Orosipon – Buhay sa San Isidro, Bacon, nan poblacion kan Castilla san Giyera

Most of those who grew up missing the Second World War, there’s a persistent impression that Japanese were everywhere. I can still remember the story of the Sorsogon National High School’s being the Japanese stockade where hundreds of Filipinos were locked up. Or when people would pass by the Camp Escudero Sr., they have to bow to the Japanese sentries. Stories like this reinforces such impression on the Japanese occupation.

Late last year, I had a chance to talk to my maternal grandmother, who has been a source of great stories in the old days. He told me that her family stayed in Castilla. Although there was a Japanese garrison in the area, she could still remember the Japanese officer to be very respectful of the local populace. One time, there was a rape incident in their area, the Japanese office made sure that it wouldn’t happen again – the rapist was publicly shot to make a point. Not a rape incident happen afterwards, according to my lola.

I also decided to ask my paternal grandmother who grew up in Brgy. San Isidro, Bacon (now a district of Sorsogon City). I was hoping to get a gory story from my grandmother.  Instead, she had benign experience with the Japanese soldiers. She can only remember one incident where the Japanese soldiers showed up. My father explains that San Isidro, back in the early 40s, had very narrow access trail, thus, one has to walk. My grandmother told me that there’s no public transport available then. And even if she had to walk to the poblacion of Sorsogon, she can’t remember being mistreated by the Japanese soldiers.

San Isidro on the lower right corner. One can imagine how far it is from the main road if he has to walk via the Bacon Community Airport. Courtesy of Google Maps.

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2 Responses to Orosipon – Buhay sa San Isidro, Bacon, nan poblacion kan Castilla san Giyera

  1. mari de vera says:

    The Japanese commander and the officers of the army assigned to Sorsogon resided in the house of Vicente de Vera (1942-45) located on what is now De Vera St, near the Pilot School and bocana to rompeolas. (This fact is mentioned in the NHI landmark text of Bahay Angkang ng De Vera).
    Before the house was conscripted by the Japanese Imperial Army, the commander and his officers stayed in Albay and traveled to and from Sorsogon. One afternoon on his way back to .Albay the commander with a platoon escort was ambushed in Capuy by guerillas led by Pacifico Cabrera of the Lapus guerilla group. At this junction I would like to digress to the fact that Sorsogon had two guerilla groups: one led by Lapus, composed mostly of military men and their affiliates; the other group under Escudero, made up of his political allies and civilian supporters of the war effort. Although the two groups had a common enemy in the Japanese, there was a staunch rivalry between them. It was common that brothers in a family supported either group. Pacifico Cabrera was married to Nena Flores, daughter of the erstwhile Sorsogon governor, Bernabe Flores of Bulacan whose wife was Felisa Perez of Sorsogon. Their sons, Antono (Tonying), Jose (Peping), Leopoldo (Polding) and Manuel (Manoling) joined either one of the two guerilla groups. Polding was arrested by the Japanese when he was found with a radio transmitter in his possession. Manoling was also arrested. Both brothers were never seen again. Teodoro Perez de Vera, also a former governor before the war and son of Vicente de Vera, served as judge advocate-at- large of the Escudero faction. Having been elected as congressman prior to the war, Doring de Vea was responsible for the release of Bicol prisoners of war in Tarlac and Pampanga and were allowed to return to their respective homes by De Vera’s signature and guarantee that the released prisoners would not join any guerilla movement.

    Contrary to belief the Sorsogon Provincial Highschool was never used as garrison, arsenal or prison during the occupation. The High School was mysteriously burned and razed just a few days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 7, 1941. To this day it is not certain whether it was the Japanese or the guerillas who was responsible for razing the edifice. We owe credence to the claim of the brothers it was the Japanese responsible for the arson in the belief that it was being secretly used as an arsenal by Escudero and his men. It was reconstructed in 1949 under the incumbency of Senator Teodoro P. de Vera and an official historical marker was installed. This official historical marker has unfortunately been misplaced and displaced when it was refurbished in the 80’s and replaced. AS obscure plaque of appreciation for the former senator however was installed.

    The Japanese retaliated after the ambush by putting to torch the barrios of Capuy and Basud and rounded the male population. As was recounted by Jose Flores, the Japanese officer dubbed as the “Hero of Bataan” and other distinguish soldiers perished in this of ambush. To avoid like incidents the house of Vicente de Vera (then residing in Manila with his family) was conscripted as the residence of the commander and the officers of the army under the command of General Semukura.

    Semukura was an interesting character. He was tall, unlike the ordinary Japanese, had Caucasian features, his eyes being green and his hair of a brownish color; even the hair on his arms were blondish. His mother was Russian. A true soldier of the Tokyo Military Academy, Semukura was thoroughly polite though very rigid. He grew his beard to his chest and swore never to cut it until the guerilla leaders, Lapus and Escudero were caught.

    Semukura stood on the balcony of the De Vera house daily at 5 a.m to watch Sorsogon civilians in the obligatory exercises and calisthenics performed on the church patio, with the accompanying blare of military airs played by of Radio Tai-so, the Japanese propaganda radio station. This took place before the 6 a.m mass. Except for minor incidents, as when the father of Archbishop Varela was dragged out from the church to attend the obligatory exercises, there were no known atrocities under Semukra.

    Semukura was relieved sometime in 1943 by another officer (not sure of his rank) Yuasa, Unlike his predecessor, Yuasa was friendly, gregarious and an adept tango dancer. Upon curfew at 6 p.m.Yuasa and his fellow officers attended the conferences held at the residence of the incumbent occupation governor Silverio Garcia. After the conference, the unmarried women of “buena famillas” were fetched by the Commander Yuasa’s and formally escorted by officers to the governer’s residence: It was tango time! Among the ladies invited were Leonor Paras (lFlores) and Adelina Salvador (Chacon). They were formally escorted back home when the dance time was over not later before 12 a.m. (I have lively anecdotes retold by these two ladies). It is said that under Yuasa’s watch: “warang mga sakyada an mga Hapon sige lang an tarango.” Or as according to Carlos Berenguer: “mabisita an mga Hapon sa amon sa Sirangan, pero an mga guerilla yadto man na sa kusina nagcacarape.” Polding Flores had an officer Japanese officer friend, a skillful knife thrower. Unfortunately his bosom buddy had been re posted elsewhere when he was arrested towards the latter part of the occupation.

    At this writing, we are still searching for the background of these two commanders. Yuasa at least came for a sentimental visit to Sorsogon with some Japanese old timers of the occupation, sometime in the 70’s.

    Sorsogon was liberated on Good Friday, April, 1945 by the 158th Regimental Combat Team, U.S. Army and the Special Battlion Bicol Brigade. Once again, the the De Vera residence assumed its role in history as headquarters for allied mopping operations, under one Major Haas. Surrendering to the conquerors were about 70 Taiwanese enlisted in the Japanese army. From the adjacent bodega of the house were freed a few native prisoners, possibly imprisoned or detained for minor infractions.

  2. ahlfred says:

    was that adelina salvadorchacon a doctor…I remeber she signed my birth certificate in sorsogon ..My mom delived me at the devera house in july 1952

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