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The International Writers Magazine: Treasure in Asia

Mysteries of the Philippines
• Fred C. Wilson III
A few years ago the Philippine National Police confiscated stolen antiquities smugglers tried to unload on the black market.

Yamashitsa's Gold

The contraband seized in Islamist-held sections of Mindanao consisted of 22 bags of broken pottery. To ordinary eyes the broken pieces appeared to be little more than a bunch of pot shards, shattered clay body parts, along with other ceramic discards but to the trained eyes of archeologists, the bags were priceless.

Eusebio Dizon of the Philippine National Museum’s Archeological Unit told the media that he seriously believes the shards are remnants of the lost art of a Philippine tribe that once lived over 2,000 years ago; an extinct tribe one of the amazing mysteries of the Philippines. One of the unusual features about the style of the pot shards was the anthropomorphic the human form nature of the pieces. Quoting Dizon, “Anthropomorphic pottery is seldom seen in this part of the world.” A find so rare, that Angel Bautista head of the National Museum’s Cultural Properties Division wants the government to declare the recent discovery a national treasure. As a ceramicist I can fully appreciate the delicacy of such a find. Other archeologists have also discovered late Stone Age weapons, pottery, and other ceramic items at the site.

If you’re an Indiana Jones enthusiast, crave a little high adventure, and considering visiting the area yourself let me warn you, you may just get the full ‘Jones treatment’ replete with shootouts with local ‘natives,’ being taken hostage, robbed, beaten up or worse. When I visited the region in question I went with a relative who when he wasn’t managing his luxury hotel, climbing mountains, teaching Sunday school he was shooting it out with area Islamists protecting his considerable financial interests and just raising hell. Terrorists knew him, feared him and had a healthy respect for his military prowess. Using the parlance of my old South Chicago neighborhood he was one BMF! The area in question is controlled by Muslim rebels, bandits, antiquity smugglers, poachers and a wide array of unwholesome individuals; if its high adventure you crave go for it!

Momma Mary is known by a number of exalted titles, Nuestra Senora de la Escalera is one of myriads of precious names honoring Mary. Though the Virgin Mary is known globally, many people have no idea how accessible she is in terms of prayers granted and miracles performed. The miracles of Nuestra Senora Virgen de la Escalera were much better known during olden times when popular religion filled with symbols, devotions, and outward expressions of filial piety and were greatly relied upon other than the primitive science of the day. So what’s the mystery here? How did this strong devotion travel from Spain, to Vera Cruz, Mexico, to finally end up in the Philippines?

During the 1600’s the Holy Virgin was said to have appeared under the title of the Immaculate Conception at a Franciscan convent in Granada, Spain. Mary was purported to have appeared on a stone staircase hence the name ‘en la escalera del convent’ or on the staircase of the convent. From that time onward Mary was honored by that title. Soon this Mexican devotion would become popular in the Philippines.

The devotion arrived in the Philippines in 1581 when members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) arrived in Balayan and ‘took up residence’ in the parish church of St. Francis Xavier commonly referred to as the Nasugbu Church. In olden times people didn’t cross oceans unless they were pirates, merchants, missionaries, or moneyed adventurers. The popular Marian devotion flourishes in the Philippines to this day.

One of the great mysteries of the Philippines and World War II was where on earth did Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita hide all the gold Japan stole from countries they pillaged. I did a lot of research on the secret of the general’s gold. I came up with the following. According to an article I read in the London Review of Books’ Gold Warriors: America’s Recovery of Yamashita’s Gold by Sterling and Peggy Seagrave, there were a number of secret places scattered throughout the Philippines where the loot was presumably buried. In addition to not knowing the exact locations what most treasure hunters, war records researchers, and amateur historians don’t know is the dark history behind the treasure. The General didn’t go it alone. He had plenty of help originating from the Japanese Imperial Household on down. According to the Seagraves the looting of Asia took place under the explicit instructions of Emperor Hirohito who most people naively believe was a powerless pawn during the war.

After General Mc Arthur made good his famous “I Shall Return” speech, almost immediately after Leyte American forces found enormous stockpiles of treasure stolen by Imperial forces. Countless ingots of gold and silver, sacks of precious stones, shelves of rare stamps, boxes of engraving plates, you name it our guys found it all stashed in secret vaults, caves, and other places throughout the Philippines; but the question remains: who was the brains behind Grand Theft Asia?

The looting of the continent could be partially attributed to a nefarious character and top kingpin of the Japanese underworld Yoshio Kodama who made the Rogues Wall of Shame in the 1930’s after Japan swiped Manchuria. Kodama’s fortunes rose as Japan gobbled up territory. In time he became the biggest dope dealer in Asia! Japan manufactured the stuff the hapless Chinese sniffed, snorted, shot and smoked it up. Not satisfied with drugs this bad boy ‘graduated’ to liquor, women, objects d’art and jewelry. He systematically cornered the Asian markets in immoral undertakings. Kodama also supervised the shipping of war grade metals to Japan. He was a big fish in a big sea with bigger fish swimming alongside.

Right up there with Kodama was another sinister fellow by the name of Chichibu rather Prince Chichibu Emperor Hirohito’s brother. Hirohito named him head of Kin no Yuri (Golden Lily) whose purpose was to follow the Imperial Army in its romp across Asia to insure that the military, Kodama and others on the inside wouldn’t snatch all the loot for themselves. Chichibu’s aim was to increase the personal wealth of the Emperor. The entire Japanese war effort may have been an enormous ploy to rally the country behind Japan’s militarists led by the Emperor under the pretense of dying for the glory of Japan to make a few filthy-rich geriatrics richer. All those mothers’ son’s sacrificed needlessly on an altar of gold to enrich greedy executives and further fatten Imperial coffers; sounds familiar?

