`` Exploring the Rich History of Mount Samat National Shrine - A Symbol of Valor and Heroism (Bataan, Philippines) – An Asian Traveler Exploring the Rich History of Mount Samat National Shrine - A Symbol of Valor and Heroism (Bataan, Philippines) - An Asian Traveler

Exploring the Rich History of Mount Samat National Shrine - A Symbol of Valor and Heroism (Bataan, Philippines)

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As we made our way up the winding road toward the summit of Mount Samat, anticipation filled the air. We were about to embark on a journey that would take us back in time but also leave us in awe of the bravery and sacrifice of the Filipino and American soldiers who fought valiantly against the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ญ Mount Samat, situated in the town of Pilar in the province of Bataan, holds a significant place in history. Bataan, the smallest province in the Central Luzon region, is renowned for its rich historical background. It is home to the iconic Shrine of Valor (Dambana ng Kagitingan), boasting the second-highest cross globally, symbolizing bravery and honoring heroes. Located about seventy kilometers away from Manila, Mt. Samat can be reached within a three to four-hour drive from the National Capital Region. 

Upon reaching the entrance gate, my attention was immediately drawn to a charming array of small kiosks. These vibrant stalls were brimming with enticing snacks, refreshing beverages, and an assortment of souvenirs, including t-shirts, caps, bags, and mugs. Excitement surged through me as we eagerly handed over the entrance fee (P30.00/head), fully prepared to embark on a captivating journey into the depths of history that awaited us. Before we began our exploration, a short orientation was provided, giving us a glimpse into the significance of the Mount Samat National Shrine. 

According to its renowned past, Mt. Samat stands as the site where the most harrowing chapter of the Filipino-American soldiers' war against the Japanese army unfolded during the height of World War II. In 1942, as the war commenced, the Filipino and American soldiers faced immense challenges in their battle against the invading Japanese forces. After enduring three grueling months of relentless combat, over seventy-eight thousand American and Filipino soldiers, led by Major General Edward King, gathered in Bataan, displaying unwavering bravery in their resistance against the Japanese soldiers. Mt. Samat became their final sanctuary. However, on April 9, 1942, they ultimately surrendered to the Japanese imperial army, marking the beginning of the infamous Bataan Death March. Forced to march from Bagac, Bataan to Capas, Tarlac, the prisoners of war endured unimaginable suffering. Starvation, disease, extreme fatigue, and exhaustion claimed the lives of thousands of Filipino and American prisoners, while others were ruthlessly executed or beheaded.

In tribute to the brave Filipino and American soldiers who valiantly fought in the Battle of Bataan, Former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. took the initiative to construct the Mt. Samat National Shrine. Following the official declaration of Mt. Samat as a national shrine on April 14, 1966, the construction of the memorial cross commenced. Four years later, in 1970, the shrine was unveiled to the public, coinciding with the 25-year commemoration of the war. Standing tall at an impressive elevation of 555 meters above sea level or 1820 feet, the Mt. Samat Memorial Cross, also known as the Shrine of Valor, is a magnificent structure crafted from reinforced steel and concrete adorned with a marble design.

Upon commencing our ascent, we arrived at the memorial shrine complex, strategically situated on elevated terrain. It is worth mentioning that despite our progress, we were still quite a distance away from reaching the summit. Nevertheless, our hearts were filled with contentment.  We were immediately struck by its grandeur. The Memorial Cross stands proudly atop Mount Samat, reaching a remarkable height of 555 meters (1,821 feet) above sea level. The towering cross, standing at a staggering 92 meters (312 feet) from the base, loomed above us, symbolizing the resilience and indomitable spirit of the soldiers who fought on this very ground. Its sheer size and commanding presence were a testament to the magnitude of the sacrifices made during those dark days of war.


At the elevated complex of Mount Samat, visitors can marvel at the sight of a massive cannon on display. We were also greeted by a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. The vast expanse of greenery stretched out before us, serving as a stark contrast to the tumultuous history that unfolded in this place It was a humbling experience.

 

The Mount Samat Shrine complex is home to a war museum that showcases a diverse collection of artifacts, ranging from paintings depicting Philippine heroes to weaponry utilized by the Filipino, American, and Japanese forces during the battle. These items hold great historical value, as they recount significant stories and depict the battles that unfolded in the Philippines during the Second World War.

As the scorching sun beat down on us, we found ourselves reconsidering our choice to abandon the challenging ascent up the trail or remain in our current location. However,  the steepness of the path and the sweltering heat made us hesitant to embark on this challenging adventure. However, one of our group members, HB, decided to brave the odds and venture forth alone. With a sense of adventure in his eyes, he bid us farewell and set off on his solo expedition. Little did we know that his solo expedition would turn out to be an awe-inspiring tale of determination and breathtaking views.

