Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our Mission is to Remember - A Visit to the Shrine of Valour

The next stop of our Bataan adventure was the Mount Samat National Shrine popularly known as the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valour). Since this was a budget trip, my husband and I planned on going there through public transportation like jeepneys. From the Balanga Plaza de Mayor, we walked going north along Aguirre Street, passed through a river bridge, and continued along Calero Street. We saw the Bataan Terminal after a few minutes of walk. It wasn’t that far really if you’re not afraid of the heat of the sun. We looked for the jeepney bound for Cabog-Cabog. Fare was 17php. We were the first passengers but it didn’t take long before the jeepney was filled.

The jeepney travelled along the national highway and we passed by the Flaming Sword in the crossing of Pilar town. I wasn’t able to take a picture of it, too bad. After about 2 kilometers from the Flaming Sword, we passed by the Bataan Provincial Highway. This is where buses from Manila to Mariveles pass by.  This crossing is known as the Ala-Uli Crossing. After about 3 and a half kilometers from Ala-Uli, we reached the the jump off point going up the Mount Samat. There is a line of tricycles waiting there for tourists. Since we know it would be a long tiring walk going up the mountain, we rode the tricycle even though we think that the fare was expensive. It was 100 pesos per person. However, in the middle of the ride, we were thankful we took the tricycle. The road going up was really long and some areas were steep.

The stairs leading to the colonnade with the memorial cross on the background.
The tricycle driver dropped us off near the gate since they were not allowed inside. Private vehicles though can enter. I believe there was a parking fee. We paid for the 20 pesos per person entrance fee, and walked a few meters going to the colonnade. Note that this was an uphill climb but thankfully a short one. After the short uphill climb, we had to climb again the stairs.

18 bronze insignia of USAFFE Division Units are placed around the outer side the colonnade.

It is also covered with  sculptures by National Artist Napoleon Abueva.

View of the grandstand where events like the Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valour) are usually held.

View of the Bataan Peninsula from the shrine.

Upon reaching top, we were greeted with a wonderful view of Bataan Peninsula below. The well-manicured park also gave us a nice spot to rest for a while after the day’s travel. We explored the colonnade and saw a narrative of the Battle of Bataan during the war. Yes, we read everything that was written on both side walls. It was our first time to know the detailed accounts of the last stand in Bataan and tears started forming in my eyes. It was heartbreaking, really. If I’d be the country’s President, I would create a law that every Filipino should make a pilgrimage to Samat in honor of our war heroes. Hahaha

Inside the colonnade made of marble

Narrative of the Battle of Bataan

An altar is in the center of the colonnade and it is strictly prohibited to go behind it to take pictures. It is after all an altar, a sacred area like in churches.

We thought that was the end of our tour, but we noticed some people climbing the zigzag stairs behind the colonnade going up to the location of the memorial cross. This time, our feet were already aching (since all we did was walked since that morning in our Balanga Tour) but we didn’t mind. All I kept thinking was ‘Hey, the war soldiers who were here before had worst.’ After a few minutes, a few drinks of water and a few stops to rest,  we reached the foot of the memorial cross which is 555 meters above see level. For those who are not fond of walking or for the old people, there is an alternative road going to the memorial cross. Some people we noticed took that road by bringing their vehicles. But we really were astonished for those Lolas and Lolos that we saw who took the 14-flight zigzag road. If they could do it, then so could we.

Going up the 14 zigzag foot path behind the colonnade.

View of the shrine below as we had a short rest to catch our breath.
We were told that only a few people could fit in the elevator (Yes, we were surprised that the cross has an elevator!), so we had to wait for our turn. There were two souvenir stores outside and we looked for a ref magnet while waiting. The sad thing we noticed though was the empty bottles and plastic wrappers left on the ground even though there was a garbage bin available. Talking about bad tourists!

"Nabiag na Bato" by Abueva

Finally, it was our turn to go up the cross. The height of the cross according the Manong Guard was 92 meters from the base. Entrance fee was 10 pesos. There were security guards assisting us. Once on top, we ventured into the viewing gallery. The guards were strict on noisy visitors. The place is of course a shrine and we were inside a cross, so a proper decorum was expected. 

Inside the viewing gallery of the memorial cross

View of the colonnade below from the viewing gallery

We had a great time enjoying the view from the top. One could see  Mount Mariveles in the south and Mount Natib in the north-west part. A view of Balanga City could also be seen in the north-east corner. I'm not sure of Manila Bay is visible from the cross but it was cloudy and foggy at that time in the eastern part so the sea is the only thing we saw in the horizon. We started our descent (by elevator again) after a few minutes.

It is interesting to note that Mount Samat is a parasitic cone volcano and that the memorial cross is situated near its crater rim. Try to look for that crater rim when you're there!

Since we didn’t bring any ride, we again had to trek down from the foot of the cross going to the shrine, and then from the shrine going to the main gate. Our tricycle driver was still there waiting for us. Although we initially planned to walk down the mountain (the whole 6.5 kilometers stretch), we decided to take the driver’s offer since we were already tired and it was getting late. His asking price this time was 60 pesos per person. Not bad.

Going down to the main gate.

Back in the jump off point, other tricycles tried offering us a ride to the main highway (Ala-Uli Crossing). But again, we declined. We waited for the jeepney while drinking softdrinks we bought from a nearby sari-sari store. 

After a few minutes of waiting, a jeepney came and coincidentally, it was the same jeepney that we rode on our way to Samat! We got off in Ala-Uli Crossing and waited for buses bound for Manila. But no, we were not going back home to Manila. Our next stop was Sinagtala Resort in Orani, Bataan. Manila-bound buses would passed by Orani but we were told by bus drivers to ride buses to Balanga instead since Manila-bound buses asked for a fix minimum rate of 75 pesos. So, we rode a air conditioned mini-bus going back to Balanga Terminal. (Jeepneys are also available). From Balanga Terminal,  we rode a jeepney bound for Orani town. Click HERE to read more about our Sinagtala Farm and Retreat Resort experience.

A Monument of Father Diego Buscio in Ala-Uli Crossing (click HERE to read more about him)

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