Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mystifying 'Buried Treasures'

Is there anything in the distant past that’s worth telling about that ‘treasure’ site in the Cawit-Bahi area that could lead to some understanding why things are now being unearthed beneath the surface?

The area in question, extensively planted to coconuts and fruit trees, lies between the main provincial highway and the seashore. Curiously it’s the only private property on the island marked by an unusual elliptical arch gate made of stone and corals that has deteriorated with age. Surely, important people must have passed through that gate once upon a time.

It was my mother who told me the story many years ago, that the said wide complex was once the site of a firm engaged in buying coconuts from all over this island-province to produce copra and coconut by-products. These by-products included coconut husks turned into mats and mattresses, coconut shells made into charcoal for use in the manufacture of other products such as batteries. It employed many farmers, both men and women, who were only too happy with the promise offered by the new coco-industry to improve lives.

Sample of coins they used then during the Commonwealth period

There were, as the story went, several buildings (something that must have been fogotten over the years!), within the compound that housed the different divisions of the company, popularly known as Nacoco. It stood for National Coconut Corporation. It was during the late 30’s when this was established to promote the growth and development of the industry. All of the Philippine Islands was under the commonwealth of the United States Government then. The time for dreaming a bright future was considered at its peak.

Bombing of Japanese ships by American squadrons at Balanacan Harbor, 1944. Photo from: ulongbeach.com

But the glory days of Nacoco was halted only after several years of operation. WWII broke out. The Japanese lnvaded the island in 1942, (landing in the shores of the adjacent barangay of Bunganay), and took over all major government and school-buildings including the Nacoco compound and company-owned establishments all over Marinduque. There were many violent clashes between the Japanese and the local guerilla units that lasted until the end of 1944 when peace reigned on the island.

The site is not too far away from Cawit Port

So it appears that our mystery site did have some kind of interesting historical episode, too. These days, however, when people gather almost every day to celebrate fiestas, they often end up talking about the latest ‘buried treasures’ – how workers excavate the site at night till the wee hours under very tight security; how gold and other artifacts have been found and continue to be found. Who could blame them? The supposed involvement of key personalities only added more credence to this modern-day story.

But really, such stories or tales are not uncommon in this magical, mystifying island. People will often believe what they want to believe, and in the quiet of the night wish that the next colored or golden dream will reveal more buried treasures for them to find this time.