The controversial story about the hidden treasures of Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita has been disturbing tens of thousands of Filipino treasure hunters for decades and so far, there is no solid evidence that can support the more than half-century-old story.
Millions of pesos have been spent and thousands of businesses went bankrupt yet people still believe that one day, their life could turn better if they find the famed treasure.
This writer used to join a group of a treasure hunters who operated in Silay City, Negros Occidental for more than two years, dug more than a dozen of deep holes, yet found nothing but rusted pipes and other old steel materials.
Dreamers may continue dreaming, and in case they are finding it difficult to find the Yamashita treasure, the following places are some of the most possible locations based on history, personal knowledge, and other factors.
1. Baguio City
In March 2017, the Baguio City council granted a group of treasure hunters represented by local resident Eliseo Cabusao, a permit to explore areas near the Baguio City Convention Center (BCCC).
Cabusao told the council that the project was conceived after he was informed by a 90-year-old United States immigrant about truckloads of gold he allegedly helped bury near the BCC lot. The operation was kept private and the result was never released to the media.
Most tales about the Yamashita treasure are set in Baguio, where the Japanese general set up his headquarters and where he formally surrendered, ending the Pacific leg of World War II in 1945.
2. Balanga, Bataan
In March 2015, news that the Cathedral of Saint Josep in Balanga, Bataan was sitting on a large cow-sized treasure, went viral online. The source of the news was the grandson of a Japanese Imperial Army General who was identified with his name Matsumoto.
According to Jovit Sumile, bodyguard and the personal driver of the Japanese national, Matsumoto, the gold bullion hidden under the cathedral is as big as a cow weighing exactly 10 tons. The main purpose of the Japanese frequently visiting the place was to get access to the Church leadership to retrieve the gold.
Balanga City Mayor Jose Enrique Garcia, however, denied the report and the news issue was later forgotten, but some people, especially the old ones, believed that Matsumoto’s claim was true.
Bohol is another controversial place when talking about Yamashita treasure in the Philippines. Although the province is not known as one of the places where the last Japanese Imperial Army surrendered, there is a tale that a group of Japanese soldiers buried many things in different areas of Bohol, especially beneath different falls that became today’s tourists’ attractions. Many treasure hunters tried searching for the elusive treasure in different parts of the island but mostly failed.
4. Silay City, Neg. Occ
Silay City is where this writer was born, and Brgy. Patag, the last Japanese army stronghold, is just 12 kilometers away from our ancestral house. My father, who died last 2014 at 87, told me many stories about the Japanese treasure, but no specific location was mentioned. He was 18 years old when the last Japanese forces surrendered to the American and Philippine Army in the mountains of Brgy. Patag and he witnessed the whole thing. He worked as a guerrilla assistant.
Brgy. Patag is among the few places in the Philippines that have a Japanese Shrine. Some Japanese nationals visit the place every year to pray for their fallen relatives.
Brgy. Patag is the last stronghold of the Japanese Army in the whole Negros Island. There are lots of tunnels in the area and some are not even accessible due to natural causes. The area is included in the Northern Negros Forest reserve so digging is prohibited. Bantay Gubat rangers are almost everywhere.
Silay City, being one of the oldest and most historical places in the Philippines, is rich in heritage, and might even be “the treasure”.
5. Caliraya, Lumban, Laguna
The top of the mountain overlooking the lake Caliraya is believed to hold the biggest haul of Yamashita treasure. This is also the place where the Japanese garden is located and was visited by Emperor Akihito in January 2016. If you are familiar with the story of the Golden Buddha, this is where it was reportedly found.
6. Camalig, Albay
The town of Camalig in Albay is also controversial after stories circulated that some Japanese generals stayed in old houses during World War II.
Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, who led the Japanese forces in the Philippines, was rumored to have stayed in one of the houses during their foray into Bicol. However, this was simply a story passed on from person to person, without any solid evidence to back it up. The owner of the house whose name was not revealed to the public reportedly became rich after finding some treasure in his basement in the late ’80s.
7. Caringo Island, Camarines Norte
Several stories claim that the first loot from other countries was brought to the Philippines through the Pacific, but almost half of the treasure was buried at Caringo Island as it is difficult to transport by land. Caringo Island was said to be the place where the first loot landed.