Hirohito assigned his first cousin Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda to the staff of the Kwantang Army in Manchuria though he worked from his Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) office to supervise Philippine operations. His job too was to make sure light-fingered officials and high military officers wouldn’t expand their personal fortunes with the Emperor’s loot. A large number of treasure laden Japanese galleons were sunk by American submarines en route to Japan which sent billions of dollars in stolen plunder to the bottom of the ocean. Does this remind you two other empires Spain and England perhaps?

Why the history lesson; because massive amounts of plunder heisted by the ‘Tokyo Express’ was stored in the Philippines. Philippine-American chief intelligence officer for General Douglas Mac Arthur was Severino Garcia Diaz Santa Romana. During the war Santa Romana worked as a commando behind Japanese lines. He was an eyewitness to Yamashita’s people dynamiting shut a tunnel where large amounts of loot was stored. Like that other pirate Genghis Khan whose soldiers upon their leader’s death made doubly damn sure nobody know his burial chamber when they killed anyone even remotely knowledgeable about the grave site. Yamashita’s troops acted in similar fashion regarding the stolen gold. Military men buried the diggers, near-by soldiers, civilian witnesses anybody who even remotely had a clue were the treasure was, were murdered and buried on the spot again proving true that age old sage: ‘dead men (and women) tell no tales.’

After Japan surrendered Kodama’s name was right up there with the likes of Tojo and other war criminals but unlike them he was the consummate survivor. With more lives than a cat Kodama escaped the hangman’s noose, did a little jail time, was released then ‘donated’ huge slices from his enormous fortune to Japan’s conservative political factions who in essence still rule the Japanese nation to this day; Kodama died of a stroke in 2008 in a Tokyo hospital.

After the war Santa Romana and accomplice Captain Edward Lansdale of the OSS an earlier version of the CIA arrested General Yamashita’s chauffeur. After beating the man to a bloody pulp he talked. Soon after the location was revealed special operatives from the US Army Corp of Engineers uncovered, according to the Seagraves, about a dozen or more Golden Lily sites with rows of ingots of precious metals stacked twelve or more feet high amounting to worth well over several billion dollars!

Washington politicians had a feeding frenzy! It was so much money that it was never put on the precious metals and gem markets for the very real fear of crashing the global commodities markets! Officials at the highest ranks of government, including then President Harry Truman allegedly used the money to sponsor CIA and other government intelligence agencies slush funds. Money secreted from Golden Lily sites is still influencing international policies today I am sure.

Where was Japanese Emperor Hirohito during all this? Where else, playing the innocent thanks Washington’s post war agreement that no harm should come to Hirohito the prime condition for Japan’s surrender. After all what would the American people do if they knew that the money stolen by Japan, later ‘liberated’ by the US was being used to crush foreign governments who opposed American overseas ‘interests?’ Yamashita played his goat role well. After a hastily patched-together court marital a war crimes tribunal the general went out in true samurai fashion; he was hung on February 23, 1946. After all somebody had to take the hit.

After the final Victory Parades, medal pinning ceremonies, promotions were over, the comfort women of the Philippines and other Asian countries got nothing in return for years of involuntary servitude as sex slaves. The starved, beaten, battered Allied POW’s didn’t get a single cent for their pain and suffering; nor did Nanking’s Chinese, none of the war’s other victims received just compensation for the brutal treatment they received from the Japanese though Japan managed to sneak a sizable chunk of Golden Lily fortunes back to Tokyo after the war used in the rebuilding and rearming of Japan. During that time a similar scenario was happening in Europe, but that’s another article. Since the war Japan has since rearmed and again is a military power house a force to be reckoned with.

To this day the Japanese claim that the world was ‘picking on them,’ they never admitted guilt for their role in starting World War II in Asia. For the Americans, the good guys, aforementioned Yamashita’s gold financed slush funds to influence pro-America policies in Japan, Africa, Central and South America, plus other global sites where America bought its friends and snuffed its enemies. The dirt-poor Filipino people didn’t receive a single centavo; it was on Philippine soil that the gold was stored and some of the most horrendous episodes of the war were fought.

Also according to the Seagrove’s book in an article reviewed by Chalmers Johnson, former consultant to the Office of National Estimates of the CIA from 1967-1972 my primary research sources, there’s still hidden stashes of Golden Lily fortunes beneath Philippine soil and plenty of it! All you gotta’ do is FIND it, REMOVE it, TRANSPORT it, and hope to high Heaven you live long enough to SPEND it! It’s rumored that a farmer accidentally stumbled upon a solid gold Buddha. The farmer who found the statue was arrested, tortured and forced to hand it over to Dictator Marcos; but the man won in court. As Marcos was on US soil at the time, the farmer took his case to the Hawaii Supreme Court. Marcos was ordered to pay the man $1.4 billion!

How factual is: Gold Warriors by Sterling and Peggy Seagrave? According to Chalmers Johnson ‘The Seagraves’ narrative is comprehensive, but…not fully reliable as historians…’ but then some other sources aren’t either. The authors still fear for their lives since there’s much more gold and other ill-gotten loot still remaining to be unearthed.

If you travel to the Philippines and should ever locate a Golden Lily site I again warn you; your chances of making it out alive will be marginal at best even with the best of maps like the one featured on one of the sites listed below. Should you escape with self and gold intact, you’ll be richer than your wildest dreams! Don’t forget to donate a portion of you new found wealth to your favorite charity. Here are some important sites you may consider before traveling to the Archipelago in search of fortune and glory:

. General

I’ve traveled to the Philippines 12 times; my wife is there now on holiday/business. It’s a great place but like anywhere you got to know the ‘ropes’ and use common sense; enjoy but exercise extreme caution!

© Fred C Wilson May 2015

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