Being a person that value Philippine History a lot, I recognize the importance of important historic events and places that we have. One of those that symbolize it and is a bitter mark in Philippine history is none other than The Shrine of Valor, or Dambana ng Kagitingan. Located in Pilar, Bataan, Mt. Samat hosts this popular historic site. Situated on top of the mountain, the huge cross that can be seen from miles away represents the valor shown by our World War II heroes, as they defended our country from foreign oppressors. I have been there several times so let me share with you how beautiful and historical that place is. It is highly recommended for everyone, including children, for them to know the sacrifices of our forefathers for them to enjoy the freedom that they have today.
The Shrine of Valor in Mt. Samat, Bataan is considered to be one of the most significant spots in the northern part of the country. Locals and tourists visit here to learn about the fallen Filipino and American heroes who fought for freedom during the Second World War.
This shrine was made to honor and give tribute to the heroic struggles and sacrifices of World War II heroes who fought and died in that historic stronghold of freedom. The soldiers died fighting and protecting the country against the Japanese invasion. They gave up their lives in war so that the next generations (that’s us) would have a country to call their own.
Shrine of Valor – Commemorating Filipino Heroism
The infamous Battle of Bataan against the Japanese colonizers lasted for at least three days. Even civilians were affected. Many people were sick, hungry and wounded. Not content with what they have done to the local populace, the Japanese forces made every surviving person go through the infamous Bataan Death March. On this forced trek, many prisoners died due to starvation, exhaustion, or were cruelly bludgeoned or shot to death by their captors. This tragic event happened after the formal surrender of Bataan and Corregidor in April 9, 1942. It was then called the “Bataan Death March”. It is still considered as one of the lowest and saddest accounts in our country’s history. To this day, April 9 is a yearly holiday called “Araw ng Kagitingan.”
The white memorial cross standing at the summit of Mt. Samat is very much recognizable once you enter Bataan. Made of steel, marble, and concrete, the cross has a height of 95 meters and an elevation of 555 meters above sea level. There’s also an altar hall in Mt. Samat where you can offer your gratitude and respect to all those people who died for our freedom.
The Shrine of Valor is composed of two spectacular structures: the Giant Cross and the Colonnade.
The towering cross was inaugurated in 1970 during President Marcos’ time to remember the Filipino and American soldiers that fought and died in the Battle of Bataan during the Second World War. The shrine complex has a museum which contains different collections of memorabilia taken from World War II and the Battle of Bataan. It also houses a museum with a huge collection of paintings such as the Philippine heroes, weapons used by the Filipino, American and Japanese forces during the battle in Bataan, as well as depictions of historical stories about the Filipino. You can also see the different art and architectural masterpieces of the country’s finest National Artists.
The famous colonnade of Mt. Samat
Another noticeable feature of this place is the huge colonnade which has a marble altar in the center surrounded by murals on the walls. The 95-meter memorial cross standing high on the summit is one of the most remarkable markers of the province. The cross itself has a design which was made by National Artist Napoleon Abueva that shows the important events during WWII. Visitors who want to get a glimpse of the Bataan Peninsula can go up the cross’ arms stretching 30 meters thru an elevator.
After taking the elevator, the viewing deck at the top of the cross gives you a 360 degree view of the whole of Bataan. On a clear day, you may also get a glimpse of Corregidor Island and the City of Manila. Only a few are allowed at a time, so queues can be as long as an hour or more, but the view might just be worth the wait.
The Shrine of Valor is open every day from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM the entrance fee is P30.00 for foreigners and Php 20.00 for Filipinos and Php 10.00 for students. A separate entrance fee is charged for the memorial cross which is Php 10.00 per person.
There are at least a couple of possible routes for motorcyclists on the way to Dambana ng Kagitingan.
