Siruma: Faded Photographs and Fresh Memories

Siruma teachers 1947-48 posterity pose.

There is a constant internal debate within us about memories and photographs. What endures most, photographs or memories? As time goes by, photographs become faded- faces, views and other images therein lose their vividness, luster, or color and collect more folds, lines and creases. Memories borne out of these photographs do not fade. All the while it is more like always fresh and ready for instant recall once it crosses our mind.


And while we are talking of the past and memories here, it came to our knowledge that before the outbreak of World War II, there were two (Mr. “Kullot” and Mr. “Zekverna”) thriving Russian entrepreneurs in the big barrio of Tandoc in Siruma.

The enterprising expats made landfall in 1920 up until 1940 in the promising place and set up their sawmill for lumber and wood-products business. Their company ships the raw wood construction materials by way of the port in Tandoc to perhaps either Manila or commercial destination elsewhere in the country or outside of the Philippines.

But that business was wiped-out because of the (impending) war. We have no accurate info about the Russians but left behind were the railroad tracks in the area used in the sawmill operation.

Vito (Siruma) Public School pupils and teachers, 1947-48.

World War II
During the drive and push for the total liberation of Camarines Sur and Naga city, Siruma became the setting of retribution and punishment.

A portion of the war years (of 1942-1943) the governor of Camarines Sur was Mariano Villafuerte. Together with wife, Soledad, eldest son Manuel, Japanese military officer named Kwasima, Villafuerte took a motorboat from Sabang, Calabanga and landed at the barrio of Vito in Siruma. The fleeing governor was looking for an influential leader named Pedro P to seek aid and become his intermediary, but was a little too late since Pedro left with his own family much earlier before their arrival.

Rag tag guerilla groups operating in the area apprehended the retreating entourage of Villafuerte. The governor, his wife and son were executed about the beach of Vito. The (private) body part of the elder Villafuerte was decapitated.

Kwasima was dragged to a wooded area named Tabas, much farther from the school and was also executed.

(Will have to make an early note here: Before the war in the Philippines, many young Japanese tourists and hawkers arrived in the Bicol towns, and started selling candy on the streets. Folks did not suspect that these alien hawkers were actually the first wave of members of the Japanese imperialist army sent as spies to map the area, localities and pinpoint important personalities in every municipalities. Kwasima was one of them. When the war broke out, the hawkers changed to their imperial uniforms and turned out to be officers to the surprise and disbelief of locals who were befriended much earlier.)

On the same day, Villafuerte’s leader identified as Joaquin Cardema was also apprehended by the guerillas in Vito. His life was spared upon the timely intercession of the commanding leader of the 54th infantry regiment, Paquito “Turko” Buayen. He was later “endorsed” to a family who hide him for more than three years.

Grades I-II-III and IV.

The following day, the group of the 52nd infantry regiment under the helm of Juan Miranda landed at the beach of Vito. (One of the soldiers in the group would later become one of our family’s closest relative.) Their mission was to halt the execution of the Villafuerte’s and bring them alive back to Naga. They came too late. By the time they arrived, the lifeless bodies were already desecrated.

Their bodies were buried in an area identified as Sumanga, near the Vito public school.

Miranda’s group immediately departed the barrio and headed for Naga with the decapitated head of the governor placed in a sack.

A report later said that some residents of Naga related the late governor’s head was brought and displayed at the plaza (presumably, Naga) on a jar.

Were the rag tag Bicol guerillas justified in handing out swift punishment? Ah, history and events has to be verified. But sometimes truth and true facts can be twisted depending on whose side and for whose good! Always. Since the main participants on this event are all gone and resting in peace, or whatever, how can we get an accurate story, then? (

Back to the readers: What do you think?

To be concluded.

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


16 thoughts on “Siruma: Faded Photographs and Fresh Memories”

  1. Well written . . . Very informative . . . I enjoyed the ride (from past to present) . . . Thank you jap adupe (Sorry, i can’t address you as madam or sir – got not a hint from your name or alias) . . . Keep it up!

  2. I like your article. I am now 70 years old and I am that girl standing beside Mrs. Virginia Pascual Adupe. I was in Grade I then. We live in Vito, Siruma for a few years and our house wasbeside the Pascual residence. I studied in Vito, Siruma Elem. School for two years. Vito is a very memorable place for me and for my brothers, Frank, Rafael, Vicente, Ramon, Prospero and Buenaventura, Jr. My father, Buenventura Aguilar Sr., had served in the Treasurer’s Office of Siruma for so long. We, the Aguilars, though not residing anymore in Siruma, are still Sirumanians and we love Siruma very much.

