This little coastal town off the tip of Luzon is a paradise in itself, boasting of long stretches of white sand beaches.
The original name of Santa Magdalena was “Busaingan”. The term means “water breakers” or the place where the water breaks. The place was mentioned in several early Spanish documents. In the list of encomiendas by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, he assigned on May 23, 1572 to Pedro de Arnedo, one village in Ibalon Bay, and 7 villages on the coast opposite the entrance to Ibalon, called Busaygan or Busaingan. The place was also called Buza Y Gan, or Bucaygan by Loarca, referring to a cape located in the extreme southeaster tip of Luzon.
It is presumed that the earliest settlers must have been members of Datu Dumaguil’s tribe. The history of its adjacent municipality of Matnog mentions that a few families led by Sirangan, the chief and his wife Hara-Hara, who supposedly came from this place, then known as Busaingan, had settled in Matnog. Some local sources on the other hand, claimed the earliest settlers originated from Bulusan. It may be inferred, therefore, that Bulusan must have been settled by civilized Malays earlier than Sta. Magdalena or Matnog. These early settlers inhabited the slope of what is now known as Binongtohan, a local term which means “former town site”.
Santa Magdalena was a “visita” of the Parish of Bulusan. The Franciscan Order were the missionaries who converted the natives to Christianity in the early sixteenth century. Consequently, St. Francis of Assisi was the original patron saint of Pueblo de Busaingan. For more than a century they celebrated every October 4 the feast day in honor of St. Francis. The chapel and administrative building of the village was constructed at the slope of Liang, now called as “Binongtohan”. It was abandoned when during the early part of the twentieth century; the church was transferred in the coastal plain of Poblacion (present site). On October 1890 Busaingan became an independent parish and the parishioners decided to have St. Mary Magdalene as patroness. The feast day was subsequently changed from October 4 to July 22. The devotion and patronage to St. Francis of Assisi was continued in Barangay Poblacion until during Martial Law when it was divided into four barangays and assigned with new patron saints. St. Francis remained the patron saint for Poblacion 1. Currently, the image of St. Francis originally used in the church was still intact and in the possession and care of a family in Poblacion 4.
The centuries of Moro attacks affected Busaingan being a coastal village along the San Bernardino Strait, a busy lane for the Galleon Trade. The baluartes were constructed in Talaongan and in Poblacion 1 as part of the defense against the Muslim pirate attacks. Busaingan was one of settlements in Sorsogon that failed to recover their pre-Moro raids prominence when most of the inhabitants refused to return and rebuild them. Busaingan was repopulated during the late half of the 19th Century when the raids subsided.
On 1894, Santa Magdalena became an independent pueblo civil first under the Province of Albay, then after a few days on October 1894, it became a town of the newly organized Province of Sorsogon. The town name was changed to Santa Magdalena but some reports from Americans soldiers show that until 1900 it was still called called Pueblo de Busaingan. Isidro Gallanosa was the first Governadorcillo. He was killed by the Americans in 1901, a torture scandal during their early occupation as recorded in their official reports.