Category Archives: Travel

Araw ng Kagitingan 2015: Remembering Our Fallen Heroes of Bataan and Corregidor

On this ground, gallant men chose to die rather than surrender.

-Mount Samat Memorial Shrine Colonnade Wall

April 9, 1942. Prisoners of War (POW). World War 2. Death March. Bataan and Corregidor – These are just some important notes I remember having to memorize for our graded recitation in my Araling Panlipunan highschool class.

But for many of our fellowmen, April 9, 1942 was a traumatic detail in our history that not even a lifetime could forget. Memories of the World War 2 were tarnished with too much blood and tears. This week, we commemorate the gallantry our soldiers when they fought against the Japanese invaders, 73 years ago.

History tells us that, among the neighboring Southeast Asian countries that were part of the Japanese invasion, the Philippines was the last to surrender to the Japanese – Bataan and Corregidor surrendered on April 9 and May 6, 1942 respectively.

A few months prior to the historical fall of Bataan, the troops retreated to Pilar, a town within the province. The soldiers were steadfast in fighting the Japanese ’til the very end. But after three months of fighting, the 75,000 starving, exhausted soldiers surrendered to the Japanese, and it was the single largest surrender ever recorded in US history.

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The lateral walls of the Colonnade narrate the story of the Battle of Bataan, which was engraved on the marble wall.

On 9 April 1942, at high noon, Major General Edward P. King, Jr., Senior American Officer on the battle-torn peninsula surrendered the Bataan forces. The infamous Death March began an ordeal which annealed the Filipino Spirit.

-Mount Samat Memorial Shrine Colonnade Wall

The Bataan Death March began in Mariveles, Bataan, where the POWs were forced to take an 80-mile march to Capas, Tarlac. Many of the soldiers who suffered to keep up were beat up, bayoneted, or shot. Others died of extreme exhaustion, starvation and/or disease. For the rest of the survivors, their horrific experiences felt much worse than death.

Today, we know Mount Samat National Shrine or the Dambana ng Kagitingan in Pilar, Bataan to be a tourist destination among locals and foreigners, especially during the summer. Back then, I knew very little about its historical importance. In fact, despite several pictures being uploaded via social media for the past four years, I’d believed Mount Samat was a local church because of the monumental cross built near its summit. I’d never really bothered to learn anything more about it until my friends and I randomly decided to visit it early last year.

From the foot of Mount Samat leading up to the entrance of the shrine, we carpooled via a pickup truck, which took us about 15 minutes. When we arrived, we were greeted by a grand staircase leading up to the flagpoles. I was surprised and felt that I was under-dressed for what was ahead. Since we came from a swimming party, most of us were only wearing slippers. It was dangerous, but it didn’t stop us from taking the foot path. Good thing I packed some H2O, a change of clothes and a towel because it was especially hot. About 75% of the Mount Samat experience instantly became a cardio workout for me.

Here are some shots captured by my phone camera:

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Ang Dambana ng Kagitingan, also called the Mount Samat National Shrine. In the US, Illinois also commemorates the American troops who participated in the Battle of Bataan, although they commemorate it by holding ceremonies and parades every September.
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This chandelier piece within the war museum was the only photo I took while I was inside (since the place was offlimits to shutterbugs like me). It houses various paintings of our heroes and armaments the soldiers used during the battle.
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The view of the towering Bataan Memorial Cross taken from the foot path. The cross measures 92 meters from its base. An elevator leads you up to the arms of the cross. Each arm, measuring 15 meters, offers beautiful panoramic view of Bataan.
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The details of the Memorial Shrine was a design of Lorenzo del Castillo and landscaped by Dolly Quimbo-Perez. National Artist Napoleon Abueva and Cenon Rivera also contributed to its architecture.
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The windows from up above. This window is placed at the edge of one arm within the Memorial Cross (although I forget which side). The arms of the cross are about 72 feet above its base. Thousands of selfies and groufies have been snapped beside this window.

The entire experience atop Mount Samat offered me some moments to meditate and learn more about its historical importance to me as a Filipino, and it seemed that the winds up there were gently persuading me to do so. Reflect. This shrine complex was built as a reminder of a very critical moment in our history – at a time our fellowmen had nothing left but resilience, courage, and willingness to sacrifice their lives for the country. It was their destiny, and they embraced it in all hopelessness. While my friends and I constantly whined about the flights of stairs we had to climb, I also realized that our petty complaints were nothing compared to the 130-kilometer march our soldiers endured. So many lives were lost. Souls were crushed. The footprints and blood trails may be gone, but their collective selflessness will forever be marked in every Filipino calendar.

Speaking of Filipino calendars, it was only in 1961 when April 9 was officially made a holiday. The Congress at the time used to refer to it as Bataan Day. In 1987, it was renamed Araw ng Kagitingan to commemorate the fall of Bataan and Corregidor. Two years later, Proclamation 466 was declared to honor the World War 2 and Philippine veterans. The nation is called to observe Veterans Week from April 5 to 11 every year.

During his time, Former President Ferdinand Marcos commissioned the establishment of the Dambana ng Kagitingan on Mount Samat to honor the gallantry of our Philippine and American soldiers who fought during the war. Although it took some time to finish, the monument was completed just in time for the 25th Araw ng Kagitingan anniversary.

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Our mission is to remember. Remember.

Let friend and foe recognize the martial spirit that defeat could not break. To the memory of these brave warriors whose blood soaked every rock of this land so that this nation might endure, this humble shrine is consecrated.

-Mount Samat Memorial Shrine Colonnade Wall

So while you take a break this weekend, instead of going to a mall, why not consider spending some time to visit the Dambana for an opportunity to learn about and remember our history?

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I hope this experience will educate and inspire you the way it has renewed and uplifted the Filipino in me.

Care to share your journey to Mount Samat with us? Leave a comment below.

Reverb Manila