Interview With Samuel Ranan

Samuel Ranan discusses his early life, his childhood experiences during the Japanese occupation, his marriage, perceptions of Marcos’ presidency, as well as his career as a licensed treasure hunter in the Philippines, where he was deceived repeatedly by those around him

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Born in 1934 in Misamis Oriental, Ranan recalls growing up in an affluent household, as his grandfather owned a large coconut plantation, and his family ran a business selling copra to Chinese traders to be processed into coconut oil. In 1941, his family had to flee into the mountains, to another of his grandfather’s properties, to evade the Japanese military. Eventually, the Japanese occupied the area, and Ranan heard stories of Japanese brutality towards civilians from his, but never directly experienced it. His father even befriended Japanese soldiers. Two years later, the American military recaptured his area.

    Ranan began his elementary education after wartime delays, in 1946. He studied up to his first year of high school, but quit after becoming distracted from his education by relationships and alcohol. He then helped his parents in their copra business. In 1953, his father got him married to a girl of his choice from their village, as he disapproved of his son’s initial choice of partner, who was not from the same Christian denomination. Ranan’s marriage was difficult, as he had two children with his wife and two others from extramarital affairs, and prioritized his own alcoholic habit over feeding his family.

    In the 1960s, they moved to Valencia Bukidnon, and by 1966, Ranan became a licensed “treasure hunter” in the Brotherhood Association under the Marcos administration. He was authorized to dig for gold across the Philippines, and recounts some of his finds, which he was cheated of. One of his most valuable discoveries was a golden Japanese medallion that also provided directions to other buried Japanese treasures. However, his foreman pocketed the item under the pretext of selling it for Ranan. Another such occasion was when he dreamt of a spirit showing him where gold was buried under a tree in his village; however, his niece’s American boyfriend, whom he engaged as an expert to ascertain the purity of the unearthed gold, absconded. On a third occasion, he was deceived by the engineer he was working with into believing that the spot they were digging held no gold, despite the detector device indicating otherwise; only to find later that that spot had been dug further after he left. Despite his various exploits as a treasure hunter, he was ultimately not able to claim much of his bounty due to corruption at various upper levels of the Philippine government, with claims remaining unsettled to this day.

    His career as a licensed treasure hunter also shaped his views of the Marcos administration, which he holds in high regard. He believes that Marcos enforced Martial Law “to bring money back to the Filipinos”. Ranan also had personal contact with President Marcos, who helped him secure land to do agriculture. He was thus opposed to the New People’s Army, which had a growing presence in his area from the 1980s, but did not expose any NPA agents to the military. He further explains that his Christian faith prohibited killing, but also notes that there were Christians among the NPA’s membership. In closing, he reflects that his life was at its best while his wife was still alive, and that his greatest regret was discontinuing his education, but still remains grateful for his life.

Interviewee: Samuel C. Ranan                            Interpreter: Marjorie Tsuchiya 

Born: October 21, 1935

Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya                              Transcriber: Dominique J. Lucagbo

Date: March 4, 2020

Location: Malaybalay, Bukidnon

Language: Bisaya


I am Samuel C. Ranan, I am 84 years old and was born on October 21, 1935 in Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental. My religion is Seventh Day Adventist. My mother’s name is Alberta Ranan, she was originally from Sagay, Camiguin, and my father was born in Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental. I had 4 siblings, I was the third one and we were all living in my grandfather’s house in Kinoguitan. My grandfather, being one of the earliest [Visayan] settlers to be there, owned hectares of land with coconut plantations. We sell it as copra which is actually the dried meat or kernel of the coconut. This became a family business. Our neighbours, who were mostly Chinese, would buy sacks of copra from us to extract and sell coconut oil. The Chinese are famous for their coconut oil business until now. I also had neighbors who were half Spanish but all of them speak of the same dialect, which is Bisaya.

In 1941, I was just 6 years old when the Japanese war started. We were forced to evacuate high up in the mountains, which is still a part of my grandfather’s property. From there we could see the Japanese ships and boats in a variety of sizes that would dock on the seashore. There were hundreds of boats along the seashore of Gingoog City to Cagayan de Oro City, all from the Japanese. They would just walk on foot along the seashore where civilians are sometimes caught if they had an encounter with the Japanese. Time came that the Japanese reached our town. Filipino and American soldiers tried to retaliate, but were outnumbered. We then saw a good-looking, tall man. He was an American. It was believed that he was Douglas McArthur, who allegedly ordered our soldiers to surrender and leave our place saying ‘’I shall return’’. And so, Japanese took over and governed our place. There were stories of how they treated people, such as prisoners being tied by their neck and dragged around by a motorboat, but I was not really able to witness it. They were stories from my father. My father was even able to befriend some of the Japanese and would even joke around with them. 

About 2 years into their governance, it was 2 pm on a Saturday. We all heard a roar from the sky, there were planes, not just ordinary planes but twin-bodied aircrafts. They were dropping bombs on the seashore where the Japanese boats were located. It was a chaos. All the coconut trees were destroyed. The Japanese were also able to fight back. But in the end, the Japanese were forced to leave our land.

By 1946, after the war had ended, I went back to school as a 1st grader and later on graduated elementary. I continued my first year of high school but stopped. I was a stubborn son and had many relationships with girls around our place. I became a drunkard and would have fist fights with anyone who tried to mess with my group of friends and so education became less of my priority. So, I just helped my parents sell copra.