Although it might sound quite far, Pilar, Bataan is very accessible. From Manila, the travel time will take less than 2 hours if you will take the route via North Luzon Expressway then exiting at the San Fernando toll gate. Likewise, you may take on the 130 km route from Manila to Bataan by taking McArthur Hi-way from Valenzuela all the way up to San Fernando, Pampanga where you will then make a left turn towards the highway going to Bataan although this will make you spend at least a couple of hours more as you try to dodge the crazy traffic along this national road. Moreover, an ultra-modern highway, SCTEX, connects Clark to Subic, which makes Bataan even more accessible to more cities, allowing more commuters to reach their destination in no time at all. Although the SCTEX route is longer by 30 kilometers, it will still give you a relatively shorter amount of travel time due to you traveling only on expressways from Balintawak all the way up to Dinalupihan in Bataan. Enter the province of Bataan via Dinalupihan, which is 101 kilometers away from Manila. Travel time is about one hour. From there, Balanga City, the capital of the province, is around twenty kilometers away, with Pilar being very close to Balanga. Travel time from the bottom of Mt. Samat all the way up to the shrine entrance is about 20 minutes since you will have to go through steep curves as well as the slippery concrete going up, which may lead you to be on low gears all throughout the journey going up.
Since you have travelled far, why not make your trip more worthwhile by enjoying nearby destinations so you could make the most out of your roadtrip. Here are some that could be reached in less than an hour:
Bagac Beach – The entrance fee is cheap, and the beach is clean. Why not take a dip after a long and hot trip to Bataan? The refreshingly clean waters of Bataan will surely help you cool down, relax, and prepare for the trip back home. Bagac is located less than 30 minutes from Pilar, Bataan.
Dunsulan Falls – is a waterfall located at the foot of Mt. Samat, northeast of the National Shrine in Brgy Liyang, also in Pilar town. Dunsulan Falls and river is the main drainage on the crater side of Mount Samat.
Morong Twisties – from my experience, the long winding roads of Morong is similar to the infamous Marilaque twisties, only that it is much safer. There are hardly any debris and oil slicks on the road, so for those cornering addicts, you will surely enjoy this.
Bataan Nuclear Power Plant – Due to widespread protests by uneducated locals, this power plant never fully lived up to what is was built for. Considered to be one among the robustly-built nuclear power station in the world, and more advance in design and younger than more than half of the operating nuclear power plants in the United States of America, the BNPP was designed to withstand the highest postulated earthquake in the Luzon island at ground acceleration value of 0.4G or Intensity 8 in the Richter Scale. At 18 meters above sea level ground elevation, the BNPP plant site is well protected against tidal waves and tsunamis. It can sustain operation even if a Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant-like tsunami incident of March 11, 2011 happened at this site. If the plant had operated, its 623 MW electrical capacity could have provided at least 10% of the present power requirements for the Luzon grid. It could have started the nuclear regime in the country which can bring the Philippine economy at greater heights, like Korea or Taiwan, perhaps (Napocor). With a very expensive, fully paid and idle asset at hand, and the country’s need to educate more the population on the benefits behind the peaceful use of atomic energy, the nuclear plant was opened to the public in 2008 as part of the government’s information, education and communication program on nuclear power.
Food-tripping in Pampanga – Since you will be passing through Pampanga anyway, why not enjoy the authentic Kapampangan sisig c/o Aling Lucing’s in Angeles near the railroad track. You may also try out Angeles Fried Chicken and Didi’s Pizza in Balibago.
Patriotism at its finest
Up to this day, this site is used as a reminder of the courage, bravery and willingness to sacrifice to the point of death by the Philippine and American forces. It also used to remember Filipinos who continue to fight for freedom on behalf of the Philippines.
Visiting this historical landmark will give you a blast from the past – from that bittersweet sense of loss and triumph, to the hardships and sufferings endured during the war, and to our great heroes who never hesitated one bit in giving up their lives for our country’s independence.
What a great view
– Erik Gatmaitan is the author of http://www.pinoyrider.com – Journeying the Philippines SOLO on a motorbike.
Follow his adventures on his website or through his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PinoyRider