MY BROTHER, Ben (who stays in Mariveles with his family), died recently. Several members of my family attended his wake and burial.
While there, we took a side trip to Mount Samat National Shrine or Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor), a historical sanctuary located in the town of Pilar, Province of Bataan. The drive from Mariveles to Mt. Samat was scenic and lushes of green surround the highway.
Built in 1966, the 73,665-ha memorial park complex was erected to honor and remember the chivalry of Filipino and American soldiers who fought during World War II. The shrine consists of a Colonnade and Memorial Cross.
The marble-clad Colonnade is surrounded by an esplanade which is replete with relief sculptures by National Artist Napoleon Abueva depicting war scenes and heroes. Under the Colonnade lies a simple yet historical War Museum. It showcases a collection of paintings, photographs of the Philippine champions and actions, and armaments used by the Filipino, American and Japanese forces.
My most interesting highlight is the huge diorama of Bataan depicting the events during WWII. Although the museum was educational, I still felt a chill.
Behind the colonnade is the white Memorial Cross which stands as a tribute to the combatants who lost their lives in the Battle of Bataan. It is a towering structure made of steel and reinforced concrete with a lift and viewing gallery at the Cross’s arms. The height is 95-m, with arms measuring 30-m across (15 on each side). The base is capped with slabs also sculpted by Abueva.
Did you know that this cross is the second largest in the world? The biggest is in Valle de los Caidos (El Escorial, Spain). Unfortunately, the elevator going up the cross was closed for maintenance. From this point is a 360-degree panoramic view of Bataan, Corregidor Island, and on a clear day, the city of Manila situated about 50-km across Manila Bay. Overall, it was a wonderful place to visit but proper maintenance of the area is inadequate.
Mt. Samat is a must-try road trip, not just for family and friends but for everyone to appreciate these significant and sacred grounds. Going to the shrine was a moving experience. I couldn’t help but feel emotional, sad, yet proud at the same time, for the valor and gallantry of all the fighters who died in this historic stronghold of freedom.