Behind the Names of the Barangays in Muntinlupa

October 29, 2014

muntinlupa, tunasan, putatan, bayanan, buli

I was contacted by this cable TV show to talk about the streets of Binondo last week. I was referred to them by my friend Glenn, of the popular blog, Traveler on Foot. So, I was reading up on the history behind the street names in that old suburb a day before the supposed interview date. I was on my way yesterday when I got a call from the producer that they’re rescheduling everything. Since the whole thing got me started on the history of streets and places, why not write something for Muntinlupa–we’ve lived here for more than two decades. I’m sure the new generation and those who happened to moved in recently are clueless about the origins of the names of places here.

What’s Putatan? Buli? Bayanan? Alabang? where did these names came from? what are they? what do they mean?

Natives had this custom of identifying places after plants or trees that abundantly grows in it. They’re not as vain as we are who would name places after our personal interests. They like using botanical references. Like Sampaloc, or Talisay, common names of towns across the country. The street where I grew up in Makati is called Bagtican, teak in English, also known as lawaan. Manila, after the plant nilad. Manggahan, mabolo and niugan are usual names for barrios. The list of places named after plants is endless. When I was in Malaysia, I was surprised they have this old custom as well. It is probably from our common ancestors where we got the tradition.

This seal of Muntinlupa was designed by one of Fernando Amorsolo’s son–Manuel Amorsolo. The seal shows the year it became an independent municipality (1917) and the year it became a city (1995). However, the official record is that it became a municipality in 1918. The nine stars are the city’s barangay. (photo from wikipedia)

In Muntinlupa, it’s the same. Almost all barrios were named after plants.

Buli, pronounced as bulé, near Sucat, in English is palm. But our version of this palm produces an edible fruit that Tagalogs consume. Its scientific name is corpha elata and is indigenous in Philippine soil. The bulé could no longer be found in present day Buli, but the name suggest that it was abundant in that part back in the day.

There’s Cupang, a tall tree that grows up to 30 meters. It is native in parts of Indonesia and South East Asia. Malaysian have places named after this plant too, but they spells it as Kupang (like tanjong kupang). It also produces a fruit, similar to that of an ipil-ipil but bigger, the seeds are boiled then consumed.

There are two Alabang in Muntinlupa. The affluent residential Ayala Alabang and Alabang, the business district of the south metro. Both owes its name after Rio Alban, the river that runs across Festival mall. You could look up maps of old Tunasan San Pedro and find Rio Alban as the most prominent landmark in the area. I find it amusing when people insist that Alabang was from the word “Abang” because the area, as these people claim, was once controlled by brigands that would hide behind the bushes and ambush travelers. We have so many of these accounts that does not have any historical basis but they’re more entertaining than the factual historical accounts, so people enjoys spreading them.

Alabang also brings to mind those college classmates who lives in Tunasan, Buli and Bayanan but when asked where they live they’d respond, Alabang, like clockwork. If you say Muntinlupa, you get teased then. I’m not sure if people still ask, “saan sa Muntinlupa? sa loob o labas?”

There’s an interesting detail that curious Muntinlupa locals notice. They ask if Bayanan was the ancient pre-filipino town center while Poblacion was the Spanish era town proper?

The Spanish era Poblacion was the town proper all along. It used to be near the lake, where the church was first erected. The church was later moved near the new main road and Bilibid Nuevo. Where the church was located is where the town proper is in old Philippines. The Tagalog word bayan is equivalent to the Spanish word Pueblo or town, but there’s no basis that tells us that Bayanan, became the town proper at any point in Muntinlupa’s history.

In fact, it was named after a plant as well.

Bayan, or báyan (memecylon ovatum) also known as palumpong (which also means shrubs), produces lilac flowers and have rounded leaves. You could still see these plants around. The place was named after báyan the plant , not bayan the town—So, Bayanan, literally means a place where báyan grew in abundance. Its flowers and leaves are believe to have antiseptic qualities.

With the exception of Alabang, Sucat and Poblacion, all barangay names in Muntinlupa had botanical origins. Hopefully, one day, the city hall would collect these plants and trees for the locals to see.

Another barrio, Tunasan, once part of the Friar estate collectively known as Tunasan San Pedro, was named from the lotus-like plant called túnas. Known for its medicinal uses, it flourished in that part near the lake.

Believe it or not, Putatan, is also a name with botanical origins. In old Tagalog, pútat, means new leaf or growth. An area where leaf, sap or branch has develop. It must have been where young trees were seen and planted. I could still remember seeing rice fields and vegetable plantations in the area when we first arrived in 80’s. There were fruit bearing trees too. Now all of that land had  been developed. I hope this dismisses rumors that Putatan was where the brothels were in the ancient times!

Putahan naman yun’ hindi Putatan.

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ruben s. hernando
ruben s. hernando

Very interesting to note that names of these places in Muntinlupa had curious origins, I have always been curious about such origins, particularly those in the Tagalog areas. Antipolo – now where did that come from?

Taytay ni Juan

Antipolo was named after the tipolo tree (Artocarpus blancoi), related to breadfruit under the family Moraceae. Tipolo were abundant in the village during the Spanish era. in 1639, retreating Chinese from Calamba uprising passing through Pasig and Taytay found their way to Antipolo toward Sierra Madre, desecrated the image of the much venerated Birheng Antipolo, Nuestra Snra dela Paz del Buenviaje. But the sacred image survived and was found “safe among the trees.”


There’s still one “corpha elata” or buli left at Barangay Buli. It grows as tall as the roof of the school’s court, you can see it at Buli Elementary School.


[…] years ago, I blogged about the origin of Muntinlupa’s barrio names. Many were surprised that all had botanical word […]


yah yah right…everytime the news media is reporting in Putatan barangay they never pronounce the place correctly they say Pototan or Putotan. It sounded like the Word Putatan for the media is a bit related to sex….idiots

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