Libmanan or Canaman?
“Tano ta sa Canaman namundag an Tangcong Vaca Guerrillas?”
A friend from Naga asked me. We were conversing about the Second World War in Bicol.
“Tangcong Vaca is in Libmanan,” he continued, “the organizers were from Libmanan, the first recruits were from Libmanan, most of the battles were fought in Libmanan and its nearby areas like Sipocot, Pamplona, Pasacao…” His grasp of local history left me speechless.
“So how come Canaman?”
That made sense. My mind took me back a few years ago when a relative from Libmanan sent me a photo of a monument in the town of Canaman declaring that Canaman was the birthplace of the Tangcong Vaca Guerrillas. He asked the same question.
Back then I did not pay much attention to it. Unfortunately, the founding members of the TVGU have all gone. To answer my friend’s question right now, I have to depend on a few history books and articles written about World War II in Bicol. I also have to reminisce stories told to me by my late father who was one of the organizers of the TVGU and the stories told to me by several of his fellow veterans. And I have to use common sense to come up to a viable answer.
I recall a post on social media by the Libmanan Historico Cultural Society a few years ago, during the 77th Founding Anniversary of the Tangcong Vaca Guerrilla Unit. The post clarifies:
“Today we commemorate and celebrate the 77th foundation Anniversary of the founding of the Tangcong Vaca Guerrilla Unit that heroically fought the Japanese Imperial Forces in Camarines Sur during World War II. It was on March 8, 1942 when the movement was formally organized in Sitio Calinigan of Barangay Umalo (mistakenly mentioned in Concepcion), Libmanan, Camarines Sur. Though there were sources who claimed that this group was founded in San Nicolas, Canaman, we maintained and supported the claim of witnesses and sources that the group was organized and formally founded in Libmanan though maybe the group was conceived to be organized by just less than five men who were recognized as founders of TVGU (still they could not be recognized as a group since there were no members who will recognize their authorities) to the claim that it was in Canaman.
According to historical accounts, Leon Aureus was the person who initiated the movement and the organization of the group was his brainchild to liberate and free the people of Libmanan from the Japanese oppression. He was the responsible person who invited Elias Madrid in his house in Libmanan (prior to Calinigan or even San Nicolas meeting), both from Libmanan to lead the group but instead they both agreed to get Juan Miranda (nephew of Elias from Canaman) to be the Commanding Officer of the group since he had a military background.
The officers and members who were present on that day were: Leon Aureus, Elias Madrid, Raymundo Martinez, Juan Miranda, Honorato Osio, Simeon Ayala, Nicolas Penaredondo, Eliseo Peneredondo, Aproniano Penaredondo, Manuel Recto, Adelo Ramos, Joaquin Ramos, Elias Villasenor, Amado Ignacio, Jaime Senardes, Jose Paglinawan, Sancho Anadilla, Tranquilino Avila, Loreto Francisco, Salvador Medina, Wenceslao Arroyo, Sabino Talay, Jose Moso, Agaton Penaredondo, Mariano Aureus, Rev. Jesus Alvarez. Most of the original members of TVGU were from Libmanan, Camarines which the name of the group and was coined from its mountain and from where they chose as their camp that is strategically located near and facing the Ragay Gulf and connected to the Bicol Peninsula adjacent to the Camarines Norte and Katagalogan mountains. The said guerrilla group had successfully attacked and killed in an ambuscade the almost 200 Japanese soldiers and officers (one General and two colonels) in the famous battle in Taguilid Pass on Nov, 28, 1942 and the guerrilla unit that liberated Naga twice on May 3, 1942 and April 13, 1945.”
But this is what is inscribed in Canaman’s monument:
“Itinatag ni Elias Madrid sa Baryo San Nicolas, Bayan ng Canaman, Lalawigan ng Camarines Sur upang labanan ang mga Hapon, 8 Marso 1942. Si Maj. Juan Q. Miranda, nagsilbing namumunong opisyal at Leon Aureus, opisyal na tagapagpatupad. Tumulong sa pagpapalaya sa bayan ng Naga kasama ang ibang gerilya, 3 Mayo 1942. Naging tanyag sa labanan sa Taguilid Pass sa bayan ng Pamplona, Camarines Sur na ikinasawi ng maraming sundalong Hapon, 8 Nobyembre 1942. Lumaban kasama ang iba pang hukbong gerilya upang palayain sa pangalawang pagkakataon ang bayan ng Naga, 13 Abril 1945. Nakipaglaban sa mga Hapon hanggang mapalaya ang iba pang mga bayan ng Camarines Sur, 1945.”
And here’s another written document. A poem by TVGU founding member Nicolas Peñaredondo. He writes that the TVGU started in a place called Concepcion, Calinigan in Libmanan. The poem goes:
LABAN CAN LIBMANAN CONTRA SA HAPON
Ni Nicolas Peñaredondo
An taga Libmanan mamomoton nanggad
Sa pigsasabi ngaran na libertad
Can maobservaran an mga Japonese
Can taga Libmanan na sinda mabangis
Nagresentar quita nagbago nin isip
Na tawan tang lecsion an mga Nippones
Idto na si defunto Aureus Leon
Primerong nag isip lumaban sa Japon
Pinag invitaran si Eching si Tanciong
Igdi sa banuan na dacul si paroy
Iguang sarong sitio igdi sa Concepcion
Calinigan ngaran karaning Poblacion
Duman pinag punan an pag tiripon
Don Tecio y Itching iba pang campon
Uguang treseng miembros sa primerong grupo
Nagpoon nin laban digdiyo sa centro
World War II ended more than 80 years ago. It is now difficult to trace the exact events that transpired. By trying to make some sense of what happened, I can only share what I believe occurred as far as I know based on books written and oral accounts of my parents and the stories the veterans told me when they were still alive.
Allow me then my two cents.
The Tangcong Vaca Guerrilla Unit was the brainchild of Leon. This is incontestable. Leon invited Elias because Elias had the money to finance the resistance group and because Elias shared the same sentiments about the war. Since both Leon and Elias did not have any military background, Elias introduced his nephew (Juan Miranda), who was an army sergeant at the Regan Barracks in Albay. Both Elias and Leon agreed to designate Miranda as the overall military commander of the group.
This occurred at Leon’s old family house in Libmanan. Using common sense logic, this is where it all began, albeit informally.
The other gatherings that followed were all with the purpose to formalize that initial meeting held in Libmanan.
Years ago, my father wrote in his memoirs that a formal organizational meeting was held in Canaman. At the same time, I also believe that the narrative posted by the Libmanan Historico Cultural Society actually happened. I personally got this straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. The only problematic I see here is how can both organizational meetings have happened on the same date?
Historical accounts about the TVGU have been written. Books with different versions, articles, journals, and oral stories handed down have been shared and debated on. I hope this short article may shed some light on, even if not entirely put to rest, my friend’s question.
Libmanan or Canaman?