Due to its historical background, Mt. Samat or Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) located at Pilar, Bataan, is usually flocked by many students who are attending their field trips. Lines of huge buses passing through the 6.5 kilometer road leading to the shrine are commonly seen ascending up to about 500 meters high. Tourists can also visit the national shrine either by bringing a private vehicle or hiring a tricycle which would cost 100 pesos per way. To go against the norm, we opted to walk through Mt. Samat’s long and winding road, and it took us 3 hours to get to 545 meters from sea level.
In the efforts of remembering and honoring soldiers who fought during the World War II, the memorial cross and complex located at the top of Mt. Samat was built back in 1966. Being the final site of the Battle of Bataan, thousands of Filipino and American soldiers struggled to fight against Japanese soldiers. However, the Bataan troops had to surrender after three months, which led them to the infamous Bataan Death March.
We started walking through the road at 9am, passing through the luscious greenery of the mountain. Huge trees are everywhere, which kept us shaded from the scorching heat of sun. Every once in a while, vehicles pass by, but during the silence of the road, tranquility and serenity covers it. It was actually nice to walk through it. With only the chirping of the birds, the brushing of the wind, and the gently fall of the leaves, it felt like home.
What is upsetting though is the amount of trash we saw on the sides of the road. We then decided to pick up some trash to help rehabilitate the mountain. The fact that some people neglect the value of nature is quite alarming, especially when these same people benefit from nature itself. After an hour and a half of walking uphill, we still haven’t seen a single glimpse of the summit. For a while, the road seemed endless.
Finally, after 3 hours of hiking on the road, we reached memorial’s entrance. We paid an entrance fee of 20 pesos per person, and passed through a series of stairs leading to the memorial cross. Towering at 92 meters high, memorial cross is the second tallest cross in the world, trailing Spain’s Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen. A viewing gallery which offers view of Bataan and Corregidor Island is located at the cross’ arm. Unfortunately, the viewing gallery was closed when we visited it.
Before leaving, we went around the memorial colonnade located a few meters from the memorial cross. The colonnade is made of marble where sculptures and an altar can be seen. A narrative of the Bataan Battle is also inscribed in its walls.