Monday, July 21, 2014

Weekend Road Trip to History: Bataan

Bataan is the peninsula which is found in the western part of Luzon. It has an astounding cultural and historical background, heritage and history. The province has attractive scenic view and enchanting natural landscapes that describe the wonders of the place. Beautiful mountain ranges, amazing waterfalls, magnificent green valleys, exotic world class beach resorts and a warm hospitality that is truly Filipino.It has so much to offer that it is one of the most popular tourist destination in the Philippines. The province provides the adventure seekers an interesting things to do because the place proves to be a tourist haven boasting a multitude of exciting places to visit.

Bataan was established in 1754 by Governor General Pedro Manuel Arandia out of territories belonging to Pampanga and the corregimiento of Mariveles, which at the time included Maragondon in Cavite across the bay. The province had more than its share of significant historical events. In 1647, Dutch Naval Forces attempting to invade the country perpetrated the Abucay massacre in one of its towns. In the late 1700s, the dreaded Chinese private Limahong used Lusong Point on the western sides as the landing place to launch his conquest of Luzon. In the Philippine Revolution of 1896, Bataan joined the other provinces in Luzon, which revolted against Spanish rule. It was during World War II, however, that Bataan attained prominence that would find its place in the annals of world history. Under heavy aircraft and artillery shelling from the invading Japanese forces, the beleaguered Filipino and American troops valiantly defended this last bastion until the "Fall of Bataan" on April 9, 1942.

Bataan is very significant in the Philippines History , it was among the first provinces to revolt against Spanish regime. Not only that in World War II, Bataan was the last line of defense against invading Japanese forces.

Packed with an overnight gear and right amount of cash to survive this weekend trip. The three of us hit the road to Bataan early morning of Saturday. Typhoon Glenda just passed by and we heard that Bataan was one of the places greatly hit by the storm. Nevertheless, we continued our quest to discover the place and relive history. We arrived passed 11 in the morning in Balanga. As soon as we set foot on the terminal, we looked for the nearest eatery to grab something to eat. Several  minutes passed , we found ourselves walking around the streets headed to the terminal bound for Cabog-Cabog, the starting point for Mt Samat. Roughly half an hour, we arrived at the junction and we started moving our way up to Mt Samat National Shrine.


When the heat of World War 2 finally reached the Pacific in 1941, some of the biggest battles were staged in the Philippines. And among these was the famous Battle of Bataan.

This major battle, fought by the invading Japanese Imperial army and the Allied forces of the US and Filipino soldiers in the Bataan Peninsula, took four months. It was valiant but futile fighting.

The final days of the battle took place in Mt. Samat when the defending Allied forces retreated into the mountain. The Japanese army under the command of General Homma then launched a systematic bombardment on Mt. Samat. Day and night, Mt. Samat received heavy bombings from above and ground, turning the mountain into an inferno. Eventually, the tired, sick and wounded Filipino and American soldiers hiding in Mt. Samat surrendered into the hands of the invaders. The date was April 9, 1942, known in history as the Fall of Bataan. Consequently, the surviving soldiers we're forced to march from Bagac, Bataan to Capas, Tarlac, the event we now know as the Bataan Death March.

After the war, a shrine (Dambana ng Kagitingan) was erected at the summit of Mt. Samat to commemorate those Filipino and American soldiers who fought valiantly during the World War 2. And that date that Bataan has fallen is now being celebrated as the Day of Valor (a National Holiday).

A sad story of how Bataan and the whole country has fallen into the hands of the Japanese, but at the same time, inspiring. My highest respect to our WW2 heroes.

We have read that the trek will take 2-3 hours and we are determined to trek all the way up. There were also tricycle driver offering a one way trip to the top at Php 100.00/person. Since we are really committed to our budget, we declined the offer. They even lowered it down to Php 60.00/person, thanks but no thanks. They also tried to threatened us that it’s a 7km walk and it may rain in no time.  We were so energized when we started and as we move higher, the trail is getting more difficult. We were more than 3kms from the starting point when we passed by the DENR Provincial Nursery. We intended to just rest but then we came across Tatay Dante. We asked if we can leave our things so it’s going to be easier for us to walk all the way up, and he agreed. We even asked if we can also take a bath to refresh once we get back.


Whew, it was such a relief to unload a heavy pack. We are still determined to reach the top of Mt Samat by foot. Several tricycle passed by and offered to take us to the top but we continued declining not until they lower the price to Php 20.00/person (eh gusto naming pahirapan sarili namin eh!) A mini van passed by and the kind driver allowed us to hitchhike for few meters.



