By Dorian Zumel-Sicat, Correspondent
First of three parts
Michael T. Meiring had basked in the shadow of
inscrutability. By some accounts, he is a treasure hunter, and a
physician who dabbled in herbal medicine. There is mention of a
wife, a nurse who worked in a hospital in California. He doesn’t
smoke, and drinks only occasionally.
It is said he has been in and out of Davao City
for the past 10 years, always staying in Suite 306 of the Evergreen
Hotel. The talk in Davao is that Meiring hobnobs with influential
political personalities in Mindanao, among them Nur Misuari and
An explosion in his Davao hotel suite on May 16
ripped off that mantle of obscurity, exposing Meiring to the public
limelight. What has been revealed, however, is a more complex man
whose trail leads back to South Africa and a box supposedly
containing US Federal Reserve notes.
Since the May 16 blast, there have been attempts
by authorities to keep the circumstances surrounding the incident
Meiring lost both his legs in the explosion,
which also left a big portion of his body badly burned. What is
unusual is that he was reportedly whisked out of Davao on a
chartered plane, accompanied by what Immigration officials described
as agents of the US National Security Council.
The mystery doesn’t stop there. Meiring’s
present whereabouts are unclear. One report said he was taken to the
Makati Medical Center in Makati City, where he is still under
intensive care. Another version has it that Meiring was flown to San
Diego, California after a brief stay at Makati Medical.
Piecing together an accurate story about Meiring
will be difficult. But there are indications that he is part of a
bigger, more spellbinding tale, one detailing a quest for treasure,
intrigue and, possibly, double-cross.
What is definitely known about Meiring is that
he was born in 1932 in South Africa and later became a naturalized
US citizen. He first came to the Philippines in 1992, where he spent
almost a year in Metro Manila, where he stayed at the Sundowner
Hotel or the Manila Garden Hotel.
While in Manila he went around with two agents
of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). He was in the
Philippines primarily to hunt for treasure and do research in herbal
medicine. His wife, Angelita (or Angelina) is a nurse at a 7th Day
Adventist hospital in Loma Linda, California.
Meiring had close links with some well-placed
government authorities in southern Mindanao as well as with national
government officials. Included in this circle are former Moro
National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari and Moro
Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Hashim Salamat, and even
suspected New People’s Army (NPA) leader Father Navarro.
Meiring’s connections with rebel leaders made
the military wary about him. He was under surveillance by more than
one intelligence unit on more than one occasion. Still, there was
little to add to his dossier.
Meiring is believed to have spent millions of
dollars while in the Philippines. Where he got his funds was not
known. Medical research grants from South Africa could be one
source. “He has told me that the South African government gives
him some support,” says Meiring’s private secretary, Sylvia
According to close friend, American David
Hawthorn, Meiring told him he had found a fabulous treasure in US
The way Hawthorn told it, Meiring in 1992 was
able to sell a “box” full of US Federal Reserve notes worth more
than $500 million.
That box was one of 12 said to be part of a war
chest for American and Filipino guerillas fighting Japan forces
during World War II. After the war, the boxes disappeared.
--To be continued