Baguio Con­nec­tions 41

Sun.Star Baguio - - Opinion -

THIS week, more of gold. In par­tic­u­lar, Baguio gold, of which I wrote a piece ti­tled just that, "Baguio Gold," some time ago. Apro­pos of golden dis­cus­sions ...

"There’s al­ways been some­thing about Baguio and gold. Like karmic part­ners, the two seem to syn­onymize each other through time. Like a col­or­ful joke-in-the-mak­ing, “Baguio gold” has been dif­fer­ent colors at dif­fer­ent times. Most ob­vi­ous, of course, is Baguio gold as yel­low, to de­note its lit­eral mean­ing. But Baguio gold has also been white, mean­ing its pure, sweet, nat­u­ral spring wa­ter, now scarce, and so its be­ing re­ferred to as gold. Baguio gold has also been green, and those who do not know why must stay color-blind.

"Any­way, gold as yel­low is an item in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to Baguio and its his­tory. For cen­turies be­fore Span­ish foot ever knew Philip­pine soil or Amer­i­can foot ever trod a trail up the Igorot hills, na­tive Ibaloi fam­i­lies mined for the gor­geous min­eral and panned for it in rivers which me­an­dered through what would later be called the prov­ince of Benguet. The Bala­toc mines – orig­i­nally mined by, among a few oth­ers, my great grand­fa­ther Ma­teo’s men -- take their name from one of the na­tive gods, Bal­i­tok, god of gold who, leg­end has it, buried a tree of gold whose very roots are in Itogon.

"It was Span­ish re­ports of the lu­cra­tive gold trade (an en­ter­prise the Span­ish colo­nial forces re­peat­edly tried to ap­pro­pri­ate for them­selves, with lit­tle suc­cess) be­tween na­tive min­ers and their low­land part­ners that led to an Amer­i­can ex­pe­di­tion de­cid­edly find­ing its way up the Naguil­ian trail (now Naguil­ian Road) in June, 1900, at the height of the Philip­pine-Amer­i­can War. It was the cer­tainty that there was “gold in ‘em moun­tains” which ac­counted for the “char­ter­ing” of a City of Baguio in 1908 (read: white man need proper town near min­ing camps) by Amer­i­can politi­cian-min­ers. That the area boasted of “white man’s weather” only made the place more golden. And the Benguet min­ing in­dus­try went on to boom, at one time mak­ing the Benguet Cor­po­ra­tion the mostest gold-pro­duc­ing en­deavor in the world, traded on the New York Stock Ex­change, even.

"As if that wasn’t enough, af­ter re­port­edly loot­ing all of Asia of all that glit­ters, mostly gold, it was to Baguio that the Ja­panese gen­eral To­moyuki Ya­mashita re­treated when Amer­i­can forces were af­ter him to­wards the end of World War Two. Re­treated with a lot of Asian loot, truck­loads of it. Sup­pos­edly, much of it was buried in Manila and en­vi­rons be­fore the re­treat, but a goodly amount still found its way up the moun­tains, and to Baguio.

"Folk­tales have it that Ya­mashita and his men, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, buried the gold as they re­treated. Ergo, much gold was buried all over Baguio be­fore the Ja­panese re­treated even far­ther, to Kian­gan, from where they fi­nally sur­ren­dered in Septem­ber, 1945. So there’s Kian­gan gold too? Aha. An­other story. For an­other day. "Back to Baguio gold.

"There is much ev­i­dence of Ya­mashita’s loot un­earthed, most no­tably that spec­tac­u­lar find, the golden bud­dha dug up by Roger Roxas in Jan­uary, 1971, pur­loined by goons one dark night, and then pur­port­edly driven down to Porro Point and there to be loaded onto a fine white yacht wait­ing for it.

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