    1. We are glad to read and appreciate your comment on this article. The distant past may have revived colorful memories thru the pictures. Siruma (and Vito) is always in the heart, you can’t help but make an instant recall, as if it was only yesterday.

    2. Hello! I’m writing a dissertation for PhD Anthropology in UP Diliman, and I have partly done fieldwork in Tandoc, Tonggo Bantigue, and Butauanan Is. Siruma during summer 2009. In Summer 2010 I continued fieldwork in the coastal villages of Lagonoy.
      I do hope I can communicate with you via email, or, if you are in the Philippines, I can perhaps conduct story-telling/interview.

    3. Hello again,
      Still in reply to Salvacion (Salve) Aguilar-Valcos,
      since email address is not published here, and neither would i require you to post your email here online, you may email in my direction, at

      Thank you!

      1. Will send a message to Mrs. Valcos and ask her persmission to share her email address. We are sure she will be of help in your research.

        We will update you soon as we get the info. Thank you.

        1. Thank you for your help, I know my reply was posted after almost two years since the original post was made. I do hope Mrs. Valcos can correspond.

          1. We sent Mrs. Valcos the message but todate, she has no reply yet. We sent her your email address, also “our” contact phone number plus exhorting her to send us her number too so our end can call her directly. We only surmise that she could be (living) out of the country.

            1. Thanks for the effort, i’m also just taking chances. By the way, when this blog was posted I also have just conducted fieldwork in Tandoc, regarding the lumber company. One of the Russians is Jacob Theodor Chetvernia- he was the Manager. He is buried there in Tandoc and I have seen the gravesite, complete with a steel wheel marker on which is inscribed his name and dates of birth and death, and the title “Father of Tandoc”. I have also retrieved some documents from the National Library and from the Bureau of Immigration recently to get more information on him.

              What interests me further in your blog is the narrative regarding the establishment of the logging company. The period “1920-1940” is generally correct, but the earlier sites were in Lagonoy, moving up to Siruma, and this I surmised from my informants who worked in these companies. (Chetvernia only appeared in the scene after World War II).

              Question: Where are your informants from? Can we exchange notes/ share ideas on this? I can go to Naga. In fact I did research at Ateneo de Naga over the short vacation I had there, reading James O’Brien (1968) and Jose V. Barrameda (2007) where there is a detailed discussion of the war years.
              From another informant in Tandoc, she said that there were some old pictures of Tandoc which were allegedly borrowed from her by a certain “Domeng” who allegedly is a photographer associated to or working with Gov. LRay (i’m not certain on this)…but I would like to trace the pictures too.



              1. We got first hand information posted on this article from “an old timer” who used to live in Vito, Siruma, which had some knowledge about the locality and events mentioned, as well as townsfolk during the time. Informant wanted though, to be an anonymous resource. But because of old age and there was no journal or written narrative to rely on, informant had to share bits and pieces of events as far as memory can recall.

  3. pambihira po ang ginawa nindo. dapat magserbing giya ini sa mga opisyales kan gobyerno na iguang banwaan na ang ngaran SIRUMA na dapat matawan nin dakulang atensyon na maging mauswag ang lugar.salamat po

  4. Knowing that there have a place of siruma is such an honor to be proud of, because i am a sirumanian. We must to preserve our culture to be witness by the up coming generation, and also we must to take care of our natural environment to be the one of the tourist attractions here in Bicol.We have lots of beautiful beaches here in siruma that we can advertise to many people.I hope that the LGU of Siruma will preserve and develop it.

    hoping for more improvements of Siruma especially when it comes to the transportation services.

    God Bless to the Municipality of Siruma!!

    More power!!!

    >.< <3 jean G.

  5. Wow! namiss ko ang lola ko pakahiling ko kang mga lumang pictures..garo man sana akong naghalungkat sa mga tinatanagong treasure kang lola ko sa saiyang lumang kaban..siring man kaiyan ang mga lumang pictures taken sa Sulpa and San Andres Siruma..

      1. @Jassy: OK lang po, na-edit na, correct name of barangay is “SULPA.” Thanks for the visit and comment.

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