Illegal treasure-hunters continue to damage important archaeological sites across the Philippines in the hopes of striking rich. But the famous World War II treasure left behind by Japanese soldiers probably never existed (Max Planck Gesellschaft: 'Treasure myths thrive in periods of crisis'):
Instead the popular tale continues a much older folklore tradition, according to Piers Kelly from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany in a new study published in The Journal of Folklore Research.[...] Kelly claimed that the popular tale is simply a continuation of a long local tradition of folklore, which has its origins long before the war. “Since at least the nineteenth century Filipino story-tellers have shared tales of hidden valuables such as gold, church bells, silver coins and fine tableware”, Kelly explains. “By tracing variations of this story, we were able to show that their popularity coincides with periods of war and crisis. The promise of future wealth may have served to boost local morale.”[...] In the present era of globalisation, lost treasure stories in the Philippines are also exchanged as a way of challenging a cultural ‘inferiority complex’ and of restoring a sense of national pride. The imagined gold plays the role of a future ‘golden age’ in which the Philippines overcomes its colonial past and is restored to greatness.There seem to be clear links with the tales of a Nazi Gold Train in the Silesian mountains in Poland.
Here is the article online: 'Excavating a hidden bell story from the Philippines: a revised narrative of cultural-linguistic loss and recuperation'. 2016, Journal of Folklore Research 53 (2):86-113