Japanese Tunnel and the heritage of Mintal, Davao

The alarm didn’t go off as expected.  I have to be up by 6:30am to get ready for the 7:30am call time, as set (and firmly he did) by our team leader.  In case, you are wondering who, it is the travel teller that’s gonna lead our pack today.  Like drugged sacrificial lambs, all participants for the Davao Bloggers’ Tour individually arrived at the already packed Matina Branch of McDonalds.  People, grouped in shirts of the same colors (sky blue was the most dominant), was loudly preparing for cheers I could not remember being instructed.  Turned out they were ADDU college students, and my group, instructed to wear a red shirt for the activity, seamlessly fitted in while the others (we are four different groups) were looking like high school misfits with their mix and match shirts.  Oooh they would have rolled their eyes had I brought my sticks for our mini flags (chattee got her boards ready for it). Too bad, it would have been an overkill– and I meant that as a compliment.  Anything fun and outrageous is forgivable this day.

Perked up (be it caffeine driven or not–doesn’t matter), we sped off to our first stop, the Japanese Tunnel.  It’s along diversion road. I initially thought Japanese tunnel was located in Samal.  Good thing nobody asked me.  I would have confidently led them to a different place…

The Japanese Tunnelis a carved section of Matina Balusong’s hills.  Filipino Prisoners of Wars in 1942 labored for more or less 3 years to make this 300-meter tunnel.  The japanese used this tunnel to transport war equipments as well as a hide-out from the American army.

One can only wonder at how many soldiers were mobilized underneath this hide-out.  But more importantly, knowing the japanese’s culture of sacrifice, one can only guess at how many Filipino prisoners were held and killed in this place.

Inside the tunnel, visitors are greeted by Japanese statues holding their rifles–as if eternally guarding the place against intruders.  A shrine can be found inside with a replica of the Japanese Buddha is also present.  Remains of different kinds of vintage weaponry (bombs, explosives, machine guns) are also displayed for one to admire.

We’ve been told that Mintal is the Philippines’ “little tokyo” during pre-war times.  The japanese have established in Mintal a good trade in Abaca and built a community there.  First by inter-marrying with Filipinos and then migration–until such time came where the percentage of Japanese living in Mintal was higher than that of the locals.

Hydro that the japanese built for the area. In Mintal, they built a public school, a good hospital, a hydroplant, and a cemetery.

Mintal Elementary school.  This field is now being used to train kids in soccer.  This field used to be a 9-hole golf course for kids during the japanese hey days.

 Many treasure hunters have ventured in Mintal.  As Philippines “little tokyo” most of the japanese community (when it was still existent) was found here…and where there are japanese, stories of buried gold and treasures follow.  Whispers of the largest gold reserve was buried somewhere in Mintal continue to drive gold diggers crazy even up to this day.  Mintal itself is a ‘city’ atop hundreds of tunnels that even until now, the government has not succeeded in counting.

Sadly, these are the reasons why the legacy of the japanese (their building, houses, hospitals, schools, etc.) are nothing but ruins in the present.  Local and foreign treasure hunters did not think twice in knocking down infrastructures and columns that could, in their minds, hide gold.

The local government is now in the process of restoring these sites and is currently inviting visitors to visit these historic locations.  Starting with the The Japanese Cemetery. Support have poured in from different Japanese organizations.  Some have donated books, to be buried in the cemetery, for their dead ancestors to read in the after life.

 A monument for Ohta Kyozaburo.  The first japanese to establish business in the Philippines.

I just had to take a photo of an acacia tree.  The barangay captain told us of japanese groups, visiting, and looking at these historic sites.  With gadgets that measures exact coordinates of the area they are visiting, they would measure one monument to another.  But aside from that, these groups have one thing in common, they would always ask where the biggest acacia tree is located.  The barangay captain would always take them there, and always, they would be asked to be left alone.  Whether they are digging for treasures or praying to their deity, the biggest acacia tree in Mintal seems to be very important to these Japanese visitors.  These have culled enough intrigue in the locals…  So when visiting Mintal, do not forget to highlight your trip with a photo of the biggest acacia tree.

Note: This trip was organized by Davao Bloggers and sponsored by Davao Tourism and Smart Communications.

5 Responses

  1. graphiste morteau July 13, 2013 / 4:52 pm

    Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
    Anyhow, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be book-marking and checking
    back often!
    graphiste morteau recently posted..graphiste morteau

  2. arzeil April 16, 2017 / 12:15 pm

    Hi i am arzel from Philippines i have say free like this tree photo in place of bicol Provence pls help about this tree in many stones symbols

  3. erinacchii January 30, 2020 / 10:52 pm

    Big trees are considered vessel to local land deities for Japanese, hence it was preserved. Maganda sana if they put a big abaka rope with shide on it (zig-zagged white paper used to mark a sacred site/monument/structure in Shintoism) ❤️

    • 13thWiTCH January 31, 2020 / 6:59 am

      oh that is interesting! you are right, that can be one way of preserving it while passing on a cultural signifier to whoever visits.Thank you for sharing!:)

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