History of Bula
Summarized By: JAIME T. MALANYAON
The recent archaeological findings excavated in the caves in Cagaray Island in Albay, in Bacon, Pilar and Casiguran in Sorsogon Province, reveal that the first explorers of Bikol towns were the ancient Bikolanos.
When the Spaniards came to explore Bikol they only started the evangelization to Christianity.The Franciscan friars started their evangelization in Bikol in 1578. Fray Pablo de Jesus and Fray Bartolome Ruiz led the pioneering work. Within ten years of hard work the villages became towns (Buhi, Bula, Cagsawa, Camalig, Canaman, Daet, Indian, Iriga, libmanan, Libon, Milaor, Minalabac, Nabua, Oas, Paracale, Polangui, and Quipayo). Bula was one of them.
Bula whose titular patron is St. Mary Magdalene celebrate its 4th centennial (400th year) evangelization and as a town in the year 1978 amidst colourful social, civic and religious activities.
“Bula” literary means bamboo splits usually used either as firewood, fish taps and other homemade bamboo crafts taken from the resilient bamboos that grow abundantly everywhere especially along river banks, creeks and streams. A tale of the handed down by generations reveals that the early
Spaniards who came to the place, found the natives busy splitting bamboos. Wanting to know the name of the place, the Spaniards arrogantly approached the menfolk who were laboriously splitting bamboos and asked them. The natives however, not understanding the query in Spanish language and thinking, too that the foreigners were interested on what they were working on answered “bala” (split bamboo). Since then, bala was changed to Bula as the name of the place.
A more historical and perhaps authentic legend is that a certain Spanish named Broson y Brano gave the name to this town based on the response of a native to a question asked in Spanish. The native was splitting bamboo for fuel when he was asked what he was doing and he answered laconically “bula” so Bula became the mission’s name.
Similarly, during those early periods, it has been told that the town was constantly besieged by bandits and marauders. Legend has it that during one of the enemies’ raids, the mighty image of St. Mary Magdalene towered to block the way of the enemies and warded them off. To this day also, she has remained Bula’s patron saint and protector whose feast is celebrated annually on July 21-23.
Bula in the 1800’s
The town is situated in a lowland so that it is flooded come the rainy season. Its boundary reaches as far as the “Mission Post” of Pili which is two hours walking distance. East of Bula is the town of Baao, a walking distsance of three hours. In the southwest it is bounded by a mountain range and the northwest by town of Minalabac. The area of this town in the western part reaches up to the sea cost. They are plenty of hardwood trees in the mountains, coconuts, palm trees, rattan vines and fruit trees abound in its virgin forests. Large tracts of land are planted to rice, sugar cane maiz, mongo, gabi and other root crops for the majority of the natives are farmers although there are also fishermen among them. The women are occupied in weaving “guinaras” in their crude weaving looms, from abaca fibers, and they even try weaving fine products likes sinamay. Their produce find market in the towns of Rinconada a reaching as far as the province of Albay.
During the later part of the 19th century, there were originally four barious and several sitios in Bula. The oldest barrios are Ombao, Causip, Palsong and Baao, the latter became a separate municipality and is now known as the town of Baao. All these barrios are situated along the Pawili and Bikol Rivers. The sitios gradually developed and became separate barrios so that at the onset of Second World War in 1942 there were 23 barrios existing in Bula. Aside from the original four barrios, Salvacion and San Roque were orgainized and/or created during the intervining period.
Bula in the 2000’s after WW II (1945) up to 1960, an addition of eleven barrios were created and organized. Today therefore the town of Bula is composed of 33 barangays. Presently, the town proper of poblacion area is composed of three barangays, namely: Sagrada Familia, San Roque and Salvacion. The seat of government is located in Barangays Salvacion and has become the common boundary of the three poblacion barangays.
As one of the oldest towns, the oldest church bell in the country was alleged to have been installed in this town but was taken to manila through Dr. Bantug and was rung during the 1937 International Eucharistic Congress. Afterwards the bell was never returned to Bula. Its first church built in 1688 was destroyed by the typhoon in 1700. The repairs were completed in 1876 was destroyed by an earthquake in 1902. Later on a new modem church was erected during the term of the Rev. Concordio Sarte who was later to become Bishop of Legazpi.
This town is the rice granary of Rinconada. Irrigation system constructed by the Bikol River Basin Development Program had improved the production and the small tenants now owning the lots they have been cultivation before, which were partly owned by several haciendas. With this agricultural rice production the economy greatly improved.
Aside from farming, the fishing industry in the lake remains the source of income for the people. The abundance of bamboos also boosted the handicraft industry even before the Second World War.
Incomes generating home industries were boosted by Luis Malanyaon, then public schools supervisor.
- Annual Report Dist. Supervisor 1978
- F. Mallari, op. Cit p. 179
- Oral histories of residents.