Japanese officials revisit WWII soldiers tunnel in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 26 (PNA) -- Sixty years after the historic Japanese occupation in the country, the war tunnel at Ligñon Hill that used to be the garrison of Japanese soldiers, it is now one of the top eco-tourism destinations in Albay province.

The underground headquarters was revisited by top Japanese officials on Sunday.

Mayor Seiji Kurashima of Fuefuki City, Japan and other officials visited the 60-year Japanese tunnel as they were toured around this city by Department of Tourism and provincial government officials here.

Ligñon Hill used to be the garrison of Japanese soldiers during their occupation in the Philippines, with advantage position against the armada of American troops.

Kurashima and his companions came here following the proposed sisterhood agreement with the Provincial Government of Albay as the two places have similar natural icons—Mount Mayon for Albay and Mount Fuji for Fuefuki City.

Maria “Nini” Ravanilla, DOT Bicol regional director, worked for the Albay and Fuefuki City sisterhood for tourism promotion between the two tourists destinations with identical natural wonders.

The sisterhood aims to bolster economic and tourism ties between Albay and Fuefuki City with the world's iconic volcanoes -- Mt. Fuji and Mt. Mayon -- as major marketing products.

During the first salvo of the meeting for sisterhood held in Manila spearheaded by the DOT-Bicol, Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda presented the Yen banknote, which contains 30 percent Albay abaca fiber, to Japanese officials from Fuefuki City, Prefecture of Jamanashi.

Salceda then proposed possible areas of cooperation such as farm tourism, arts and culture, and the natural icons -- Mt. Fuji for Fuefuki City and Mt. Mayon for Albay.

Though the Japanese delegation headed by Kurashima agreed in principle to the proposed sisterhood, he requested the translation of the text of the working paper into Nipongo.

Immediately after the first meeting, the Japanese officials flew to Albay where they visited the 60-year-old Japanese tunnel, a remnant of the bloody World War 11 in the country.

Albay province has several historical Japanese tunnels currently being explored by local and foreign tourists.

Lately, the biggest Japanese tunnel, a set of tunnels, was uncovered at Mount Kitwinan in Camalig town and is considered as an eco-historical tourism attraction.

But the launch and opening of the tunnel to the public was put on hold after some residents, who attempted to explore the tunnel, discovered vintage bombs in one of the tunnels.

The set of tunnels, according to the elderly in Camalig town, is manually formed beneath Mount Kitwinan by hundreds of enlisted soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army during the height of their occupation in Albay.

After the liberation period, these war tunnels were left untouched though numerous untold stories cropped up among the locals that the area had been exploited by local guerrillas as there were hidden treasures, like gold and other precious gems and minerals, had been left by the fleeing Japanese soldiers.

Among the Japanese tunnels in Albay, the Lignon Hill war tunnel is the most visited here by local and foreign tourists where life-size images of Japanese soldiers were put up to connect in the past. (PNA) CTB/FGS/RBB/CBD/EDS