November 1, 2010

All over the Philippines , there is a hunt in areas where Japanese soldiers were last seen. Treasures, they are. But not your regular treasures of Buddha, gold bars and coins. These treasures do not shine and glitter. They are bones— bones of dead Japanese soldiers.

At the helm for Northern Luzon searches is Santos Bayucca, an Ifugao bone hunter. Santos belongs to a non-profit Japanese organization whose goal is simple: send these Japanese soldier bones, their esteemed heroes, back to their homeland.

Rain or shine, through rivers and mountains, Howie Severino follows Santos and the bone treasures he and his hunters dig up. These bones are silent testament to war stories of yesteryears.

But in remote Brgy. Wangwang in Tinoc, Ifugao, silence is broken when reports of stolen bones come out. The community is disturbed. Who dares desecrate their dead?

Mariano Cutiyog, a Kalanguya who lost two sets of bones of his relatives, could not point blame at anybody. He’s safe-kept the bones of his dead family in a number of burial caves for years now, and with this loss, he worries on the security of supposedly remote parts of the Ifugao mountains. The old man stares silently at what was left of one of his burial caves: a piece of his aunt’s skull.

Is it possible that Filipino bones were labeled as Japanese soldier bones?

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