powered by AFI
In 1827, when the Philippines are under Spanish rule, a young sailor, Roberto Balagtas, is the victim of a plot engineered by fellow sailor Rodrigo, who is jealous of him and his intended marriage to Maria Louisa. In Manila, Rodrigo gains favor with the Spaniards by betraying Roberto and a group of Filipino patriots, who are planning an uprising, to Ignacio, head of the Inquisition and Minister of Justice. As Roberto and Maria are about to be married, Fernando, captain of the guard for the governor, Count Velasquez, arrests Roberto for treason. Maria and the others escape to the mountains, while Roberto is sentenced to serve a year in Fort Santiago, where he is constantly tortured. Rodrigo is appointed head jailer and destroys Roberto's records so that, six years later, he is still a prisoner. However, with the help of two fellow prisoners, Don Adolfo Rivera, a Spaniard condemned as a heretic, and Miguel, Roberto attempts to tunnel out of the jail. Adolfo and Miguel are killed in the escape, but Roberto gets away, taking with him a map, which Don Adolfo had given him, to a cave full of treasure on Lubang Island. Roberto joins up with a gang of Chinese smugglers, led by Ming Tang, and finds the treasure. A year later, Roberto, now fabulously wealthy and posing as Spanish nobleman Don Diego Sebastian, returns to Manila to exact revenge against those who had him imprisoned. Roberto delivers gifts to the new governor, Fernando, and to Ignacio, who fail to recognize him after his ten-year absence. Roberto also seeks out Maria, who has become leader of the Filipino patriots, who are still hiding out in the hills. Fernando and Ignacio invite Roberto to visit Fort Santiago, where he encounters Rodrigo, who also fails to recognize him. After Roberto rescues an African slave, Nerudu, from torture by buying him, he challenges Rodrigo to a friendly sword duel. As the contest begins, Roberto reveals the lash marks on his back and his true identity. When Rodrigo momentarily gains the upper hand, Nerudu intervenes and strangles him to death. Fernando then decides to attack the rebels' camp, so Roberto sends Maria and the others to safety on Lubang. Later, when Ming Tang informs him that Maria has been captured and is imprisoned at Fort Santiago, Roberto arranges to be present at her interrogation by Ignacio. After Maria refuses Ignacio's demand for a complete list of all the rebels, she is sentenced to be hanged the next day. Roberto tells Ignacio and Fernando who he really is, and takes them prisoner at gunpoint, but has to release them in order to rescue Maria from her cell. Ming Tang and the rebels assist Roberto in Maria's rescue and Fernando falls to his death. The Duke of Herrara, an emissary from the King of Spain, whom Roberto has befriended, arrests Ignacio for treason and tells Roberto that the King will grant whatever his heart desires. After Roberto requests amnesty for all political prisoners in the Philippines, he and Maria look forward to a peaceful future together.