The Almost Forgotten Town of Siruma

    The broken-fingered map of Siruma. The big island on the left is barangay Butauanan while the smal island is Matandang Siruma.

The quaint, little and big town of Siruma lies on the northeastern section of Camarines Sur, much properly on a peninsula jutting out to the sea. Its shore is lapped by the cool waves of the Pacific, while the inland territory is generally of mountainous terrain abundantly sun-basked.

It is a little town when one considers the minuscule population of 17,035 (per 2007 official census). It is a small ticket viewed from the perceived importance of existence to the powers that be outside the municipal level. It is small if its 2008 annual income of P34,875,833 is the gauge.

It is big with a land area of 127.43 km2 (49.2 sq mi) compared to other towns of the province including the city of Naga. It is big because its people have large belief on their God-given place, having stayed that long despite its “remoteness” on things convenient and nice.

It is big because it faces the wide expanse of the Pacific, fearless of the waves that one day may turn unfriendly and help may take long to come. It is big because the air is fresher and cleaner than anywhere else. It is big because the limit of one’s unobstructed view is limited only by the capabilities of sight of the naked eyes.

The generation of residents who peopled the town proved their strength and tenacity despite the geographical adversity that confronts their daily conduct of normal life since its founding year.

Siruma, like its neighboring municipalities, was a chunk of territory from the pioneering old Spanish town of Quipayo. At one remote time in its history, it was annexed to the province of Camarines Norte. It was understandable then, and a better arrangement due sea travel across the waters of San Miguel was more efficient and quick. Besides, there was no other choice.

Old photo from archives dated April 10, 1938. Monico Pascual and company offshore of barangay Vito aboard MV Miling.

Quick flashback. In 1995, Siruma pictured clear and loud over the national consciousness, albeit five minutes of non-fame and tragedy. Super typhoon Rosing hit and made landfall on the town and brought damage to property and death to some residents. Indeed, help got on the way and took some time for the waiting citizens. After that, Siruma faded from the fickle and selective national consciousness.

Before, to get to Siruma or any barangay of the town, one has to travel by the unreliable motorized passenger boats at the port of barangay Bagacay in Tinambac, or by motorized (fishing) boat from Sabang, Calabanga.

Trip departures in Bagacay was always dependent on the tide. Low tide means the boat may have difficulty navigating the narrow estuarine that leads to San Miguel bay. Since many of the trips are under the canopy of stars, many boat sinking accidents have occured due to non-regulation and supervision by the authorities.

Siruma is the last municipality after Tinambac following the 80-km route of the secondary national road that starts from Naga, then traverses Calabanga onward to Tinambac and its endpoint. The road is the umbilical cord that connects its people to the outside world. It is a government infrastructure that is more wanting of upgrade and maintenance.

(To be continued.)

Want to read more about Siruma, the series?

  • 1. The Almost Forgotten Town of Siruma
  • 2. Second Part, Siruma Surprised, Hosts a Distinguished Visitor
  • 3. Third Installment, Siruma: Faded Photographs and Fresh Memories
  • 4. Conclusion: Exposing The Other Side of Siruma
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    10 thoughts on “The Almost Forgotten Town of Siruma”

    1. Good day,

      I read your article about Siruma and was glad to learn more about the place. I was born and raised by my parents, the late, Buenaventura Aguilar, former Assistant Municipal Treasurer and Irene Bismonte Aguilar of Baao.

      I would very much like to hear from you ASAP regarding your relatives whom I may know. I am a retired 2nd Lt of the AFP and currently residing in Sucat, Paranaque.

      Sincerely yours,

      Rafael B. Aguilar

    2. Marhay na aldaw po Mr. Aguilar. For privacy purposes, we opted to edit out phone numbers you furnished us but will be on our file. We will get in touch with you in due time.

      Your sister, Mrs. Salve Aguilar Valcos dropped a comment on one of the Siruma article. Appreciate both of you.