8. Carles, Iloilo
In January 2012, treasure hunters were on a rendezvous in the islands of Carles in northern Iloilo looking for what is believed to be part of the famed Yamashita treasure.
This was confirmed by S/Supt. Gil Lebin, director of the Iloilo Police Provincial Office (IPPO).
Lebin disclosed that there is indeed a group looking for the famed gold bars in Linadlaran, an island that is already in the vicinity of the Visayan Sea. However, they were gone when the Carles PNP checked the area.
Lebin added that the treasure hunters were digging early in the morning when the tide was low. Lebin said the area may be a sandbar as the island cannot be seen during high tide.
The islands have long been believed to be where the Japanese hid the famed Yamashita treasure.
The Pawikan Cave in Isla de Gigantes was said to be where 24 gold bars were hidden under a turtle-shaped rock. Over the decades, treasure hunters were said to have hiked to the cave and started digging in the hopes of finding the treasure.
Even the locals believe the treasure has already been taken, but many also doubt that some treasures have yet to be found.
Historical accounts have confirmed that Japanese naval fleets hid at the coves of Isla Gigantes in October 1944, near the end of World War II in the Pacific theater.
9. Cebu City
Cebu City has been the target of many treasure hunters in the last 3 decades, especially those historical buildings and properties.
In 2007, Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal ordered an investigation into the alleged treasure hunting activities at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. The Cathedral was undergoing a renovation when the news broke out.
A 100-meter deep excavation believed to have been done by treasure hunters was discovered in Barangay Apas, Cebu City, in April 2015. Cebu is one of the places where treasures were rumored to be buried during WWII.
10. Davao City
Stories about the Japanese Tunnel in Davao City said 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. It further said that the tunnel can go to great lengths as far as Philippine Eagle Center, to Samal Island, and to Mount Apo.
Meanwhile, the old Japanese Tunnel has been converted into a hotel-resort property and is one of the major tourist attractions in Davao City. Still, there are people who believed that some treasures are still buried somewhere along the tunnel.
11. Fort Bonifacio
In April 2012, President Aquino’s National Security Adviser sanctioned a digging beneath Fort Bonifacio in search of hidden treasure.
The diggings have stopped but unknown to the public, a small group of men continues to operate at People’s Television 4 station under the tutelage of Conrado Limcaoco Jr, for no higher purpose than to pursue leads about the Yamashita treasure with the assistance of Noel Soriano, the National Security Adviser of Cory Aquino. In the last failed coup, military rebels claimed to have carted away from PTV-4 documents pertaining to this gold search.
On the basis of these papers, the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabayan-Soldiers Of the Filipino People-Young Officers Union claimed that the Limcaoco group had recovered some gold and had gathered facts that lead them to believe the Yamashita treasure exists, but they appeared determined to hide this from the Filipino people.
In December 2014, Treasure hunters from all over the country flocked to Ilagan City after the city government announced the discovery of a tunnel dug by Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Nolasco Espiritu, a Nueva Vizcaya-based treasure hunter, said he believes that the discovery of the tunnel here is a good sign that buried gold bars are just waiting to be discovered in the area.
13. Norzagaray, Bulacan
In March 2000, Military intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Jose Calimlim denied on Wednesday allegations that he was trying to enshroud in secrecy the government’s treasure-hunting operations in Norzagaray, Bulacan.
In an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel, Calimlim said that the treasure hunting is no secret since a contract was entered by him and five other individuals.
Others reports said an engineer also dug a watershed area in Norzagaray and found an unspecified amount of gold bars.
14. Ternate, Cavite
On 1993, 12 SAF personnel came to Brgy. Sapang in Ternate, Cavite to dig for treasure. The area is the river along the track to Pico Deloro. After 3 weeks of digging, they reportedly moved to the area of the watershed and took another 3 weeks of digging. The result was not revealed publicly.
In 2011, an areal photograph of an alleged digging operation by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), searching for treasure circulated online. The photo, though lack in details, was said to be taken at someplace in Ternate, Cavite.
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