Friday, January 23, 2009


SOURCE: Glimpses of Bulusan Website
Author: Abraham G. Tan


Long before the Spaniards ever set foot on the archipelago, the natives of Bulusan were already living in organized though scattered settlements. Some lived in Inarado (now Licod), others in Ilihan, some in Pinayagan, and still a number lived in Capangihan -- a place near the Paghasaan and Bayugin Rivers. Familiarity with the town's terrain will prove what these settlements have in common: that of being distant from the seacoast and being uplands. The reason behind this occurrence could very well be the presence of Moro pirates who used to attack the town especially the coastal areas, robbing the natives of their gold & whatever else came to be lying around , and burning the houses afterwards. Due to these Moro-related disasters, it was certainly a wise move to locate the settlements on higher ground.

Recent excavations yielded artifacts such as platters, jugs, plates, and vases made of China; and earthen burial jars in what used to be Inarado. These finds further strengthened some claims that the Chinese and the people in this part of the country were already engaged in trade even before the Cross & Sword reached these shores.


In Inarado was also erected the fourth parroquia in the present Province of Sorsogon. The year was 1630. After being merely a visita of Casiguran (erected 1600), Bulusan became an independent parish following Bacon (erected 1617) and Sorsogon (erected 1628). The new parish was then placed under the titularship of St. James the Greater -- the National Patron Saint of Spain. A certain Fray Miguel de Sta. Ana became its first parish priest, exercising one-man authority over ecclesiastical and civil functions. A provisional church was built in Inarado. The people also selected the first executive of the place, a gobernadorcillo. The parish then embraced all lands from Gubat to Matnog. These visitas in turn became either separate parroquias and/or pueblos. Please see table below.
Former visitas of Bulusan
Year Erected as a Parroquia
Year Erected as a Pueblo Civil
(Up to this year, Gubat remained under its Mother Parish of Bulusan even after its foundation as a separate pueblo civil in 1764)1764
Matnog 1785 1800
Bulan[Gate (1645-1690)]1690[abandoned due to Moro attacks (1746-1800);re-erected 1801]1690[abandoned due to Moro attacks (1746-1800);re-erected 1801]
Barcelona 1867(It was only 1 year after its foundation as a pueblo civil that Barcelona became a separate parroquia.)1866(From Bulusan & Gubat)
Irosin 1873 1880
Sta. Magdalena 1890(from Bulusan then under Matnog)1894(from Bulusan then under Matnog)

In 1760, the town was transferred from Inarado to its present site at the mouth of Bulusan River. This was triggered by the need to trade with neighboring settlements. The relocation was done through the efforts of Fray Joaquin de los Santos, the parish priest at that time. Under the friar's guidance, the people chose Bernardino Pasion as first head of the town. The natives started building a church in the place where a new one now stands. This initial development formed the nucleus of the present poblacion. In 1799, as a defense and warning measure against the moro pirates, the principalias of the different coastal towns of Albay convened in their respective casas tribunal and drew up plans for the building of watchtowers in strategic locations along the shore. On April 20, 1799, Bulusan's leaders decided to build two (2) lanchas cañonera to be commanded by gobernadorcillo actual Don Juan Macsimiano and ex-gobernadorcillo Don Juan Thomas. The town of Bulusan built the most number of baluartes de piedra (stone watchtowers). It has a baluarte each in Macabare and Layog (now a part of Barcelona)-- being the town's farmlands, one in Tawog, another one (the most famous one) near Dapdap, and a bigger triangular muralla called Punta Diamante which encloses the church and rectory of the Parish of St. James the Greater. Punta Diamante has around five(5) baluartes de piedra with high and thick walls, making it an ideal place for refuge during Moro attacks. Unlike the other baluartes which are cylindrical & of circular bases, the baluarte facing the sea has a base shaped as a diamond (with 8 sides) and tapers upwards in alternating tiers, hence the name Punta Diamante. This baluarte now serves as the church's bell tower, with the old bells still intact.

