The Yamashita Treasure

The uprising started in Europe on September 1, 1939, when Germany attacked Poland. The two were rivals ever since. Germany and Italy were allied countries in Europe. Japan is also included in their alliance. Their alliance was called Axis Powers. In 1941, Japan conquered Manchuria and Indo-China.

While the peace talk was still in progress in Washington D.C., the Japanese govenment declared war, then bombed the Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 8, 1941. Pearl Harbor was the base of Unted States Pacific Meet. Because of this, the United States of America declared war next against Japan. The Philippines, which was one of USA's allies, was involved in the said war. Germany and Italy declared war against United States and Great Britain. Thus, the Second World War started.

In the same date, Japanese airplanes bombed Davao, Tuguegarao, Iba, Tarlac and Pampanga. On the second day, they dropped bombs in Manila which put the city in their hands.

And the rest is history . . . . I actually love to study the history of wars in the world. Unfortunately, we're not talking about the World War II, we'll be discussing the legend about the Yamashita Treasure. Well, I thought it could be appropriate to start the article with an excerpt from my history textbook.

The Yamashita Treasure (also known as the Yamashita's Gold and Fort Santiago Treasure) is the given name to an alleged stolen valuables particularly in Southeast Asian countries by Japanese forces during the Second World War. Those valuables were looted from banks, depositories, temples, churches, other commercial premises, mosques, museums and private homes. Then, all were buried or hidden in caves, tunnels and underground complexes somewhere in the Philippines.

The said treasure was named after the Imperial Japanese Army general Tomoyuki Yamashita, who was the commander of Japanese forces in the Philippines in 1944.

There were rumors that account the Yamishita Treasure is still hidden, inspite of the fact that a Filipino treasure hunter named Rogelio Roxas claimed that he found it in 1971.

I was actually hesitant to create this article because of its broad story. Until now, many people believed that this treasure truly exist and still uncovered from the place where it was hidden. Treasure hunters from around the globe are still tracking the footsteps of the Japanese armies, especially Gen. Yamashita, who were involved in the concealment of such a very large and controversial treasure. The Philippines is an archipelago which comprises over 7,000 islands, and I estimate less than 1% of these islands are a possible suspect for being the site of this alluring room of golds. Fort Santiago is one of the suspected places, as well as Baguio City (I'm not sure where exactly in Baguio.) Even Rizal's monument in Luneta Park, Manila City was suspected.

The Story behind the Theft

According to the books written by Sterling Seagrave and Peggy Seagrave (The Yamato Dynasty: the Secret History of Japan's Imperial Family (2000) and Gold Warriors: America's Secret Recovery of Yamashita's Gold (2003)), the theft was organized by both the Yakuza Gangsters and the highest levels of Japanese Society, including the Emperor. The intention of the loot was to finance Japan's war effort.

Kin no yuri (Golden Lily) was organized secretly for this purpose. The Emperor himself appointed his brother, Prince Yasuhito Chichibu, to be its head.

The looting concentrated in Singapore, the stolen valuables were transported somewhere in the Philippines. From there, the Japanese planned to ship it to their country after the war. However, some of the Japanese merchant ships carrying the war booty sailed back to Japan. Unfortunately, some of them sunk during the combat in the Pacific Ocean against U.S. Navy submarines and Allied warplanes.

When the treasure was in the Philippines, they hid it in an enclosed area. According to some sources, as well as the Seagraves, they claimed that American military intelligence operatives found much of the loot, then they secretly cooperated with Emperor Hirohito and other senior Japanese figures for the concealment of the existence of the treasure. The said treasure was used to finance the American covert intelligence operations around the world during the Cold War.

Treasure Unearthed

Many individual persons and groups, both in the Philippine and from foreign countries, continued locating for treasure sites. A number of accidental deaths, injuries and financial losses incurred by treasure hunters have been reported. But one person successfully found the treasure.

In 1961, Rogelio Roxas, a Filipino treasure hunter, met a son of a former member of Japanese Army in Baguio City. The said son helped him mapped the location of the treasure. Another man, who served as Yamashita's interpreter during the Second World War, told him to visit an underground chamber which was the place where the treasure was enclosed. A few years after, he formed a group to search the for the treaure, and obtained a permit from Judge Pio Marcos.

In 1971, they found the chamber on state lands near Baguio City. There, they found bayonets, samurai swords, radios, and skeletal remains dressed in a Japanese military uniform. They also found the 3-foot-high golden Buddha and numerous crates. He opened one of the crates and it contains gold bullions.

They went out with the golden Buddha and one box of twenty-four gold bars. Then sealed the chamber fo safekeeping until the time he will be able to remove the crates from there.

However, an unfortunate event happened next. He sought potential buyers for the golden Buddha. There were two individuals who represent a prospective buyer, they examined and tested the metal in the Buddha and reported it was genuine - a solid 20-carat gold. After that, the President (Ferndinand Marcos) learned the discovery of Rogelio Roxas. He ordered him arrested and beaten. The Buddha and the remaining gold bullions were taken.

Roxas alleged that in retaliation to his vocal campaign to reclaim the Buddha and the remainder of the treasure taken from him, Ferdinand continued to have Roxas threatened, beaten and eventually incarcerated for over a year.

When he was released, he puts claims against President Marcos which at that time lost the presidency. In March 1988, he (Rogelio Roxas) and the Golden Budha Corp. held ownership rights to the treasure stolen from him, then filed lawsuit againsts the Marcoses in the state of Hawaii court seeking damages for the theft and the surrounding human rights abuses committed against him. But on the eve of trial, Roxas died. Before his death, he gave the deposition testimony which could be used as evidence. In 1996, Roxas and the Golden Budha Corp. received $22 Billion with interest increased to $40.5 Billion. This lawsuit concluded that Roxas found the treasure.

Well, I don't know what happened to the remaining crates still in the chamber, whether they were unearthed by Marcos or still in there.

Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas: Pagbabago para sa kaunlaran at kapayapaan by: Dr. Florida C. Leuterio

You may also visit:

The Legend of Ferdinand Marcos
Romblon Triangle
The Ghost in MV Princess of the Stars
San Juan de Dios Church