Along the way, we came across bended trees, broken branches and more falling leaves as a result of the strong typhoon few days back. The power is not yet restored when we arrived.


We tried resting in every KM marker all the way up. No kidding when they said that it’s gonna take 2 hours to walk all the way up, yet we’re still determined to finish what we have started. 

We were seeing the cross from afar but why is it taking too long to land there? hehehe.. Though tired and exhausted from the hours of walking around uphill and zigzag roads with little rain showers, we manage to smile while taking this picture with the most important structure of Mt. Samat



After 2 hours when we finally reached the top of Mt Samat. We can already feel the cool wind welcoming us. Before heading to the entrance of the Shrine, we took some photos of the scenic view overlooking some place in Bataan. We paid Php 20.00 entrance fee and rested a bit in the nearby stall selling some goodies.  Then we started roaming the place.





Upon reaching the shrine complex, the first building that you would come across is the Colonnade. The walls of the marble-clad Colonnade houses stone inscriptions giving the history of the battle of Bataan with glass windows in the center. An esplanade is incorporated into the design. Around its base are 19 stone relief sculptures showing different scenes from the battle. There are also 18 plaques and flapless one for each of the 18 major units that found and died.



There is an easy to miss museum in the left end of the Colonnade with a small doorway. It was made known to us that there is one because the guard on duty looked for our tickets while we are taking pictures. The little doorway leads to a circular staircase that down the museum. It contains displays to the battle including maps showing the progress of the battle. Some equipment and arms. We are not allowed to take pictures, so we didn’t stayed long. Also, since there is no power, we won’t be able to appreciate the place so we decided to go out.


Behind the Colonnade is a foot path that leads up to the cross. The zigzag path is an excellent yet challenging exercise it displays different plant linings. Much of the path are paved in stones and taken from Corregidor Island.



At the base, the cross is covered with relieve statutes showing significant events in the military history of the Philippines. The park like area around the cross is great for relaxation and picnics as it promises a stunning view. Mount Samat is a dormant volcano and behind the cross is the rim of an ancient crater. A trip up the elevator to the arms of the cross gives outstanding views of the whole of Bataan Province, unfortunately we were not able to do so due to electricity disruption.  We just manage to enjoy the place, took some crazy photos and started our descent.






It was past 4 in the afternoon when we decided to go down. There were several tricycle drivers offering a ride for us but we managed to decline the offer. Going down should be faster and lot easier.  After more than an hour, we reached the DENR Nursery where we left our things. Rain started to pour so we decided to stay overnight. We asked Tatay Dante if it’s possible for us to stay and he agreed. We then freshen up and went to the junction to buy stuff for dinner.  We had some canned goods and grilled hotdog and ‘isaw’ for dinner.  After dinner, we had a little chit chat and we played around the lamp used to light the place. It was past 9 in the evening when I decided to call it a night. We need to wake up early, a long day of road trip to Morong is awaiting. More places to discover the next day.







3 AM when my alarm woke me. We prepared our breakfast and coffee to warm up past 5 in the morning when we started going down to the junction. Said to be that trips passes by every hour, we had to wait for next bus scheduled for Bagac. After roughly 30 minutes, we were boarded by a jeepney to Bagac. Our first destination was Las Casas Filipinas de Azucar. Along the way, the driver is giving us directions on how to go about roaming the place and tidbits about the history of Bataan


We walked few meters before we reached the entrance of Las Casas. The guards in uniform greeted us and gave us an inquiry slip. We were surprised about the rate. We thought it won’t reached Php 100.00 but it was Php 685.00 for the day tour. Disappointed but we managed to smile and took photos from the outside instead. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is an open-air museum and heritage park in Bagac, Bataan, Philippines. The resort's theme is "Pride in the past, hope for the future






After the quick trip in Las Casas we walked towards the KM 0 Death March Marker in Bagac. The marker commemorates the start of the infamous Death March that also marks the beginning of Japanese control of the country.






 Philippine-Japanese Friendship Tower is the monument symbolizes reconciliation, peace and friendship between the Philippines and Japan after World War II. Donated by the Japanese, it was built in 1952 by the Rissho Kosei Kai, a Japanese Buddhist sect.




We then headed to Stella Mariz Beach resort. We contacted them ahead of time to check if they will be able to accommodate us for an overnight camp before we head to Bataan. Apparently they are closed due to the typhoon. When we arrived, we can feel the devastation of the place, twigs and branches scattered all over and there’s no resort personnel to accommodate us. We didn’t have to pay for any entrance fee then. We had the resort all by ourselves on that day. The waves were huge, signs that we shouldn’t be getting into swimming mode. We just roam around and enjoyed the solace of the place.







