Operation Grave of the Fireflies – Search and Retrieval of WWII Japanese Remains in Bamban – Fujiyama


Careful considerations were made to get the approval of the Aeta Elders living in the area of Fujiyama where the remains unearthed in April 2015. As part of the requisites of the Program “GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES”, the mission, activities and results shall be forwarded to the Japan Embassy in Manila.

Further, Bamban Historical Society will be looking for possible Japanese Non-Political Organization (NPO) to be coordinated for the ultimate purpose of recovery and return of the Japanese remains found in the site.

Accordingly, BHS contacted Mr. Bong Lingcuangco who is married to a native Aeta as the key person of contact with respect to the Aeta Tribes living in the area.

Mr. Lingcuangco coordinated a meeting with the Aeta Elders on the morning of August 27, 2015 in his home in Sacobia, Bamban, Tarlac for the approval of the mission and blessing. The following events occurred in the course of the Program OPERATION GRAVEYARD OF FIREFLIES:


BHS authorized its member; Mr. Jack Singh, to inform the Japan Embassy Manila Office regarding the Program and to intimate the ultimate intention of recovery and repatriation of the remains of Japanese soldiers left in the former battlefield of Fujiyama in Bamban.

Japan Embassy Comment: According to the verbal report submitted by Mr. Singh in the course of discussion with the Japan Embassy Office in Manila, said Embassy Office is not processing the receipt of the findings of Japanese soldiers remains in the Philippines since there is no concluding agreement made for the purpose in the light of the recent incidents occurred previously.


On August 18, 2015, BHS received an email from Mr. Shinichi Akigami; president of the Pacific War Memorial Association, Inc. in reply to my email informing them of our activities of the OPERATION GRAVEYARD OF FIREFLIES.

In accord with our communication with them, they intimated that they are planning to come over in September 2015 for the remains and will coordinate with the Japan Embassy in Manila and the Philippine Government for the protocol and bureaucratic necessities for the return of the Japanese soldiers remains found in Bamban to Japan.


Mr. Lingcuangco, acting as representative from the Aeta Tribes living in the vicinity of Fujiyama, arranged a meeting with the tribal members and elders for the approval of the recovery operation of BHS in OPERATION GRAVEYARD OF FIREFLIES on August 27, 2015.


After the meeting was concluded on August 27, 2015 with the Aeta Tribes as arranged by Mr. Lingcuangco, BHS Battlefield Investigation Team headed by Rhonie Dela Cruz mobilized the expedition to Fujiyama at 10:00 hours starting at Sacobia, Bamban, Tarlac.

Upon reaching the Aeta Community of Sitio Burog, the TEAM embarked on a more than two-hour journey by walking and hiking the rugged and sometimes tortuous trails for Fujiyama.

Accompanied by two (2) BHS Battlefield Investigation Team Aeta Scouts and four (4) local Aeta guides, the TEAM reached the site at 12: 38 hours on a small hill west of Fujiyama.


The vehicles used to travel the journey to the Aeta ancestral lands stopped at the sitio of Burog; some 22 kilometers from Bamban proper.

At that point, the loose ground and unpaved dirt road is no longer passable due to deep holes. The vehicles were left behind and the TEAM members started the hiking for Fujiyama.


Rhonie C. Dela Cruz
Romel Dela Cruz
Jagmit Singh
Eddie Carino
Alex Narciso
Luisito Caguiat
Jimbok Tanglao (Aeta Member)
Dennis Cosme (Aeta Member)


Joey Pamintuan
Junior Rudy Canduli
Boy Galang
Rey Pamintuan


A tunnel located on the slope of a hill 300 meters west of Fujiyama has been identified by the Aeta guides as the site where the two remains of Japanese soldiers found at the entrance of a tunnel alongside many artifacts and WWII relics of Japanese origins.

A GPS reading on the site indicated the following:
Latitude: 15.210995 deg North
Longitude: 120.463703 deg East
Attitude: 476 meters above sea level


BHS Battlefield Investigation Team immediately embarked on the recovery operation by carefully studying the area, the tunnel and its vicinity.

Artifacts, relics, and many unidentified iron pieces were found to be scattered at the entrance. Using metal detectors, the TEAM conducted survey of the entrance of the tunnel and the inside of the tunnel.

Soils were removed at the entrance to check possible items. The documentation of the operation was done by BHS for record in the course of 2.5 hours of the recovery operation.


Shovel parts.
Various small arms, rifle and machine gun ammunitions.
Parts of machine gun.
Electrical parts.
Part of Japanese infantry helmet
Various unidentified iron parts.
Bomb shrapnel.


