THAT GLITTERS ...
IS IT YAMASHITA'S
THE ugly lump of metal
was not much to look at, but "treasure" was
the word on every mind.
When fortune hunters
fished out the bell-shaped mass from the South China
Sea in May 1993, everyone thought that they had
uncovered the legendary Yamashita treasure.
President Fidel Ramos
set up a task force to examine the metal.
Philippines' National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)
described it as a two-tonne block of platinum
estimated to be worth US$480 million, while NBI chief
Epimaco Velasco believed that it was part of the
According to popular
legend, Japanese General Tomoyuki Yamashita looted
the national treasures of South-east Asian countries
which Japan conquered during the early stages of
World War II.
He supposedly brought
his war booty to Philippines. He was said to have
buried his treasure in more than 100 different sites
around the country as his army escaped from the
advancing Allied troops in 1945.
Yamashita's trove of
jewellery, gold and other precious metals was
believed to be worth US$100-US$200 billion. When the
general was hanged in 1946
as a war criminal, the exact whereabouts of his
treasure remained a mystery that attracted countless
Some treasure hunters
were even willing to risk their lives to find the
famous treasure. Two Filipinos were buried alive in
the southern Philippine city of General Santos when
an 8-m-deep tunnel they were digging caved
hunters claimed that Yamashita made use of war
prisoners to bury part of the booty in booby-trapped
underground chambers near Manila. The chambers were
then sealed, trapping the prisoners inside.
But Manila's National
Museum archaeologist Eusebio Dizon said that he never
found any evidence of the treasure in the 18 years
he spent looking for artefacts on land and sea.
According to former
first lady Imelda Marcos, the Yamashita treasure fell
into the hands of her late husband. She said that Mr
Marcos obtained his wealth from the treasure which he
had used to trade in precious metals. However, she
refused to divulge how her husband discovered the
treasure or how much it was worth.
On the other hand,
those who were skeptical of Mrs Marcos' claims said
that the gold story was nothing more than a cover-up
for Mr Marcos' plunder of the Philippine Treasury
during his presidency.
And what about the
lump of metal? It was no treasure. The metal was
later identified to be iron. Its worth -- a
So the legend of
Yamashita's gold continues. Who knows, the gold may
still be buried out there, somewhere, waiting to be
(Based on actual
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