Wednesday, July 11, 2012

WW2 bomb in Guisian still alive


Not having prepared well for the trip, we didn't bring any food or drinks with us to Bagtasan.  But there was a sari-sari store located south of the isthmus where we all headed to upon disembarking from the boat.  The narrow isthmus separates two bodies of water, Sayao Bay to the east and a smaller, more quiet bay to the west they call Tabia.


There are coconut, talisay and other trees growing there keeping the houses cool. Some ten families live there. By the time we arrived, the men have returned from their early morning fishing and have parked their boats ashore on the small bay.
Bagtasan is part of sitio Manlumod in Guisian which, just like the main village on the east side, is located in a narrow strip of land between the mountain and the water. The two villages are separated by a mountain that makes it somewhat difficult for villagers from both sides to interact with each other more frequently. An elementary school, however, is located atop that mountain where children from the two villages go to study.

While having a snack of biscuits and soft drinks, we started chatting with the friendly local folks: No, they claim, Bagtasan never goes under water, they said. Yes, there have been occasions when young people from sitio Manlumod studying in Mogpog invited their schoolmates to camp out here for a day or two. Climbing the summit of Susong Dalaga Hill is always a part of their activities aside from swimming, and that happens only during the Lenten season. Otherwise, only local residents occasionally come here to swim or to have fun, they said.


Yes, many people here have experienced strange things – fireballs, apparitions of people pointing to buried gusi with treasures, like this very spot where we are sitting, but they were never found in spite of many attempts to find them. But, fireballs, I’ve seen it myself, the lady storekeeper says, but that was many years ago...

And many years ago, in the early 1950s, I had an uncle, she said, who found a bomb under the water. For some reason he wanted to take the explosive powder out; got a hand saw, went to the beach and started working on the bomb with the object submerged so it would not heat up, he thought. He was wrong, the bomb exploded - together with him, and all parts of him were blown up into countless tiny pieces!

And there’s another bomb right there under the water now (she went on, pointing towards the water), but at low tide you could see it and even touch it, the children used to lift it but they always put it back. But now, my father has given strict orders to the small kids not to touch it anymore, it’s still there.

I was thinking, a WW2 bomb has been sleeping in the shallow waters here and getting exposed to all the elements during low tide for sixty-nine years! I was conjuring images of very strong waves causing it to be tossed violently into the rocks and boom! A boy, the storekeeper's nephew, happened to be swimming in that area in question.

She called the attention of the boy, show the bomb, she said quite confidently. The boy couldn’t seem to find it right away. I wanted to take a picture of the bomb the moment he finds it but he was some fifteen meters away from us. But Larry, our guide, was quick to drag a boat and he said to me, come! By this time, I saw that the boy had the bomb in his hands. In an instant he was carrying the object, it was corroded, part of the outer layer actually had peeled off. Then he held on to the boat with his right hand, his left hand holding the bomb so I could take a good look.

After a couple of hurried shots with my cellphone camera I said, put it back boy, very, very carefully, and the boy did.

The unexpected bomb seemed to confirm that, indeed, something dramatic transpired right there during WW2. Then I asked them if anyone had ever heard of a Japanese ship that might have sunk in the area somewhere north or northwest.

Yes, they said. But they referred to the bombing in 1944 of Japanese ships in the harbor of Balanacan, a neighboring barangay. Not that one, I said, I am talking about a Japanese ship that was torpedoed and sunk more than one year before that, in 1943?

Maybe that’s the one that sank in a location about four miles away from Susong Dalaga Hill that fishermen refer to as Kantong Bahura, Cora volunteers. It is just about 15 to 20 fathoms deep and big fishing vessels are careful in that location because their nets could get entangled in that sunken vessel, as has been the case with some commercial fishing vessels in the past. It is also there where the depth suddenly plunges to 40 fathoms and where it's safe to cast their nets, she adds. (Cora had worked with fishing vessels in the past and knew what she was talking about).

Shallow cave on the western side of Susong Dalaga Hill.

More information came forth from that conversation, like the northern side of Susong Dalaga Hill being cantilado (from acantilado, cliff), with depth of from 15-20 fathoms. Two other fishing vessels have reportedly sunk in that area in recent years because of major typhoons.

After more sharing, it was time to go back and we were glad that our guide did not seem to mind at all our tarrying, apparently finding the subjects new, even interesting to him.

A fisherman’s wife approached us to ask if we might want to buy some of her husband’s catch. We paid Php 250.00 for an octopus that weighed 1 ½ kilos and half a kilo of fish. That’s too much for us, Cora said. No, we’ll eat all of it, I said jokingly. Truth is, I had a feeling we were not about ready to go back home to Boac...


Susong Dalaga Hill

Susong Dalaga Hill
Susong Dalaga Hill from Bagtasan isthmus

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