I don’t know when Muntinglupa became Muntinlupa. Muntinlupa, without the “g”, is now the city’s official name, shortened for convenience. The origin of the word has been the subject of debate, just like in many old Filipino town names. But we really can’t complain because some other towns completely lost their traditional names, substituted with new ones, courtesy of politicians who does not have anything in mind but their own politicial interest.
The current name has been attributed to two sources. The card game called “Monte” and “Monte” because of its hilly terrain. I find the card story interesting, according to the tale, when the party of Conquistadores came to the settlement they found natives playing cards, asked what was the name of the town, the natives confused, gave them the name of the card game. Cards became a major source of tax during the Spanish years but it did appear first in China and made it way west ward. The Spaniards popularized its used but it was possible that we had them long before they were sold commercially. However, it is doubtful that the game, if the story is true, was the Monte or a variation of it.
Recently, I discovered an interesting book, Estados de la Oblacion de Filipinas, written by Spanish civil engineers, conducting surveys of the countryside in the early 1800’s. The predominant Tagalogs living in the area already called their small spot under the sun, which was under Tunasan San Pedro, Muntinglupa – a prior report by Fray Martin Zuñiga also bear witness to this detail. The book written in Spanish made an interesting observation. They referred to the settlement as being a small town (esta pequeña Poblacion) where people, labradores y pescadores, were concentrated in a small area near the lake shore. For some strange reason, local historians provided complex hypotheses where the name came. It was not renamed or changed as suggested. The natives called it Muntinglupa because it was munting lupa, literally.
Although the popular belief is that towns and provinces names were altered to suit the colonialist intention and authorization, this is far away from the truth. Almost all our islands and towns were recognized with their existing names by the Spaniards – they rarely trouble themselves making changes. If their guilty of anything, it’s corrupting these names to suit their alphabet. Today, we are worst, we conveniently change the names of our old cities and streets, blatantly disregarding its history and culture.
Another important detail the Oblacion gave is that during the early years of 1800’s, residents of Muntinglupa would actually go outside (en los Pueblos de la sobredicha Laguna) their modest poblacion to farm and fish. Another observation from the book revealed that the town does not have wells, they get drinking water straight from the lake. “Y para el Agua de beber se sirven de las de la Laguna”. Hard to believe, yes!
Just like all the lake shore town of Laguna de Ba-y, Muntinglupa’s had a stone church, later destroyed and moved right beside National Highway, now a known as the Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned. Muntinlupa’s first poblacion sits near the (then) enchanting Laguna de Ba-y. This ancient site is now a neighborhood of bungalow houses, no trace of the old Poblacion exist today. A recent marker, a few yards away from the first site of the church is the only reminder of what seems to be the lost town. Tradition however dies hard for some as they still hold feast celebration in the old original spot where the Church once stood, as if trying to relive Muntinglupa’s past life.
Bilibid Nuevo which became synonymous with the town, was relocated in mountainous part of the town in the 1900’s by the Americanos, then, that area was a no man’s land.