Three ladies from Manila had no idea where to alight from a crowded jeep bound to Cabog-cabog. As a concerned traveler, who did a research prior to my trip, I interrupted their conversation. I said that we were getting near the jump-off point to Dambana ng Kagitingan, also called as Mt Samat Shrine. They just looked at me and thanked for the unsolicited information I provided. They had no idea that it was also my destination on that Saturday morning.
Excited to get out of the jam-packed jeepney, I notified the driver that someone will be going down in Diwa for the Dambana ng Kagitingan. The uninformed ladies went down first. They immediately crossed the hi-way and negotiated a tricycle driver who was waiting for tourists. I was about to ask them if they were willing to accommodate me in their group for me to save some bucks from the fare, but they instantly notified their driver to leave.
There I was, a lone traveler left by disobliging tourists, finding ways on how to continue to my next destination. This led to several drivers offering me different rates that would bring me to the national park. I declined their offers and hoped for some generous vehicles that will allow me to hitch. This was my plan and the other option was to trek for almost two hours. I surrendered and just availed the least painful way, the rate being offered by the drivers.
Rate per person is at Php200 and the tricycle could accommodate up to 2, 3 still acceptable. The kind driver offered me his service at Php300 and that was a hundred less for me. He brought me to the gate to settle the Php30 entrance fee. I was about to start walking towards the national shrine when he called me to go back on his motorcycle. He mentioned that there’s an access road that could bring me directly to the base of the big cross.
For almost a decade ago, I was on that same spot, staring at the structure that is about 60 times my height. Last time I was here was during a college field trip. But on my revisit, I was alone, appreciating every detail of the memorial that was built to remember the bravery of the Filipino and American soldiers who offered their lives during World War II.
The monumental cross stands out from the vivid blue skies of Bataan. The base of the cross still has the tableau of historical events happened in the past. Everything was still intact except for one thing, the elevator was temporarily closed for tourist. It was disheartening not to pursue my goal on that trip, to reach the cross’ arms to see an aerial view of Bataan and two major bodies of water; the West Philippine Sea, and the Pacific Ocean.
On a bright day, try to look up at the cross and feel that it’s falling towards you. It was the same eerie illusion that unease us during our first visit to the shrine. The dupe feeling will be exaggerated especially when cottony clouds move over the cross.
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A walkway from the cross to the colonnade is available for everyone. The zigzag path on the slope utilized bloodstones from Corregidor Island. People say that the stones used to pave the path have bloodstains from the soldiers who perished during the death march. However, I’m not sure how truthful is the statement.
View of the vast plains of Central Luzon with the colonnade and Philippine flag swaying in mid-air will stop from walking down the footpath. On the walls of the Esplanade are the narrations of the Battle of Bataan while at the middle is an altar with three stained glass murals. The ground still has some of the artilleries used during the war and more can be seen inside the war museum.
After an hour of exploring the shrine, I decided to go back to the highway and to Balanga City. When I was about to ride the tricycle, the driver of the ladies talked to my driver and told that he thought I was with them. He even said that I should’ve joined them for me to lessen the cost. It was just funny to know that locals were more selfless than tourists who just aim to take selfies on destinations.
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Sure it was a meager moment to remember the bravery of the soldiers who fought for my country during World War II. Nonetheless, it was enough to know more about the past and thanked these courageous folks for a great job they did. The short visit was not only spent recalling historical events but also marveling at the arts incorporated in some parts of the shrine.
HOW TO GET TO DAMBANA NG KAGITINGAN
Ride a bus bound to Balanga or Mariveles, Bataan. Fare is Php210 from Pasay to Balanga City and travel time about 4-5 hours. Take a tricycle to Balanga Terminal and catch a jeepney bound to Cabog-cabog, fare is Php18 and around 25 minutes of travel. From Diwa Junction, you can charter tricycles to the shrine at Php400 per tricycle.