Among the province's other towns, Bulusan then was comparatively well-off. Being a major port of armadillas (small ships patrolling the high seas -- equivalent to present-day Philippine Coast Guard), it was well-protected from the Moro pirates. As a consequence, people from other towns came to this place, earned their living, and paid tributes to the Spanish Government. In 1809, when the governor of Albay ordered the construction of a town cemetery outside the poblacion of each of its towns, Bulusan reported the highest construction cost (200 pesos), in a display of its considerable wealth.

Spain's control over the Buluseños and the rest of the natives throughout the islands brought a significant change in their community life. They were made to embrace Catholic faith more by force than by conviction. Polos y servicios (forced labor) flourished especially in the building of various buildings like the yglesia (church), the convento (rectory) with its dungeons, and the casa tribunal (town hall). It could be presumed that a lot of polos were likewise employed in the construction of Punta Diamante and the other baluartes.


Bulusan had its own share of heroes in the revolution against Spain. The same individuals would later find themselves in the war against the Americans. Colonel Emeterio Funes, a Buluseño, was one of the foremost revolutionary leaders in the province. Coming home from a military service under General Miguel Malvar, he was already aware of the immediate plans of the Americans to invade the rest of the country. Upon his arrival in Bulusan, he met with the town's prominent figures with the parish priest in attendance, in the church rectory. Together, they drew up plans for a revolutionary movement in the province. In 1900, Emeterio Funes was appointed colonel of the revolutionary forces in Sorsogon by General Vito Belarmino of Albay.

The revolutionary forces in the province had been quite a success, what with the natives and the elected officials on their side. On April 25, 1900, the Americans waged a battle with the Filipino revolutionaries in Sitio Boco, San Francisco. The Americans suffered three casualties: one lieutenant was killed and two soldiers were wounded. Meanwhile, only two soldiers were wounded on the defender's side. Due to lack of ammunition, the revolutionaries were unable to make a second attack and had to flee to safety. The Americans, enraged with the loss of a comrade and the failure to capture Col. Funes, later on burned the entire town including the church and the rectory. After two years of effective resistance, on February 21, 1901, Colonel Funes took the oath of allegiance to the United States in a ceremony done in Bulan. He knew that the inhabitants were already getting weary of the war, and therefore decided to end it in a peaceful manner.

Under the Americans, the first Municipal President was Braulio Ganzo. However, the first local executive elected in Bulusan by popular suffrage was Juan Fortades.

From 1900 to 1940, Bulusan experienced a major development in education, government, communication, agriculture, and public health. From the very start of the American regime, free public instruction commenced. Public schools in almost all barrios were opened. In 1927, the municipal building (now housing the post office, court room, & municipal jail) and public market (now undergoing another major renovation--this time a vertical development) were built. In the following year, 1930, the provincial road connecting Bulusan to the adjoining towns of Barcelona and Irosin was opened to traffic. Telegraph and mail services began. Qualified voters began enjoying the right to suffrage. A system of municipal government was instituted. Trade and commerce flourished. Development in agricultural methods was initiated. In terms of public health, cholera and small pox were contained. In 1939, the first municipal waterworks system was constructed.At about this period, two Buluseños rose to their respective places of prominence. Juan S. Reyes was elected governor of Sorsogon (1929-1931). His younger brother, Dr. Jose S. Reyes, who obtained his doctorate degree from Columbia University was elected delegate to the 1935 Constitutional Convention. Referred to as a political genius, he contributed immensely in the drafting of the 1935 Constitution. He also became a member of the Philippine Independence Mission and was the Secretary of Education of both the Quirino & Osmeña administrations. In 1945, he became Executive Secretary to President Sergio Osmeña.This period of relative peace and prosperity, however, was disturbed when the second world war broke out on December 8, 1941. Bulusan, like the rest of the islands, was overran by the Japanese Imperial Army. This triggered once more nationalism among Buluseños with the re-emergence of organized guerilla resistance. The Japanese later on succeeded in establishing a semblance of local government to administer the town but the loyalty of those appointed to these positions remained with the resistance group.


