I have an article just published in the Journal of Folklore Research, “Excavating a hidden bell story from the Philippines: a revised narrative of cultural-linguistic loss and recuperation“. A word of caution to anyone considering submitting work to a prestige journal – after passing peer-review this took more than two years to be published!
As an outsider to the Philippines I have been intrigued by these stories for what they appear to reveal, not about the locus of lost wealth but about the postcolonial national psyche. A striking common theme is that of resources unjustly withheld from their deserving recipients, corresponding to periods of colonial occupation and political suppression. Just as the original confiscation of resources was overshadowed by violence, there is always a danger associated with their recovery. Here, a kind of malignant agency is ascribed to the treasure such that the undeserving claimants are always punished for their presumption. I argue that these stories are not just about lamenting a loss of resources but are also a way of accounting for a perceived cultural deficit in terms of intangible heritage. In other words, they serve as a cryptic response to what the pre- eminent Filipino nationalist José Rizal described as “the specter of comparisons” (el demonio de las comparaciones).
Update: Over at Rappler I have an op-ed covering the most tabloid-sensational aspect of this research: ‘Yamashita’s gold has been found and it’s not what you think‘.
And the MPI media release has been picked up in a few places:
- ‘WWII hidden treasure in Philippines echoes folk legends dating back over a century‘, International Business Times, 10 August 2016.
- ‘Er ligt geet oorlogsschat verborgen op de Filipijnen‘, Scientias, 11 August 2016.
- ‘Felix Thuringia: Wo ist das Gold der Thüringer?’ Osttthuringia Zeitung, 11 August 2016)
- ‘Honba za filipínskym vojnovým pokladom‘, eQuark.sk, 15 August 2016.