Brief History of Bulan

By: Antonio Gilana
The town of Bulan has a colorful and dramatic history which dates back to the pre-Hispanic period.HOW BULAN GOT ITS NAME: THE LEGEND

The name “Bulan” went through several transformations.

In the local Bulaneno dialect, it has several meanings. It may mean the month of the year, or the moon, or a luminary. According to a local historian, the great Valerio Zuñiga, the last meaning, taken in its intrinsic sense, is the more accepted term, due to the historical fact narrated by the “mga gurangan”, the old inhabitants of the town. They said that one night, a Spanish scouting expedition coming from the old seaport of Ticao sailing northward and at the level of the seacoast of Otabi, saw a big and beautiful luminary, the moon, from the right side of their ship. Some of the natives who accompanied the Spanish explorers as guides and crew members, showed happiness and excitement when they saw the moon which had caused their happiness. In memory of this happening, the Spaniards named the place, “Bulan” when they landed.

Another version goes that one moonlit night, two fishermen ashore were apportioning their catch when the Spaniards who landed in the place approached them for information about the place. Thinking that they were being asked about the full moon rising in the east, they answered, “Bulan”.

Historical records however show that our place was first identified as “Bililan”, then later on as “Builan”, ad then more later, “Bulan”.


Archeological evidences point out that long before the coming of the Spaniards, the coasts of Sorsogon were already thriving with communities and settlers dating back to as early as 4,000 B.C., when the Indonesians reached Southern Luzon. The archeological findings excavated in San Juan, Magsaysay and Gate, which were evaluated to belong to the Ming and Sung dynasty support the theories of historical researchers that the southernmost tip of Luzon, mentioned by Beyer and other historians, probably including Bulan, showed signs of civilization as far as 960 A.D. Golden crowns, believed of exist from 91 B.C. to 79 A.D., were also excavated in Bulan.


Historical records disclose that in 1569, an expedition led by Captain Luis Enriquez de Guzman and Fray Alonzo Jimenez, an Augustinian Friar, reached Sorsogon soil and found a small settlement of natives engaged in fishing and farming. This settlement was believed to be Otavi. It was in Otavi where Fr. Jimenez, together with Fr. Juan Orta, celebrated the first Mass in Luzon.

On May 16,1572, Capitan-General Miguel Lopez de Legazpi divided what is now Sorsogon province into various encomiendas, and he allotted “Bililan”(Bulan) as a royal encomienda, which together with “Uban”(Juban) has a population of 280 or 70 whole tributes.

In 1583, the Franciscans began their evangelical work in Sorsogon. Subsequently in 1646, the Franciscans formed Gate as a visita of Bulusan. In January 1690, “Builan” was constituted as a pueblo civil and Gate was chosen as the town site. Fray Diego de Yepes assumedadministration of the town and at the same time its parish priest. He left Bulan sometime in 1696.

The growth of Bulan as a town, however, would be arrested as it began to suffer from the pressures of intense Moro raids in Sorsogonwhich lasted up to the middle of the 19th century. In 1746, a very devastating Moro attack destroyed Gate, which was 12 kilometers distant from the coast. Bulan was plundered and razed to the ground. Scores of natives were killed and injured. Women and children were taken as captives. Those who were able to survive escaped the town, fleeing to the hills and hinterlands, totally abandoning the town. For the next 55 years Bulan was erased from the maps.