After the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1946, new faces came into the political scene. Please see table below.


Municipal Mayors

126th Vicente Guysayko 1941-1947 Elected
127th Buenaventura Frades 1948-1951 Elected
128th Jaime S. Reyes 1951-1959 Elected
129th Dr. Rogado Halum 1960-1963 Elected
130th Vicente Guysayko1967-1969 Died in office (March 1969)
131st Jaime S. Reyes1969-1971 Took over when Vicente Guysayko died in 1969
132nd Erwin G. Guysayko1972-1979 Term was extended due to imposition of martial law
133rd Dr. Rogado Halum 1979-1985 Appointed mayor by President Marcos elected in January 1980
134th Antonio Frades1985-1987 Appointed OIC by President Corazon C. Aquino
135th Nelly G. Fortades1987-1992Elected; first lady mayor
136th Dr. Oscar S. Halum1992-2001Elected; re-elected in 1998
137th Juan G. Guysayko2001-presentElected, May 2001

Another Buluseño, in the person of Augusto Ortiz, rose to become provincial executive from 1968 to 1971. From the judiciary, he was tapped governor of Sorsogon anew by President Marcos (1977) but had to relinquish the post when he was elected to the Interim-Batasang Pambansa in 1978. In 1984, he was elected as Mambabatas Pambansa until 1986 when it was dissolved. During his term, the Bulusan Cultural and Sports Center was constructed in what used to be the site of the old Central School's Gabaldon building. Two (2) municipal streets in Barangay Sabang and Madlawon were likewise constructed.
The '80s marked also the birth of Damayan Buluseño, Inc. (DBI), an organization of Buluseños living in Metro Manila, which provides assistance to and development opportunities among Buluseños, like employment opportunities, medical assistance for the poor, scholarship, relief and financial assistance for the development of Bulusan.Starting out as a loose group out to muster support for a town mate then undergoing trial in Manila but whom they believed was wrongly accused, DBI went on to become a duly registered organization which, with its heretofore unseen zeal and popular support, became one of the province's most active organizations, under the leadership of its founding president, Rogelio F. Fuentes. To date, it continues to fulfill its vision and provides an avenue for community leadership, pride in the hometown, brotherhood, and prosperity as ideals worthy of pursuit.
Glimpses of Bulusan Website
Bulusan Central School & Damayan Buluseño, Inc. Homecoming 1995 Souvenir Programme
Other Sources:
Bulusan Town Fiesta Souvenir Programme 1993Bulusan Town Fiesta Souvenir Programme 1996
Dery, Luis C.; From Ibalon to Sorsogon: A Historical Survey of Sorsogon Province to 1905;
New Day Publishers; Quezon City;1991.
Jose, Cristina D.; Facts About Sorsogon;
National Media Production Center; Manila; 1971.Prado, Mariano Goyena del; Ibalon: Ethnohistory of the Bicol Region; AMS Press; Legaspi City; 1981.


  1. Wonderful indeed. I wish to visit all beautiful places in the Philippines. I think Bulusan is such a simple and wonderful place.

  2. Please show us more pictures. Thanks.

  3. Pictures and other topics will be coming soon. Thanks for reading.

  4. Wow,its a Wonderful History of my Own beloved Province.I'am Proud to Born in Bulusan esp.Sabang.Joel,Congrats and thnx for Sharing us the History of Our Own Province.I'm so happy to knew Bulusan History becouse almost of those i d'dnt knew before.Pls continue to share with us.tnx

  5. Thank for the info. I enjoy reading it and it makes me more proud about the home town of my mother.

  6. can u tell me about vicente guysayko he is my grandfather i wanna know anything about he died in the office im just curious about it my dad he already passed away if u have any info about my family history will u send it to me...please