For this post, we depart from the usual fare and go for something a little exotic or intriguingly unusual. Let us take a trip to less charted waters by discussing something about “gold treasures”.
I am quite sure everybody has heard something about it: the persistent rumors of so-called “Yamashita’s gold” or “Yamashita treasure” in the Philippines.
The Yamashita part of the name is taken from General Tomoyuki Yamashita who was the commanding general of Japanese forces in the Philippines during World War II.
The “treasures” (consisting mainly of gold bars, with some jewelries, precious stones and various artifacts) are reported to have been looted from various parts of Southeast Asia which were occupied by the Japanese forces.
As the stories go, these treasures were transported to the Philippines where the Japanese hope to ship the loot further to Japan. The resurging dominance of US submarines in the sea lanes plus US superior air power upon return of the US forces under General McArthur in 1944, forced the Japanese to hurriedly bury the bulk of the loot in the Philippines.
That, in gist, is how the story goes.
The late dictator Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos is rumored to have discovered and dug several major sites in the Philippines. This is aside from reports of having grabbed a famed Golden Buddha find by treasure hunter Rogelio Roxas many years back.
Critics of Marcos, particularly the left, claim that the Marcos treasure find is a big myth and that, on the contrary, the fabulous sums he reportedly accumulated were a result of two decades of kleptocracy protected by Martial rule.
Some Philippine historians also dispute the account on the supposed transport of the Japanese loot to the Philippines, saying, “there is no credible evidence behind these claims.”
Imelda Marcos, the flamboyant former First Lady, on the other hand, says that the wealth that her husband possessed really came from “buried treasures”.
According to Imelda, even while still a bachelor, Marcos already had a very deep fascination for gold. Marcos reportedly found and dug with the help of some Japanese living witnesses, some fabulous Yamashita treasure sites and that’s where his riches came from.
Or something to that effect.
Is there truth to the persistent stories or rumors of Yamashita treasures in the Philippines? Did the Japanese really bring to the Philippines boatloads of treasures of gold bars supposedly looted from various Asian countries they conquered during World War II?
Did the Philippine archipelago serve as convenient burying ground for tons of gold bars by the retreating Japanese forces unable to bring much of their loot to Japan?
Hmm, this sounds really interesting!
But I am not out to prove anything here (nobody can prove anything about it in any case).
My purpose is just to give the readers a glimpse of the exotic, or whet the readers’ appetite for something intriguingly fascinating. And there’s hardly anything more fascinating than stories about “treasure.”
The thought of gold, let alone treasures of gold bars, is always fascinating and the pursuit of gold or treasures has been a preoccupation of humans since time immemorial.
Now, back to the issue: Is there really such a thing as Yamashita treasure or is this just pure figment of the imagination?
Even if we try to, nobody will be able to prove anything about treasures whether buried or sunken or stashed elsewhere. In every report of gold treasures, there will always be denial and the denial will always be the last say.
Of course, that should it be. Who would be foolish enough to claim that he has found gold treasure and is now in possession thereof?
Everybody will be after your neck if you claim so, and pretty soon, you will lose not only the gold but your life as well. That is the ironical thing about it.
A treasure hunter friend once told me that “treasure” should never be discussed within the hearing distance of anybody. Because anybody who hears about it gets reduced to the level of a “dog”.
A “dog,” according to the friend, while relaxed or at rest, has his ears folded and drooping. But as soon as a dog hears the bark of another dog or hears any stimulus that excites it, its ears suddenly stands up and it gets ready for action.
Treasures or the reports of them, cause otherwise decent men to get wild, get crazy, or worse, get just plain murderous. There must be something in treasures that draws out the darkest and basest instincts of men.
I remember one chilling instance when a military man, a sergeant, told me and some friends about an incident when he was trying to pound a concrete slab to pieces in the belief that in the concrete slab were imbedded a treasure of gold bars.
The sergeant was part of the contingent of military men and civilians who operated on the purported concrete slab, taking it ashore from the bottom of the sea in the belief that gold bars were imbedded in it.
The burly sergeant said, “If I then did see something that glittered in the concrete slab, I will then have no more superior officers and colleagues. I would have them all killed and take all the gold.”
Well, this is a true story I would prefer to expand and tell in all its inglorious details in a future post.
Back to the issue of whether treasures are true or not, again, I say, nobody can offer any indisputable proof at all for a myriad of reasons.
But it would not be difficult to figure out, if you think that, since time immemorial when wars are fought between tribes or groups of men, and later, between nations, the victors or the winners almost always engage in looting.
The victorious side almost always gather and bring with them whatever things of value (including humans to be sold as slaves).
Thus, comes the expression, “ To the victors belong the spoils”. And what better spoils are there than those lodged in the banks, treasuries and chests of vanquished nations?
Did the Japanese loot the treasuries of Indochina and the occupied countries during the second world war?
The answer sounds like a “no-brainer”.
But did the Japanese bring the loot to the Philippines?
You are free to draw your own inferences, but we hope to take up this and related issues further in future posts.