Mount Samat Adventure

To be all the way up Mount Samat National Shrine’s apex, to be inside its cross, is a culmination of a dream. A line off our bucketlist checked. And as we stood there, we the Villa Juanita Rides Club peered hard, looking through its narrow windy windows if we could somehow get a glimpse of our own home, right from the cross that can be seen from ours.

The marble-clad colonnade of the shrine, replete with embossed sculptures by National Artist Napoleon Abueva depicting war scenes and bronze insignias of the USAFFE, were filled to bursting with people—mostly students and young folks, taking their sweet time celebrating the ongoing festivities and basically just hanging around.

From this vantage, the iconic cross closely associated with the province was almost within reach.

Dubbed as one of the largest crosses in the world and the first in Asia, Mt. Samat National Shrine is a Philippine pride. If foreigners are itching to step on this mountain, Filipinos should too. Foreign tourists spend money on visa and passport just to be in Mt. Samat Shrine.  Sadly, some Filipinos are not even aware of this Philippine pride.  This summer is a perfect time to visit this attractive spot.

Most elderly would say “huwag basta isusuko ang Bataan.” Studying Philippine history would orient us that Filipino and American soldiers during the World War II managed to fight the Japanese for three months.  This long engagement cost the Japanese valuable time, therefore prevented them abrupt victory across the Pacific.

The Bataan Shrine was dedicated to the fallen Filipino and American warriors who valiantly fought against the Japanese troop during the World War II. This alone made Mt. Samat Shrine a perfect place for educational tours for students and travelers alike.

The Philippines was a nation in the thick of World War II. Then an American colony, the Philippines was attacked by Japanese forces on Dec. 8, 1941, barely a day after Pearl Harbor. In less than a month, Manila was declared an open city on Jan. 2, 1942. However, Filipino and American forces held on, and from February onwards, the battle lines were drawn for the final stand in Bataan.

The ensuing “Battle of Bataan” lasted for three months. Finally, on April 9, 1942, 75,000 Filipino and American soldiers surrendered and although exhausted, they were forced to march the 140-km road from Mariveles, Bataan all the way to Capas, Tarlac. Thousands died en route from disease, starvation, dehydration, heat prostration, untreated wounds, and wanton execution. Those who were left behind continued to defend the island of Corredigor in one final stand, finally giving up only in May 6, 1942 – the last stand of freedom in the Philippines and Southeast Asia.

The Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) in Mt. Samat was erected to commemorate the Battle of Bataan. The 92-meter high cross, known as the ‘Bataan Cross’, is a commemmoration of a people’s bravery and heroism, as well as the historical ties that bind Filipinos and Americans who fought alongside each other in that dark hour of history.
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