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Mt. Samat: Best History Side Trip When in Bataan

Scultures at the base of the cross in Mt. Samat National Shrine
After our uneventful summer outing cum teambuilding at Montemar Beach Resort, we came to see that famous World War II historical Cross in Bataan – the Shrine of Valor in Mt. Samat. It was a planned quick stop over, for a bit of history and selfies, since the shrine was just less than an hour drive from Montemar.

I tried sleeping on our way going to Mt. Samat, but my quick siesta was cut-off when I felt that sudden tingling sensation on my ears, like that funny feeling inside a plane taking-off. I looked outside, saw our bus struggling the winding road upward and realized we are gaining elevation – so I just rolled over and nibble on some Boy Bawang.
Sometimes, historical trips are quite boring right? Upon our arrival, I lazily go outside, inspect the area, immediately noticed that horrible thing they did to Mt. Samat – they cemented portions of it. Well, that is an unavoidable nature-against-history sacrifice for that important shrine, I guess.

The fog was slowly creeping as I walked towards the Dambana ng Kagitingan. I was a bit frustrated because I can’t get a clear shot of that famed Cross. Hoping that the fog would clear up later, I then just decided scouting some secluded area to pee.

A bit of history

Memorial Cross Dambana ng Kagitingan Towering against the fog
The Memorial Cross is a towering structure at the highest point of Mount Samat, 555 m above sea level. The monument is made of steel and reinforced concrete.

Located on the summit of Mt. Samat is a towering 92 meter-high Cross - the Shrine of Valor in Mt. Samat or the Dambana ng Kagitingan, built to commemorate the soldiers of the Battle of Bataan. It honors the Filipino people’s bravery and heroism, as well as historical bond that ties the Filipinos and the Americans who struggled during that dark hours of the history.

Wall insciptions about the Battle of Bataan inside the shrine Colonade.
Inscribed in marble on the two lateral walls inside the Colonnade is a narrative of the “Battle of Bataan”
Historical accounts narrate that 78,000 exhausted, sick and starving men under Major General Edward P. King surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942 and was considered as the single largest surrender of U.S. soldiers ever recorded in history. The Filipino and American soldiers were then led on to march more than a hundred kilometers from Bataan to Tarlac — the infamous Death March.

The shrine, conceived by then president Ferdinand Marcos in 1966 was completed and inaugurated in 1970, to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the end of World War II.

The Shrine complex is part of Barangay Diwa in Pilár, Bataan.

The Shrine of Valor

The Colonade and the Memorial Cross of the Shrine of Valor in Bataan
In the centre of the Colonnade is the altar, behind which are three religious stained glass murals designed by Cenon Rivera and executed by Vetrate D'Arte Giuliani of Rome, Italy.

Finally, the fog slightly cleared up and I was instantly amazed by the awesome sight of the shrine.

Philippine Flag waving against the towering Cross
God Bless the Philippines : from the parking lot, a wide three series of steps that narrows to the top lead visitors to the flagpole that holds the flag of the Philippines.

I was dwarfed by the Colonnade serving as the entrance going up the Memorial Cross. Entrance to the Colonnade is series of wide stairs leading up to the altar. 

Four large bronze chandeliers hanging from the ceiling
Blue Chandeliers against the white marbles
Inside the Colonnade is the altar, behind which are religious stained glass murals. Four large bronze blue chandeliers hang from the ceiling, while inscribed in marble on the two lateral walls of the Colonnade is a narrative of the “Battle of Bataan.”

Philipine flag waving the the Shrine of Valor Dambana ng Kagitingan
Waving high and proud
Outside the Colonnade is the Philippine flag waving proud and high as if depicting peace and freedom. 

Amazing floor art design and patterns at the Colonnade
Can you decode the secret message?
I'm instantly amazed by the puzzle-like design of the Colonnade's floor. It was like there is some hidden Katipunero's secret message or codes in it.  
Zigzagging steps going up the Memorial Cross
Zigzag steps going up the Memorial Cross
Going up the Memorial Cross is not that quick. You'll have to go through the zigzagging steps going upward. It's quite tiring but I definitely enjoyed the short trek.

Dambana ng Kagitingan Colonnade
The Colonnade
Halfway through the zigzagging steps, I got a full view of the rectangular Colonnade below. Too bad it was foggy that afternoon, hence I can't see the surrounding towns of Bataan which I'm sure would be astounding. 
Sculptures at the base of the Memorial Cross Shrine of Valor
"Nabiag na Bato"
Upon reaching the Memorial Cross, I was instantly filled with awe, not only with the magnificence but also with the artistic exterior of the Cross. The base of the Cross are magnificently filled with intricate sculptures designed by renowned sculptor Napoleon Abueva. 

Sculptures called the Nabiag na Bato at the base of the Memorial Cross at Mt. Samat
Sculpture depicting "Sandugo" or blood compact
Sculpture depicting the execution of Jose Rizal
The execution of Jose Rizal
I later find out that these sculptural slabs and relief is titled "Nabiag Na Bato" which depicts important historical figures and events like the execution of Jose Rizal, Lapu-Lapu and Antonio Luna.
Queue of tourists outside the Memorial Cross Entrance
Elevator queue
You can actually go inside the Cross which has an elevator inside. The elevator brings the visitors to the 5.5 by 27.4 meters viewing gallery situated on the Cross’ 30-meter arm, but I decided not to try it due to the very long queue of tourists and I thought it was foggy so all I can see up there are fogs.

Carved doors going inside the Memorial Cross
Intricate carvings at the door depicting history of Philippine Revolution

Worth it

So after visiting Bataan’s killer beaches, attending the Pawikan Festival, a climb at Mt. Natib or a refreshing swim at the Paskulan and Duskulan Falls don’t forget to drop by and do a quick WWII history side trip here at Mt. Samat, it’s worth it.

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