Bataan is a 2-hour drive neighboring province near Tarlac City. It is a native land filled with rich saga and imperative history. Bataan was featured recognizably during the World War II. Up to this day, the province and it’s people continue to embody democracy and freedom for every Filipino by pointing up glorious pride and exceptional honor.
Exploring Bataan will never be complete without visiting the province’s most legendary landmark—the Shrine of Valor ( Dambana ng Kagitingan ). It is located on Mt. Samat in Pilar town. The shrine epitomize the story of bravery and valiance that Filipino and American soldiers exhibited in this mountain at the dawn of WW2 in the Philippines.
” When the heat of World War 2 finally reached the Pacific in 1941, some of the biggest battles were staged in the Philippines. And among these was the famous Battle of Bataan.
This major battle, fought by the invading Japanese Imperial army and the Allied forces of the US and Filipino soldiers in the Bataan Peninsula, took four months. It was valiant but futile fighting.
The final days of the battle took place in Mt. Samat when the defending Allied forces retreated into the mountain. The Japanese army under the command of General Homma then launched a systematic bombardment on Mt. Samat. Day and night, Mt. Samat received heavy bombings from above and ground, turning the mountain into an inferno. Eventually, the tired, sick and wounded Filipino and American soldiers hiding in Mt. Samat surrendered into the hands of the invaders. The date was April 9, 1942, known in history as the Fall of Bataan. Consequently, the surviving soldiers we’re forced to march from Bagac, Bataan to Capas, Tarlac, the event we now know as the Bataan Death March.
After the war, a shrine (Dambana ng Kagitingan) was erected at the summit of Mt. Samat to commemorate those Filipino and American soldiers who fought valiantly during the World War 2. And that date that Bataan has fallen is now being celebrated as the Day of Valor (a National Holiday).” – Google sourced
The cross was under construction during my visit. I was not able to go through the elevator ride and climbed up to its arms and witness the bird’s eye view of the area.
The 30-storey, 92-meter cross serves as the Philippines National Memorial for the people who safeguarded Bataan, notably to those who sacrificed their lives in order to obtain freedom for the country. The classic statues on the base of the cross was a masterpiece of National Artist, Napoleon Abueva.
A marble colonade can be visited just below the shrine. Underneath the colonnade, the shrine’s museum exhibits a collection of historical artifacts from the war, including a display of various weapons, a 3D map of the Bataan area and a series of photos illustrating the battle and the soldiers who took part in the most memorable moments in Philippine History.
What caught my attention are the photos of the comfort women during the war. The Japanese forced as many as 200,000 local Asians to become sex slaves. There were a few who outlived the war.
Next stop is the Bataan World War 2 Museum.
The only war museum in Bataan is located at the back of the Balanga Integrated School, the old building of which served as headquarters of Japanese Gen. Masaharu Homma.
The museum houses a couple of dioramas of more than 120 dolls depicting the Death March , descriptive displays about the history of Bataan, a few war artifacts, and a video summary. The museum is a private initiative of HAS CLUB of Balanga Foundation made possible by resources and contributions from the City of Balanga Elementary School, government agencies, NGO’s, corporations, individuals and institutions. Volunteerism drives the daily operations.
Ms. Cathy Eugenio, the museum keeper, described to us the important details that happened during the World War 2.
Ms. Cathy mentioned to us that there are still living survivors during the war. Two of them were shown in the photos. According to her, they visit the museum MWF (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and personally narrate their own story. Unfortunately, it was Tuesday when we visited the museum.
Eugenia Paguio, one of the survivors, told her story in this book about her true experience during the WWII when the Japanese Imperial Forces invaded Bataan. The War I Saw, bears witness to a little-known piece of WWII history.
Right outside the museum is the Surrender Site Monument. These are life sized statues of four American and three Japanese officers discussing and signing the surrender of the USAFFE (United States Army Forces in the Far East) in the Philippines.
Just a few walks beside the Bataan World War 2 Museum, you can see the creepy Torture Chamber that was used by the Japanese during WWII. This room was preserved and is unscathed. It was protected and locked but you can peep inside through a small open window.
Our last stop was Plaza Mayor De Ciudad De Balanga. This place carries a pleasant age-old world attraction inspired by Spanish colonial architecture.
The architectural structures are very awe-inspiring and delightfully impressive. We were not able to see the Plaza Mayor De Ciudad at night and witness the majestic fountain show, but nevertheless, whether it’s daytime or nightime, this place is beyond doubt, elegantly beautiful.
Our brief ride in Bataan was, with all one’s heart, gratifying. It gave us lots of informative fine points which brought us back down to memory lane. This is a place where it gives you a sense of utmost Pride and significant reverence and makes you feel proud to be a Filipino.
Bataan is indeed a place to Behold! 🙂