BOOK REVIEW: The Buddha, The Gold & The Myth—How Marcos Looted the Central Bank
by Rose Churma
In the Rappler report “From fringe to mainstream; tracing the myth of the Marcos gold mine,” reporter Pauline Macaraeg notes that the myth on the Tallano Gold associated with the Marcos family existed on Facebook as early as 2011.
Apparently the Marcoses and their supporters have spread the myths to justify the wealth of the family. They say it was earned by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos from being a fantastic lawyer for a wealthy family called the Tallanos before he became president and that the national hero Jose Rizal bequeathed his hard-earned gold to the late dictator.
Then there was the Yamashita gold hoax – that the late dictator’s fortune came from the purported treasure left by Japanese General Yamashita after World War II. Was it really a hoax, or was there some basis to that story?
During our regular group chat via Messenger with my extended family (most of whom live in the Philippines), I mentioned that I was going to review this book on the golden buddha reportedly found by Baguio locksmith Roger Roxas.
My youngest brother texted back: “Did you know that Roger Roxas and family rented an apartment from our parents?” This was in the late 1970s and I had already left for Hawaii.
A sister-in-law added that Roger Roxas’ wife was an aunt of one of my brothers’ best friends – probably how he got to rent the apartment which was within the family compound.My brother relayed how Roxas would confide with my dad about this golden buddha that he found. One day, Roxas mentioned he was being invited to Malacanang. He never came back – leaving all his things at the apartment.
On another group chat with former school mates from Baguio, someone mentioned that Judge Pio Marcos, then the presiding judge in Baguio, was another Roxas confidant who advised him to keep the treasures he unearthed at his residence, until fully armed men supposedly from the Baguio police force raided his place to confiscate his treasures.
The search warrant was signed by the same judge.In Charles C. McDougald’s book, he links the Golden Buddha to the Marcos family and how it was stolen from Roger Roxas. Roxas protested the theft but was tortured and thrown into prison instead. He stayed in hiding during most of the years Marcos was in power.
When the Marcoses were exiled in Hawaii, Roxas, with his boyhood buddy Felix Dacanay, formed the Golden Budha Corporation (spelled “Budha” on purpose, as a backhanded reference to the search warrant issued to search Roxas’ residence to confiscate his treasures, which included a golden Buddha) and filed on February 1988 by his lawyer Dan Cathcart, and came to trial in July 1996.
The trial lasted a month, and after a day’s deliberation the jury sided with the Golden Budha Corporation and awarded it $22 Billion in damages for personal injuries, for being falsely imprisoned and tortured and theft of the treasure (Circuit Court, First Circuit, State of Hawaii, Civil Case Number 88-0522, Roger Roxas and the Golden Budha Corporation vs. Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos).
At the end of World War II, rumors circulated that General Yamashita, commander of the Japanese forces, had buried a treasure in the Philippines, supposedly in the mountains surrounding Baguio.
Growing up in Baguio, I’ve encountered these tales of how one family became rich due to a treasure hunting. In one of our building projects in Baguio, we had to use piles to support the structure’s foundation when we discovered a maze of tunnels underneath.
The project site was close to the Baguio Post Office; so perhaps there was truth to that rumor about the treasures the Japanese buried during the WWII.
Roger Roxas started treasure hunting in 1962 during his spare time. He recalls that a Japanese named Albert Fushugami gave him a sketch showing a treasure location.
Fushugami claims that he was part of a group of engineers that buried some treasures during Yamashita’s retreat. The book includes a detailed description of how the excavation was conducted as told by Roxas.
Aside from the Golden Buddha, the book reveals further details of Marcos’ greed and his quest for wealth and exposed the shadowy world of the Central Bank.
The book starts with the exile in Hawaii and proceeds to look back on how the Philippines and its financial institutions were plundered.
“Fast-paced and scintillating, the book reads like an adventure novel” is how the author describes his book.Charles C. McDougald lived for 10 years during Martial Law in the Philippines, where he obtained a masters degree from the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and a doctoral degree from the University of the Philippines (UP).
A former captain of the Green Berets in Vietnam, he credits that experience in helping him tremendously in his research for his various books which exposed the corruption and excesses of the Marcos regime.
One of his professors at the UP (Emmanuel V. Soriano) asked McDougald to find the truth about the legendary Yamashita treasure, which led to his writing of this, and other books.
The section “Notes” at the end of the book contains a wealth of data detailing his sources of information – crucial for those wanting to understand the extent of the thievery, and having all the documentation to prove it, that was perpetrated during the Marcos years.
This book was published 25 years ago, but its contents is as relevant as ever.
In the book’s back cover, the author writes: “A nation that does not know its past, does not know itself.”
At that time when the author wrote it, he wouldn’t have known that the dictator’s family would attempt to revise the nation’s history, or at least use social media to prove that their wealth came from legitimate sources, and not from outright plunder.
ROSE CHURMA established a career in architecture 40 years ago, specializing in judicial facilities planning. As a retired architect, she now has the time to do the things she always wanted to do: read books and write about them, as well as encourage others to write.