Discussions on Second World War epic heroism, courage and valor have one familiar and natural segue: tall tales, legends and myths of the fabled Yamashita treasures. Persistent rumors, unfounded stories, and old maps arouse the curiosities that automatically launch a massive hunt.
Some quarters claimed that these treasures were looted from different Southeast Asian nations to help fund the World War II campaigns of the Japanese Empire.
One of the most celebrated Yamashita treasures was the golden Buddha statue that Rogelio Roxas found in Baguio City. According to stories, President Ferdinand E. Marcos was tipped off and seized the prized finds from Roxas. The latter filed a case, won and secured a multi-billion dollar compensation and his story was once featured in a full-length movie starring Jestoni Alarcon and Gretchen Barretto.
When we visited the Japanese Tunnel in Davao City, the in-house guide told us that in 1960, an engineer accidentally unearthed countless gold bars and a golden Buddha statue full of diamonds and other gemstones. He did so while supervising the construction of the national highway. She further said that the tunnel can go to great lengths as far as Philippine Eagle Center, to Samal Island, and to Mount Apo.
Roxas may have lost his treasures but others were just as unfortunate. Some have lost their lives, properties and livelihood in the course of their explorations. All in the vain attempt to get rich rather quickly.
All I know however is that the hills and mountains in the Philippines are teeming with treasures in the form of massive mineral deposits, lush forests and vegetation, and endemic wildlife, which essentially more worthy than the mythical treasures of Yamashita.
Meanwhile, the old Japanese Tunnel has been converted into a hotel-resort property and is one of the major tourist attractions in Davao City.