As HB made his way up the trail, a 448-step zigzagging footpath carved through the bloodstone, rumored to be composed of rocks stained by the blood of Japanese soldiers from Corregidor, he soon realized the true magnitude of the challenge that lay ahead. Nevertheless, he persevered, taking short breaks to catch his breath and admire the panoramic views that unfolded before him.

photo source: tieza.gov.ph

As we stood on the elevated ground, our eyes caught sight of HB ascending to the summit of the hill. Excitement filled our hearts, prompting us to enthusiastically wave, clap, and call out to him. Our actions were an attempt to catch his attention and let him know that we could see him as he hiked up the trail. However, to our dismay, he remained oblivious to our presence. After seventeen minutes of trekking, he finally reached the summit of the iconic Mt. Samat Memorial Cross. 

As HB gazed upon the towering monument, he was filled with a profound sense of respect for the brave men and women who sacrificed so much during World War II. The sheer size of the structure left him in awe, and he couldn't help but feel humbled by its presence. The monument stands tall and proud, serving as a poignant reminder of the heroic deeds in the name of freedom.

The view from the summit of the Memorial Cross was nothing short of breathtaking. As HB looked out over the vast expanse of lush greenery and rolling hills, he felt a profound connection with nature. The serenity of the surroundings provided a much-needed respite from the physical exertion, allowing him to fully immerse himself in the beauty of the moment.

The exterior of the Cross is adorned with chipped granolithic marble, giving it a polished finish. The lower portion of the Cross, up to a height of 11 meters (36 feet), is embellished with sculptural slabs and relief artwork titled "Nabiag Na Bato," created by Abueva. This artwork depicts significant historical figures and events, including the execution of Jose Rizal, the bravery of Lapu-Lapu, and the valor of Antonio Luna.

photo source: tieza.gov.ph

The Shrine also boasts a remarkable colonnade, crafted from exquisite marble. Situated at its center is a magnificent altar, adorned with three captivating stained glass murals. Additionally, the walls of the colonnade proudly display engraved accounts of the historic war. Surrounding this awe-inspiring structure are 19 captivating sculptures, each telling its own story. Notably, the front side of the memorial proudly showcases the towering flag of the Philippines, symbolizing the nation's strength and resilience.

HB's adventurous spirit and determination were truly inspiring. Oh, how I longed to join him on this thrilling expedition! But alas, reality slapped me in the face like a wet towel. I had to admit my physical fitness was nowhere near HB's level of awesomeness.

And let's not even get started on the whole sweating situation. While HB appeared to be immune to perspiration, I, on the other hand, despised it with every fiber of my being. My body had a knack for perspiring at the mere thought of physical exertion. It was like my sweat glands had a mind of their own, constantly on the lookout for any opportunity to turn me into a human waterfall.๐Ÿ˜„๐Ÿ’ฆ

So, as much as I yearned to be a part of HB's adventure, I had to face the harsh reality that I was not cut out for such physical feats. But hey, that didn't mean I couldn't live vicariously through HB's tales of triumph and conquest. I found myself more inclined to be his number one cheerleader, supporting him from the cozy confines of my comfort zone, where I felt most at ease and a safe distance. 

And who knows, maybe one day I'll summon the courage to embark on my adventure, sweat and all. But for now, I'll happily let HB be the hero of this story, while I enjoy the thrill of his escapades from the sidelines. After all, not all heroes wear hiking boots, some prefer the power to empathize, to bring joy and laughter, or to provide comfort and support to others can be just as impactful as physical strength or bravery. Now, I must warn you, my dear readers. You simply must agree with me, or else... Hahaha! Just kidding! We're all friends here!  ๐Ÿค—๐Ÿ’™ 

As the time came for us to bid farewell to the shrine, a wave of emotions washed over me. As we descended the mountain and embarked on our journey back to Manila, my heart was heavy with a mix of emotions. The Mount Samat National Shrine left an indelible mark on me, reminding me of the importance of honoring and remembering the sacrifices of those who came before us. It was a place of reflection, a place where the past and present converged, and a place that would forever hold a special place in my heart

In the end, our visit to the Mount Samat National Shrine was not just a journey through history, but a journey of the soul. It was a reminder that freedom comes at a price and that we must never forget the valor and gallantry of those who fought for it.๐Ÿ’ช

Let us honor the memory of those who fought for our freedom by living our lives with purpose and gratitude.๐Ÿ’™ May their bravery inspire us to stand up for what is right and to never waver in the face of adversity.

๐Ÿ“Mount Samat National Shrine, Pilar, Bataan, Philippines

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