Yamashita: The Tiger's Treasure

Yamashita: The Tiger's Treasure

The original DVD cover.
Directed by Chito S. Roño
Produced by Douglas Quijano
Sherida Monteverde
Allan Escaño
Written by Roy Iglesias
Starring Armando Goyena
Danilo Barrios
Albert Martinez
Vic Diaz
Rustom Padilla
Camille Prats
Music by Nathan Brendholdt
Kormann Roque
Cinematography Neil Daza
Edited by Manet Dayrit
Distributed by Regal Entertainment
Release dates
  • December 25, 2001 (2001-12-25)


Running time
113 minutes
Country Philippines
Language Tagalog
Budget PhP. 80 million (estimated)

Yamashita: The Tiger's Treasure is a 2001 Filipino epic adventure-drama film that revolves around a hidden Yamashita treasure. It was directed by acclaimed Filipino director Chito S. Roño and released by Regal Entertainment. The film won a total of 11 awards in various award-giving bodies including the coveted Metro Manila Film Festival for Best Picture.[1]


Lolo Melo (Armando Goyena) is an old Filipino World War II veteran living in the United States who tells his war stories to his grandson Jobert (Danilo Barrios). Flashbacks to 1944, he tells the story of his participation during World War II, when his troop was ordered to bury the Yamashita treasure. When Lolo gets kidnapped, Jobert goes back to Manila in order to find the hidden treasure and save his grandfather. Jobert finds the clues to a hidden treasure in the coded, wartime diaries of his grandfather. Soon, he and his chums are in hot pursuit of the Yamashita Treasure. But, a dangerous mercenaries are also after the prize, Emong(Albert Martinez), a Philippine government official and Naguchi (Vic Diaz), a Japanese World War II veteran.

The story begins when Lolo Melo tells his story of his life and his involvement in the secret of the Yamashita Treasure to his grandson, Jobert. Jobert decided to return to the Philippines to attend a reunion with his friends and former classmates. Flashbacks of Lolo Melo's life, including his happy life with his younger brother, Peping, which he gave an expensive harmonica as a gift before he enlists in the Army. World War II breaks out and Melo, along with his brother were captured by the Imperial Japanese Army.

Back at the present, Jobert arrives in the Philippines, unknown to him, many eyes are stalking him from the airport. He eventually reunites with his friends. He holds Lolo Melo's old journal and diary,crucial to the location of the treasure. Jobert, along with his friends are being chased by both Naguchi's and Philippine secret agents, until they are saved by Emong.While on the barge, Jobert reads the journal. Lolo Melo's past are continued.While they were tortured by Japanese troops,he and Peping consoles themselves to relieve their sorrow,by listening to his Peping's harmonica music. That goes on until the Japanese general, Yamashita orders some POWs to follow some orders. They were chosen, along with some POWs and Filipino civilians. They were herded in a Japanese transport ship bound to Mindoro. They suffered severe maltreatment, from rotational torture, feeding them with meager rations,from spoiled rice to boiled camote roots and among others.

Back at the present, Jobert continues to read Melo's diary. Meanwhile, one of Jobert's friends suspects something about Emong's identity and intentions. That person is right, as they enter Manila Bay, they are captured by Naguchi's henchman Jarco (Rustom Padilla). They were forced to ride a speedboat to the location of the treasure. The diary, revealed as the map pieces, was torn by Emong and the henchman. They go to Mindoro to confirm the area. Lolo Melo's past are revealed further by flashbacks. When they arrive in Mindoro,they are forced to dig several very large tunnels to bury something. Then the ship, carrying Yamashita's loot, arrives in Mindoro. They were ordered to place the treasures in the tunnels and place some traps, including land mines. Melo and several others are forced to seal the area after the duty and an American air raid attacks them, burying also his younger brother and some of their fellow prisoners alive. Peping plays the harmonica one last time,as his co-prisoners are dying due to suffocation and dies of his wounds.

Meanwhile, Jobert and the gang arrives in Mindoro. Jobert was reunited with Lolo Melo, captured by Naguchi's men as asset, bargaining chip and guide, along with multiple trucks to transport the loot. But, a distraction in the form of backups called by the secret service agents following Naguchi's moves. Jobert and Lolo Melo, along with Jarco leads them into the tunnel,seemingly full of gold,loot and the legendary Golden Buddha. Lolo Melo forces Jobert to leave the tunnel as he confronts the henchman. He saw his younger brother's skeletal remains, along with the rusting harmonica he gave many decades ago. Jarco, seemingly mesmerized by countless loot in his front, opens the Golden Buddha. But he accidentally steps on a land mine, causing a chain of explosions that destroys the tunnel. Lolo Melo plays the harmonica one last time, while Peping's spirit smiles in front of him and embraces him. He dies in the explosion.

Meanwhile, some trucks are seeing leaving the area, full of gold and loots from the excavation site. But due to the media frenzy about the treasure, the local populace, along with several law enforcement agencies, erected several blockades and created human chains to halt the convoy. The people power succeeds and the henchmen are arrested. Naguchi and his accomplice, Police General Rivas, Emong's superior, was captured and imprisoned. Lolo Melo and his younger brother, along with the remains of other POWs were exhumed and buried with full honors in Libingan ng mga Bayani. Flashback shows General Yamashita was executed by hanging. He died along with the secret of the area where his war loots were located. In the end of the movie, Philippines paid all the debts in the country,paid all indemnity for veterans and other war victims, Lolo Melo and his brother got the Philippine Medal of Valor posthumously, and EDSA was renamed Carmelo Rosales Avenue due to his honor, heroism and resilience.


Main roles

Supporting roles


The film was shot in United States and Philippines. Roadrunner Network, Inc. is responsible for the majority of visual effects. The titles were made by Cinemagic. The films were printed by LVN Pictures.


The original film score was composed and conducted by Nathan Brendholdt and Kormann Roque. It was recorded at The Music and Sound Gallery. The sound mixing was done at The Elemantal Music.

"The Treasure In You" is the theme song of the film, composed by Elvin Reyes and Normann Roque and arranged by Ruth Bagalay. It was recorded by singer Pops Fernandez.



In review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes it has an approval rating of 57% and an average score of 3.5 out of 5 from users based on 80 reviews.

Home media

The official home video of the film was released on November 15, 2005 in Region-3 DVD format.


2001 Metro Manila Film Festival

2001 FAMAS Awards

Young Critics Circle, Philippines



When the film won the Best Picture award over the much favored film Bagong Buwan (a film about the military conflict in Muslim Mindanao directed by Marilou Diaz-Abaya), many moviegoers and critics were shocked over its selection for the top award as the movie was presented as an adventure film tackling the legend about the lost gold of Yamashita in the Philippines. For the most part, Yamashita was a fantasy and its subject matter was considered irrelevant to Filipinos.

Pearl Harbor

Prior to its release, Yamashita rode a wave of hype as the Philippines' answer to Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor due to a scene on the film featuring Japanese fighter planes attacking a Philippine base which gratefully aped a scene in Pearl Harbor. The scene was made using the most advanced visual effects technology available at that time.


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