By Bruce Curran
The rain played a heavy tune on the old tin roof, and all ears were blocked with the crescendo of another night of downpours. The dark clouds came and went like casual visitors dropping in for a chat, but always in a hurry to reach somewhere else.
The fisherman at sea sat pensive, drenched and almost cold, pulling on his line with the jagged hook baited with a strip of old meat. The moon meandered slowly across the sky and he wished for dawn and the feel of the gritty sand between his toes on the beach near his humble home. At least the wind had abated and the sea was calm and oil-like under the cream and silver moon.
Sat by the glass window, she could see several bright stars playing hide and seek with the flitting clouds, as the raindrops tuned the pain with a soothing sound of snugness. Thoughts turned to her man fishing at sea, alone in the watery vastness of solitude. Somehow they were joined together across this vastness by the noise from the small waves that curled and gurgled along their stretch of the beach, next to their little house on the edge of the forest.
Life for them was hard but simple. Ambitions were few and far, and all was provided from the land and the water around them.
Meanwhile the lights from the big boat anchored off the beach further up the coast slung a yellow beam over the open sea. The five men aboard were still loading even after midnight. They were clearly ambitious and secretive souls on a quest for something beyond simplicity and fatalism.
It was a mystery as to what exactly the ship was up to during its nine days off the beach. The villagers nearby had revived the stories of treasure and gold that were always associated with all things Japanese. After all it was here in the mountain on Lubang Island that a Japanese soldier stood guard and lived in isolation for four decades after the end of WWII. Reputed to have killed at least 17 locals since the end of the war he was persuaded to surrender only after being assured that he could present his sword to the Emperor of Japan on his return to the homeland.
It was soon after his surrender that the Japanese crewed boat appeared off the coast, after some land had been supposedly purchased and cordoned off. The footings for a proposed 'resort' were laid, some excavation work commenced and some diggings took place. During the nine days of the anchored ship several barrels were transferred to the boat, and then after the ship had sailed, no more work took place and the site was abandoned. Several demented souls have stood guard in other places in the Philippines after the end of WWII. The villagers nearby automatically suspected buried treasure while stories of gold abounded.
The mystical proportion of treasures buried by the Japanese is a part of the psyche of life in all areas previously occupied by these past invaders of these tropical islands. Like the arc of the covenant, the source of these treasures are untold and unknown. Today there is gold at every turn. The mystery, the myth, and the plot thickens as time moves on.
The local diver at Polillo Island off the east coast of Luzon waited till the Japanese team had gone before plunging down above their search sight. There he found cast concrete blocks wedged into a cave, clearly dropped through a hole from above. Other locals helped him, and they managed to recover one block from the sight. When split open it revealed sealed valuables; however, they have been unable to recover other blocks with their own resources. Time moves on relentlessly, and the tides still come and go without concern.
Off Negros Island another ship with a sealed strong room has been located, off Mindoro there is a gold ship, off Masbate too. The Kuda Maru lying in another area has had at least 50 gold bars already recovered from an estimated catchment believed to number 1200.
The tales go on and on, on land as well as in the sea. New activity in the hills behind Olongapo has been associated with a Japanese gold stash. Squatters used to be encouraged onto a piece of land, which has subsequently been zoned off for a supposed residential area. The squatters were paid off and sent away. However at night a cargo truck has been seen taking barrels off site. Suspicions have been aroused and gold stories have been revived.
The soothsayers are out in force and the treasure hunters are close at hand like attendant wolves anxious to cull the gold and treasures.
Some might be true but most must be mythology. The imagination loves to fuel the fire of intrigue, and the mind is triggered by hope of greed and gain.
Meanwhile, off Lubang Island in the Calavite passage, dawn had come at last and the fisherman paddled his banca back towards the shore, just like he did every day. But today he changed his mind and diverted to the anchor spot of the large ship that had left at 4 AM. He had seen a large splash before they left, and had decided to investigate. The water was shallow enough for a free dive so he prepared himself by breathing deeply to lace his body with oxygen.
He slipped silently over the side of his small banca, and held on to the bamboo outrigger before taking a final deep breath. The water was murky and the current was strong. He reached the bottom and swam around looking for any sign of manmade objects. A glint among some coral caught his attention but he had to kick for the surface to fetch more air. Another deep breath and he set out downwards again. There buried between some sea urchins beside some blue coral waving in the current was a small metal bar about as long as a finger, with five more nearby. He gathered all of them in the palm of his hand and set out towards the waving reflection of the sun's ball as it bounced through the sea's surface. As far as he could tell this was gold.
His woman saw him coming, and was shocked at the speed with which he approached the beach. The boat glided faster than usual onto the shingles and before it stopped, her man leapt out and fell down in the soft warm sand. She picked herself up from her chores and ran down to help him. When she reached his side he lay laughing with his hand thrust out to the heavens. His fist was tightly clenched and she was alarmed by this new behavior. "ginto…ginto…ginto!" (gold) he repeated, while frothing excitedly at the mouth.
She fell on her knees and prized open his fingers, there glinting in his hand were five pieces of coral and a short copper pipe…