite).
Nakpil, Julio. "A Suggestion to the Tagalistas to Elucidate the Origin of the Name of the Capital City of the Philippines: Manila. Which of these Three Terms or Names Is the More Accurate: Maynilad, Manilad, or Manila?". August 26, 1940.
Rey Ty. "Youth and Adult Education for Social Change in the Philippines: Linking Education with NGOs, Social Movements and Civil Societ". hurights.or.jp.
History of Manila. Accessed September 08, 2008.
Carmen Guerrero Nakpil (October 29, 2003), CARMEN NAKPIL: MANILA UNDER THE MUSLIMS, Malaya, retrieved 2008-12-05
Joaqiun, Nick (1990). Manila, My Manila: A History for the Young. City of Manila: Anvil Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-971-569-313-4.
Scott, William Henry (1994). Barangay: Sixteenth Century Philippine Culture and Society. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press. ISBN 971-550-135-4.
Dery, Luis Camara (2001). A History of the Inarticulate. Quezon City: New Day Publishers. ISBN 971-10-1069-0.