      1. Ms. Elnora, nostalgic rings romantic and poetic. Maybe to some from Siruma, to wax poetic about that wuthering heights during a typhoon (like Glenda now) is a misplaced maudlin sentiment. The first issue to any people, most especially to those from Siruma, is to bring that few hundred kilograms of copra or badi to Tinambac town, that 50 kms of bad roads. The return-trip is equally punishing. It is not a sick joke if I say that to go to Tinambac then back to Siruma you must be ready to consume a day or at least 16 hours. And you do not have a hundred years in a life-time.

        I will not be surprise if you will never return to Siruma except:

        aa. you are a tourist.
        bb. you came from there and you will visit once a year for the Fiesta.
        cc. somebody close to you died.
        dd. you have retired and you have a hectare or two in one of the Siruma barrios of Ba ao or
        Bagong Sirang or Fundado or Tandoc.
        ee. You despise the rat-race in Manila or abroad.
        ff. you will run for a mayorship (prepare 15 million pesos but without guarantee you win.).
        gg. you are a priest assigned there or a soldier sent there.
        hh. you married a magayon bicolana from there to whom you are sworn to be with for
        better or for worst.
        ii. similar or analogous reasons.

        to any one who reads this comment, do not despair. The place and the people are good and generous as a Filipino is. Just be prepared for simple foods and hard accommodations. It is good to be honest and not to promise a rose garden those who come to Siruma

        With that in your minds, go there and enjoy the winds and the sun and the beaches and eat lots of tipong, cheaper by the dozen.

        But make sure you have arranged some accommodations with some homeowners for a reasonable fee. Or camp out in the Matandang Siruma island for free .


      1. Sad to say, but nothing has changed after decades. Politics has got to do with how towns stay the way they were for ages, with less development, neglected but not during election time.

        1. do not fret about it comrade. even the rebels have abandoned the town, courtesy to its bad roads. only the good old Catholic church is a constant there, thanks God. Been there, and i marvel at the patience of these hard-working people of Siruma, especially the very generous, hardy fishermen inured to the punishments of the waves and the seas. as for the provincial leadership and congressional reps, just forget them. Later these people of Siruma will pull themselves up from their shoestrings, no thanks to the politicos of all colors and shades.

          How? Just finish the Tinambac-Siruma road. Development is that simple, folks. Just plain common sense. The old Roman empire simply build roads, the rest followed.

          Do the same to Siruma. And progress will follow.

    3. The plight of Siruma is common in the Philippines; in Samar and in Mindanao.What can you expect in a 5th class town? Here, there are no glitz, no glamour but only hard work and frugal living for most.

      The town can be reached from Naga City viaTinambac town, about 70 kms away. From Tinambac to Siruma, you have 2 options: by motorboat if the seas permit. Or 48 kilometers of bad roads which a jeepney negotiates within 4 hours. You leave by jeep in Tinambac at high noon; you will reach Siruma town by dusk if you are blessed by your stars; if not , and the jeep breaks down and has to be repaired, you will be in Siruma town for dinner at 8:00pm. Take a bangka to siruma island (Matandang Siruma) another 20 mins run, and you will be in the island. No hotels, no electricity, no shopping mall, only the island planted with coconuts.

      One side is the Pacific; go and take a dip, hoping you will return.

      Occupation? Fishing when the sea is generous; none if the sea is boisterous. You are a tourist? I offer you the moon, the sun, the stars and the heavens, the breeze and the ceaseless, now gentle, then later deadly kiss of the Pacific. As now is summer, enjoy the sun, the beach, the cool winds. Or come in a September, when summer is gone.

      The island residents are friendly and generous with their catch.

      Siruma is a neglected place, left behind in development and progress. But if i have the pristine mornings on calm days, and the glorious sunsets, i can live there for a thousand days, and not regret it.

    4. The place is far, the roads bad, the food expensive; except for fish, all others are bought from Tanambac or Naga.And all government buildings are own by the Villafuerte family, based on the painted announcements in the rooftops of buildings.

      Poor town. And the province is poor too. Not recommended to visit unless you are doing a thesis for graduation on the pervasive poverty of parts of country.

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