Fragments of human remains were recovered at the entrance of the tunnel presumably that of a former Japanese military personnel due to the abundance of relics and artifacts of Japanese origins.


Based on our interview on our Aeta Guides, the event led to the discovery of the two remains of Japanese soldiers occurred one day in April 2015.

Aetas are skillful hunters in the vast mountain ranges of the Bamban and Zambales Mountain. One of their dogs went inside a hole and seemed to smell something. The dog belongs to Junior Canduli and accompanied by another Aeta hunter; Rudy Sevilla.

The two went inside the small opening of a presumably Japanese WWII tunnel on the hill. Immediately upon entrance of the tunnel opening, they saw two sets of human remains. They carefully retrieved the remaining bones scattered in the tunnel floor.

Two weeks after the discovery of the remains inside the tunnel, the two Aetas, now accompanied by other Aeta hunters decided to clear the entrance to search for items that seemed to be left in the former battlefield.

They were able to recover electrical engine, various ammunitions, parts of rifles and machine guns, personal items of soldiers like stamp, watch, canteen, helmets, eyeglass; parts of Japanese katana swords (three in all) and other bits and pieces of iron and parts scattered after scouring the top loose grounds.


More than two hours after the recovery operation as mentioned above, the TEAM carefully checked the relics and artifacts found. Further field investigation inside the tunnel revealed no more metal items registering on the metal detector used by the TEAM.

The entrance of the tunnel was carefully checked, removing the top soil, conducting metal detection for possible artifacts and relics. By 15:00 hours, the TEAM decided to halt the operation as afternoon thunderstorm is fast approaching.

After taking photographs of the activities made, the TEAM decided to embark and go home on another more than two hours of hiking and walking until reaching the Embarkation Point at Sitio Burog. From there, another 22 kilometers of mountain roads traversed until reaching the final destination of the TEAM which is the Bamban Museum located near the town proper.


Mr. Jagmit Singhm Rhonie Dela Cruz and Romel Dela Cruz of the Bamban Historical Society funded the expedition for the recovery and retrieval of the Japanese remains left in a tunnel near Fujiyama on August 27, 2015; at a cost of P 4,000.00 at Bamban Area.


Considering the poor dirt road, paths and trails leading to the site of the tunnel where the remains found, and the vegetation of high grass and bushes of the hill and the long walk and hike, it is recommended that the site where the parts of the three human remains were found be identified as Recovery Site.

After doing study and recovery operation, using metal detectors for possible metal contents of the area, the TEAM found no more metal parts inside and entrance of the tunnel. However, the side of the hill may contain more Japanese tunnels that are worthy of consideration for future Recovery Operation. But that works may be considered after the rainy season.

Should the BHS TEAM receive reports of findings of human remains of possible Japanese soldiers left in the battlefields of the Bamban Hills, the ORGANIZAITON will embark on checking the site again and conduct further study.

The three sets of parts of human remains found inside the tunnel, now in the possession of the Bamban Historical Society, will be kept temporarily at the Bamban Museum. In coordination with Mr. Akigami of the Pacific War Memorial Association which is planning to come over to Bamban to receive the remains found; OPERATION GRAVEYARD OF FIRELIES by the Bamban Historical Society will turn-over said remains.

Mr. Akigami’s NPO will arrange with the Philippine Government and its agencies as well as the Japan Embassy Office in Manila for the repatriation of the remains for the ultimate goal of sending said remains back to Japan.

2 thoughts on “Operation Grave of the Fireflies – Search and Retrieval of WWII Japanese Remains in Bamban – Fujiyama”

  1. I really like this story and has given me some ideas i’ll talk to you about later (regarding me contracting some Sitio Haduan Aetas).
    Heres a quote that well spells out the circumstances…
    “….the TEAM embarked on a more than two-hour journey by walking and hiking the rugged and sometimes tortuous trails for Fujiyama.”
    Torturous indeed – for everyone tasked with humping those hills. Even though those foothills arent that high, the weather and vegetation are taxing.

    I know of a few places where bones were and can tell you where theres likely to still be alot of bones to find. I believe the best chance of finding some would be where the naval forces were dug in – the far slope of the commander’s hill defending the approaches from the east. Thats where the ground was churned up by an artillery piece firing point blank at their holes, just across the valley.
    I tried to explore that steep slope and could see the evidence of many tunnels and trenches destroyed by explosion, so thought there would likely have been metal parts mixed into that ground. I was ready to spend time digging and sifting dirt, but the bad smell wasnt tolerable after a short time, so turned me away.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *