Yamashita’s gold as a modern take on an old tale

A new paper in the Journal of Folklore Research argues that the legend of Yamashita’s gold, a source of many a treasure-hunting expedition in the Philippines – is a modern iteration of a post-colonial longing for hope and prosperity.

Excavating a Hidden Bell Story from the Philippines: A Revised Narrative of Cultural-Linguistic Loss and Recuperation
Journal of Folklore Research
Vol. 53, No. 2 (May/August 2016), pp. 86-113

Yamashita’s gold has been found and it’s not what you think
Rappler, 07 August 2016

The hunt for war treasure in the Philippines has hidden meanings
Science Daily, 10 August 2016

Stories of hidden valuable artifacts are told in many parts of the Philippines. One such tale is of a church bell, concealed to prevent theft but now beyond reach (Motif V115.1.3, Sunken church bell cannot be raised). Typically, these stories are transmitted orally. However the small Eskaya community of southeast Bohol maintains a written version of a lost-bell tale included in a larger intergenerational archive of hand-copied literature. Since the early 1980s, the Eskaya have been an object of media interest for having consciously created their own “indigenous” language, writing system, and literary tradition. This paper examines the meanings of the Eskaya variant of the lostbell story in the context of community aspirations for recognition as an indigenous minority. In the Eskaya version, pre-Hispanic native faith is valorized over the corrupted Christianity introduced by Spain. The deliberately concealed church bell and its promised future retrieval recapitulates wider postcolonial narratives of cultural-linguistic suppression and revitalization, underscoring the agency of Eskaya people in their retrieval (or reinvention) of a pre-colonial indigenous identity.

Paper here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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