By 1953, I was 18 years old and got married to a 16-year-old girl from our barangay whom my father introduced to me. She was not really the girl I planned to marry. I was just forced to agree because my father wouldn’t allow me to marry the girl I originally wanted to marry, because she was not a Seventh Day Adventist. Our marriage was still a tough one. We had 2 children but I also had 2 other children from two different women. We fought a lot because instead of buying food, I spent our money buying liquor and got home drunk. She was a fragile one and would cry a lot during our fights especially if I shouted at her, but we also try to resolve it. 

By 1961, we moved to Bagong Taas, Valencia Bukidnon. By 1966, I became a member of Brotherhood Association and was given a license by President Ferdinand Marcos to treasure hunt nationwide. Once, I was able to dig a gold medallion with Japanese characters on it. We asked someone who knew how to read it, and it said ‘’1000 miles from Gingoog City to Cagayan de Oro City’’. We then believed that the Japanese colonizers planted gold and diamonds along the seashore high up to the mountains. I kept the medallion with me, but then our foreman asked me if he could sell it to Cagayan de Oro City for me and would go back with the money but weeks had passed and I realized that I was tricked and that foreman already ran away with the gold. I originally wanted to keep the medallion because it was not just an ordinary medallion but also a compass. It actually points out where the gold and diamonds are. It left me devastated, but life continues. 

I don’t know if people believe me, but I have experiences with supernatural beings. I have seen them four times. Three of them were girls and one of them was a boy. The girl made me dream of a bamboo tree 50 meters away from our house. I woke up and immediately went there and saw the tree. It was just a small bamboo tree, the girl had kept on pointing there so I started digging and not long after, the soil turned into cement. I immediately called my friends to dig more and we were able to extract 11 sacks from it. All sacks were already worn out and delicate except one, and all was full of red sand. We called an expert,  my niece’s American boyfriend. He detected just 2% gold from the sacks. The 11th sack which was still okay was left untouched, all then were kept in my house. We believed that there was gold in the 11th sack, but we woke up only to find out that it was stolen by the American who helped us. It was the second time I was tricked by someone I knew.

I was tricked a third time again. We were treasure hunting in Barangay Kawayan with an engineer I knew. He was the one holding the locator device and my job was to dig if ever we can detected something. At first, the locator device beeped 30 feet. It means that the treasure is 30 feet below the ground but the engineer told me it’s too deep and we can’t dig by hand that far. The locator device beeped 7 feet and so we started to dig. When it’s finally 7 feet, the locator beeped 2 feet and we dug again but the device beeped once more to 14 feet and we dug some more. As we dug, the soil’s color was changing from violet to yellow to green. We were just silent as we dug, but in our minds, we knew that this must be it. Suddenly he stopped and said that he thinks that there’s nothing more below. Innocent as I am, I agreed to go home but was disappointed that when I went back the spot where we were digging and it was obvious that someone had dug there once more.

By 1981, NPA started to reside in our place. They would kill if they have to. Locals also joined them and I was also invited but I denied their offer because my religion wouldn’t permit killings. Some of them were actually Christians but it wasn’t in me to kill people. Their goal was to ruin and take over the government. The ARMY would sometimes ask me ifs there were any NPAs around. But I would just shrug my shoulders because I didn’t want to be involved. And by 2004 we moved to Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

My perception of President Ferdinand Marcos’ intentions behind Martial Law, is that it was to bring back the money to his people. I don’t believe the accusations of some Filipinos because I was able to experience his goodness myself. One of these was when I asked President Marcos for a land to make a living. He gave me a land title in Manticao with no questions asked. I planted root vegetables there such as sweet potato and also mangoes and bananas. President Marcos also gave us license to treasure hunt which allowed us to claim our money but because of corruption amongst the rest of the people who were seated higher up, we were not able to access it until now. 

I went to Manila to claim my money and they advised me to go back and acquire the necessary documents of our Association. So, I went back to our secretary and discovered that there were people falsely claiming the money. I am the only one with the complete documents, out of 45 members of the association, who was able to rightfully claim the money. It became my responsibility to set the record straight. I went back and forth to Manila and Valencia and even went to President Joseph Estrada to ask for help but was still disappointed. A telecom company offered me help and through the internet I was able to find the President of our association, Bernardo Z. Pamisa, the locator Jason Pamisa. The association’s account had billions in money and I had went to 21 banks already, passed from one bank to another and they could verify that the accounts were real and I could claim it in Valencia, but I already went there and unfortunately all they said was the account number was incorrect.

Looking back, my happiest moment in my life was when my wife was still alive. She died last May 2019 because of a stroke. She was hospitalized for a week but died shortly after. I received two thousand pesos from the electricity company she worked for long ago. It was just a small amount but it was better than nothing. My deepest regret was me not being able to finish my education. My father really wanted me to be a lawyer but I really wanted to be a mechanic. But in the end, I can say that I am still blessed to have lived my life.

Interviewer: Kisho Tsuchiya

Interviewee: Samuel Ranan

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Transcript Notes

  1. Barangay is the smallest administrative unit of local governance in the Philippines. It is also the native Spanish/Tagalog term for village.

  1. How does Ranan’s testimony challenge traditional views of the Marcos administration and its role in the Philippines’ Cold War?

  2. Consider how Ranan’s views were shaped by his social and economic background. What does that suggest about the nature of the Philippines’ Cold War?