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  Manila or Abaca comes from the Musa testilis plant, which is part of the banana plant family. It is a hard fiber and is sometimes confused with hemp or called manila hemp, but this is a misnomer as hemp is a soft fiber. It is typically lubricated to increase resistance to abrasion and wear, and to retard water.  Water absorption is a major cause of rot and mildew. 

It comes in grades one and two sometimes referred to as Seaworthy or Hardware grade. Seaworthy or grade one, is stronger with a longer fiber staple, and hence a smoother feel. Manila has less stretch than synthetic ropes, though due to the short fiber length is subject to creep.