Imperial Manila

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The skyline of Manila, resented by a number of Filipinos as "imperial".

Imperial Manila is a pejorative epithet used by certain sectors of Filipino society such as Visayans and/or any other non-Tagalog Filipino ethnolinguistic groups to express the idea that all the affairs of the Philippines—whether in politics, business, economy, or culture—are decided by what is happening in the capital region of Metro Manila without considering the rest of the country, largely because of a centralized government. This sentiment is sometimes expressed in the following proverb in the Cebuano language: "Wa'y dahong mahulog sa atung nasud nga di mananghid sa Malacañang" (Not a leaf can fall in our country without Malacañang's permission).[a]


It is unknown when the term was first used, but there are political writers, particularly those living outside Metro Manila, who associate this term with the People Power Revolution because it was believed that the country's former president, Ferdinand Marcos, was toppled from his position without the participation of Filipinos living in areas outside of the capital region. In an article published in Philippine Daily Inquirer, Amando Doronila wrote that:



The term was used by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her 2006 State of the Nation Address, which she said has "slowed down progress, has become open to over-competition, and oppressed the provinces and its people".[3] It was because of the country's centralized government that provincial governments favor constitutional amendments for a shift to federal government, as well as supporting Arroyo and rejecting calls from Manila-based activist groups demanding for her resignation due to corruption charges particularly the Philippine National Broadband Network controversy.[4][5]

Local opinion polls were also lambasted for solely sampling "Imperial Manila-based residents" when it comes to surveys that deal with nationwide issues.[6] Meanwhile, the term also appears in government websites such as those of League of Provinces and Bohol Province.[7][8]


Officials of Mindanao-based rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front have blamed "Imperial Manila" for making the Muslim Mindanao region the poorest in the country, stating that "the consequence of neo-colonialism has deprived our people to run themselves unfettered and unhampered". Government figures show that the region's poverty incidence in 2006 is at 55.3%, with three of its six provinces (namely Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao, and Lanao del Sur) listed among the country's ten poorest provinces.[9]

"Imperial Manila" is also used by a small but vocal minority in the Philippines' business sector in reference to the notion that advertising or marketing a product only requires a single campaign that would work in Mega Manila (a term used most frequently by the media), thinking that it would also attract customers in the provinces. Advertising agencies in Metro Manila are also faulted for publishing print advertisements in Manila-based newspapers that would reach other cities by mid-morning (when the residents have already read their own local daily) or running a television commercial at a primetime slot of 9:00 in the evening in Manila while the rest of the country is already asleep.[10]

In 2009, economists from the University of the Philippines and the World Bank made statements encouraging the Philippine government to further concentrate national economic activity within Metro Manila rather than disperse it around the country.[11] Meanwhile, in some parts of Luzon, the Visayas and in Mindanao, rolling blackouts are happening almost everyday.

Use of Tagalog in traditionally non-Tagalog Philippine provinces[edit]

"Imperial Manila" is also referred to the use of Tagalog—which is spoken in Metro Manila and in certain areas of Luzon—as the basis for Filipino, the Philippines' national language. In Cebu Province, the local government enforces all of its schools to sing the national anthem in Cebuano as a form of linguistic protest,[12] in patriotic defiance of a law that punishes the singing of the national anthem in languages other than Tagalog with fine or imprisonment.[13]

A small number of Cebuanos, ignoring the fact that Filipinos of other ethnolinguistic groups may not speak Cebuano, display intolerant behavior towards Tagalog-speakers, whom they view as arrogant.[10] Filipinos of Visayan origin also use "Imperial Manila mentality" when referring to discrimination by their counterparts in Manila and in other parts of the world against them.[14]

In connection with the use of Tagalog, or specifically the promotion of the national language, the related term Tagalista is frequently used. While the word Tagalista literally means "one who specializes in Tagalog language or culture" or a "Tagalog specialist", in the context of the debates on the national language and "Imperial Manila", the word Tagalista is used as a reference to "people who promote or would promote the primacy of Tagalog at the expense of [the] other [Philippine] indigenous tongues".[15]

National Language[edit]

President Manuel L. Quezon then, on December 30, 1937, proclaimed the selection of the Tagalog language to be used as the basis for the evolution and adoption of the national language of the Philippines.[16] In 1939 President Quezon renamed the proposed Tagalog-based national language as wikang pambansâ (national language).[17] In 1959, the language was further renamed as "Pilipino".[17] The 1973 constitution designated the Tagalog-based "Pilipino", along with English, as an official language and mandated the development and formal adoption of a common national language to be known as Filipino.[18] The 1987 constitution designated Filipino as the national language mandating that as it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.[19]

The National Language Institute, a committee composed of seven members who represented various regions in the Philippines, chose Tagalog as the basis for the evolution and adoption of the national language of the Philippines.[16][17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ An example of this proverb's use can be found the following quote from David C. Martinez:

    [W]e've left sacred and untouched, spotless and unsullied, the same centralist authority where near-absolute political power continues to reside: Imperial Manila. My father spoke the truth when he used to lament in Cebuano, "Wa y dahong mahulog sa atong nasud nga di mananghid sa Malacañang" (Not a leaf can fall in our country without Malacañang's permission)[1]


  1. ^ Martinez, David (2004). A Country of Our Own: Partitioning the Philippines. Los Angeles, California: Bisaya Books. p. 447. ISBN 978-0-9760613-0-4. 
  2. ^ Doronila, Amando (August 28, 2006). "Time for paradigm shift". Philippine Daily Inquirer. pp. A1. 
  3. ^ "2006 State of the Nation Address of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo" (in Filipino). July 24, 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  4. ^ "Arroyo pushing for federal government". Taipei Times. August 2, 2004. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  5. ^ Balanan, Cynthia; et al. (February 14, 2008). "Ramos still for Arroyo; governors go all out". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 
  6. ^ Cruz, Rafael A. (March 22, 2006). "Lucrative Industry" (in Filipino). Philippine Broadcasting Service. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  7. ^ "Govs give PGMA ovation for her SONA and social payback programs". League of Provinces of the Philippines official website. August 14, 2007. Archived from the original on September 4, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  8. ^ Blanco, June S. (February 16, 2007). "Guv calls for sobriety". Archived from the original on March 26, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  9. ^ "'Imperial Manila' blamed for poverty in ARMM". March 10, 2008. 
  10. ^ a b "The Myopia of Manila Marketers". Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  11. ^ "Economists say Manila should become more dense". Agence France-Presse. 01/12/09. Retrieved 24 November 2015.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ "The Clamor for recognition of Cebuano". Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  13. ^ "Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines". RP Government. Retrieved 2015-11-24.  (the Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines) regulates the usage of the national anthem. It also contains the complete lyrics of Lupang Hinirang.
  14. ^ Quimco, Ver. "Insulto, Insulto, Insulto" (in Cebuano). Call for Justice, Inc. official website. Archived from the original on 2008-03-25. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  15. ^ Martinez, David (2004). A Country of Our Own: Partitioning the Philippines. Los Angeles, California: Bisaya Books. p. 202. ISBN 978-0-9760613-0-4. 
  16. ^ a b Manuel L. Quezon III, Quezon’s speech proclaiming Tagalog the basis of the National Language (PDF),, retrieved 2010-03-26 
  17. ^ a b c Andrew Gonzalez (1998), "The Language Planning Situation in the Philippines" (PDF), Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 19 (5, 6): 487–488, doi:10.1080/01434639808666365, retrieved 2007-03-24. 
  18. ^ 1973 Philippine Constitution, Article XV, Sections 2–3, Chanrobles Law Library, retrieved 2007-12-20 
  19. ^ 1987 Philippine Constitution, Article XIV, Sections 6–9, Chanrobles Law Library, retrieved 2007-12-20