The capital of the Philippines is Manila, a densely populated, cosmopolitan city on the western side of the island of Luzon. Manila sprawls across the traditional homeland of the Tagalog, an indigenous island people. Tagalog, also known as Filipino, is one of the two official languages of the Philippines – the other being English.

Manila is a Tagalog place-name meaning “there is nilad,” a reference to a species of mangrove that once grew abundantly on the shores of Manila Bay. Historical documents suggest the name, originally Maynilad, has been in place since at least 1570, when the city was little more than a settlement.

If you’ve ever wondered if the “Manila” in “manila envelope” and “folder” is associated with the Philippine capital, the answer is yes. Manila folders were originally made of the yellowish-brown fiber from a species of plantain found only in the Philippines. The stout fiber was also woven into cordage called “Manila rope” and fashioned into “Manila hats” and “matting.”

Manila folders were as heavy as cardboard when they were first commercially produced in the 1800s. No longer plantain-based, today’s manila folders and envelopes are made of heavy tan paper, designed to evoke the original color of the versatile plantain fiber.

Chrysti M. Smith is a Belgrade writer. The audio version of Chrysti the Wordsmith is produced at KGLT-FM at Montana State University. She can be reached through her website, wordsmithradio.org.