Past 10 in the morning when we decided to leave the resort. We had to walk under the scorching heat of the sun as there were no available transportation around the place. 30 minutes of wandering in rocky and unfamiliar road, we finally reached the highway. We grab something to drink at the nearest store and waited for the bus bound for Morong. We waited and waited and waited until the utility van of globe passed by. We asked the driver if it’s fine to hitchhike and gladly he agreed. 10 minutes and we were dropped off again, we thanked the driver and waited for the bus to pass by again.




It’s almost lunch when we arrived in Morong Town Proper, we looked for Loleng's hu tieu-an, a humble roadside eatery run by a Filipina who used to work in a refugee camp, and has been delighting people with Vietnamese noodles for over 15 years.






Loleng’s hu tieu, or rice noodles in a golden brown pork broth, are tasty and affordable — a step up from the usual chicken mami, but at first glance isn’t really anything to write home about. However, what sets Loleng’s Hu Tieu-an apart from the other carinderias is the backstory behind each bowl of soup.


Behind each bowl of noodles

When refugees of the Second Indochina War (also known as the Vietnam War) came to the Philippines in the 1970s and 80s, the Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC) in Bataan was their last stop in a long and arduous journey. In fleeing Vietnam aboard small fishing vessels, the so-called “boat people” faced not only the natural dangers of the open sea, but threats from pirates who would board their boats, take their food and rape the women.


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The PRPC, opened in 1980, prepared the Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian refugees for repatriation to Western countries. It was like a city in itself. There were bunkhouses, schools, language centers where the refugees studied English, hospitals and markets employing Filipino workers, as well as places of worship for four religions.


When the last of the refugees left in the 1990’s, the PRPC fell into disrepair and closed. Today, it has been refurbished and is being used as a venue for corporate training; with a makeshift museum on the Indochina War and the refugees as a reminder of its past.


But this is not the only mark that the refugees have left on the place they once called home. The Vietnamese friends Loleng made at the camp taught her how to cook, and the recipes stayed with her long after they had left.


Loleng’s Hu Tieu-an opened in the 1990’s and gets its name from its most popular offering: Hu Tieu. The hearty noodle soup is thought to have originated from the ethnic Chinese settlers in Southeast Asia, which may explain why its golden brown broth is more savory than the traditionally Vietnamese pho.


Flavored with pork and topped with a handful of garlic and leeks, Loleng’s Hu Tieu is available with Vietnamese rice noodles (P50 a bowl) or plain noodles (P35). You can also try a Filipinized version of the classic Vietnamese sandwich banh mi (P30), which uses simple buns instead of the traditional French bread. Because of these tweaks to the Vietnamese recipes, Loleng is able to serve as many people as she can in the quiet province.


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There are also Filipino dishes in Loleng’s eatery, such as chicken mami, pancit palabok, and the “spabok”, or spaghetti noodles topped with pansit palabok sauce. On any given day, you’ll see groups of friends or families loading up their tables with a mix of Filipino and Vietnamese dishes.


After having a hearty lunch we then hired a tricycle to take us to Bataan Technological Park and Vietnamese Village.  We paid Php 100.00 each for this trip as it’s a bit far from the center and the driver has to wait for us. First stop was the Memorial Shrine of Blessed Pope John Paul II. It’s raining a bit hard so capturing moments here is quiet a challenge.




The Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC) was a large facility near Morong, Bataan, Philippines, which was used as the final stop for Indochinese refugees making their way to permanent resettlement in other nations.

Opened in 1980, PRPC was located to the south of Subic Bay and north of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. The camp prepared Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian refugees, including ethnic minorities (such as Chinese) from those three nations, for immigration to a variety of resettlement nations such as Canada, Norway, Australia,France, and primarily the United States.

We were taken to the village but all we saw were abandoned houses with scattered leaves everywhere. According to our guide the settlers here left sometime in 1996.









Bataan River


The Hanging Bridge


We left Bataan Province with Happy Smiles on the things we have relearned and relieved about our history. Also, some surprising places we never thought exist and were not part of the original plan. I personally managed to be within the budget as I just spent Php 1,067.00 for this trip.  I failed the Php 1000.00 challenge but the things I saw and discovered is beyond priceless. It feels good to always go back in time and appreciate the freedom I am experiencing through the heroes of the past. Going back home coming from Morong we took the SBMA Bound Bus and then head to Manila.

Visited Province Rank: #40

Date: July 19-20, 2014