Sunday, May 18, 2014

Mount Samat: The Shrine of Valor

10 Day 10K Challenge: Pilar, BATAAN
Date: MAY 18, 2014

The Shrine of Valor, also known as the Mount Samat National Shrine in the province of Bataan, is just one of the memorials built as a remembrance to our brave Filipino veterans who fought for freedom during World War II. The shrine was constructed under President Marcos’s regime back in 1966 and presently stands as one of the most recognizable landmarks in Bataan. I will be climbing the mountain today and see the province’s beauty from above.

The gigantic cross at the top of Mount Samat

The entrance gate to the shrine
I left the province of Pampanga riding an airconditioned bus bound for Mariveles. We passed by the towns of Bacolor, Guagua, Lubao, and Floridablanca in Pampanga, before entering the border arch with Bataan. The first town we went through was Dinalupihan, and I was greeted by the World War II First Line of Defense Memorial as we crossed the highway intersection.

While checking out the view outside, I noticed that kilometer markers here looked different. Instead of yellow-colored ones, markers here were white, and engraved in these stones were a soldier who looked exhausted, and beneath the image was a sign which says “Death March,” and then the kilometer number. I checked my phone to see where I was because I might go beyond the jump-off point.

Random monument I found
A little later, passengers bound for Balanga started to descend the bus. What I know was that the jump-off point is just a few meters away, because I could see the mountain from where I was - however, I was clueless on where I should get off. I told the driver to drop me off near Mount Samat, and suddenly, the bus stopped. I didn’t know that we were already at the jump-off point, where a kilometer marker stood (KM 23). It was located beside the highway, right in front of a gasoline station.

Standing at a jeepney stop, I waited for a “Cabogcabog” bound jeepney – and it came just a few moments later. The fare from the highway to Mount Samat was P10, and the travel time was 11 minutes.  The driver dropped me off at the junction leading to the shrine, where a kilometer marker can be found (KM19), and a welcome arch stood and read “Dambana ng Kagitingan.” There were lots of tricycle drivers waiting at the junction, offering to take me to the top for P100. I opted to walk for 8 kilometers, and in my calculation, it would take me at least two hours to reach the summit.

Just 2 kilometers left!
The climb started at 12:01 in the afternoon. It was an easy trek at first because the surface I was on wasn’t inclined – yet. I was walking under the tree shadows to protect me from the sun. The trail going up was made of asphalt road and every tricycle driver that passed by kept on discouraging me – and offered me their costly ride. It was tempting because I was already tired, but I never listened to them and continued walking.

I took a break on every kilometer marker that I passed through, staying there for two minutes drinking water and resting my feet – and then, I would continue climbing right after. I could feel the exhaustion slowly creeping in as time went by, but as I came near the top, the feeling of agony turned into excitement. I can’t wait to reach Mount Samat’s peak because this will be my first time visiting it.

There were many ravines and zigzags that I had to go through before reaching the final kilometer marker, which said that I was only a kilometer away from the summit. I used all of my energy and endured the remaining assault, and at precisely 2:00 PM, I reached Mount Samat’s peak. This was the second mountain that I managed to scale (third if Mount Sungay in Tagaytay is included, which is called the People’s Park in the Sky today), and all the exhaustion I felt vanished when I saw the magnificent view from the top.

The view from the top of Mount Samat
Pay P20 at this gate and then enjoy the view inside
Before entering the complex, I had to pay for a P20 entrance fee, and then I headed straight to the viewing deck. The view was superb! I could see Manila Bay from a distance, as well as the West Philippine Sea and the towns of Bataan.

A giant structure made of white marble can be found near the viewing deck, and it was adorned with colorful stained glass. Inside the structure was a war museum, and tourists were free to go inside. I have to show my ticket to the security guard, and he told me that it was prohibited to take photos and videos inside.

The marble structure I was talking about
As I went down the rusty spiral staircase, I saw plenty of photos taken during the war, and there were different stories posted on the museum’s wall detailing the atrocities that the Japanese did to the Filipino people. There were also a number of artifacts inside, like the old artilleries, uniforms and personal valuables that the soldiers left behind. Located at the center of the museum was a scale model of Bataan where major battles were marked.

After the tour of the museum, I went outside and climbed all the way to the giant cross. There was a long line for those who wanted to go inside, and there was an additional P10 fee for using the elevator. I didn’t have much time to fall in line, so I just took some photos and videos and walked around the monument buying souvenirs and other stuff.

Entrance to the museum
The tour around the monument took me an hour and a half, and I decided to leave at 3:40 PM. This time, I opted to ride the tricycle back to the junction because I would run out of time if I walked. I handed my P100 fare to the driver, and he raced all the way down the mountain in a matter of 13 minutes. When we reached the junction, I waited for jeepneys bound to the next destination on my list which happened to be the province’s capital – the city of Balanga.

Second mountain conquered!
This post is part of my 10 Day 10K Challenge that took place between May 17-26, 2014. Read the first entry here. Read the post about the previous destination here. Proceed to the next destination here.

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