|Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) built in the summit of Mount Samat in Pilar Bataan|
The large cross atop the mountain of Samat in Pilar, Bataan was one of my childhood’s curious questions when I got the chance to see it from the foot of the mountain in a road trip going to beaches in Bagac. Back then, I thought that there was a great reenactment of Passion of The Christ every Holy Week in that location because of that symbolic cross. It was in my grade school class when I knew that the place has a historical significance, the cross is part of the shrine built on top of the mountain to give tribute to the valor of Filipino and American soldiers who fought against the Japanese during World War II.
More than 10 years after, a work colleague invited me along with my other office friends in her hometown Orani, Bataan. Since we are going to Bataan, the group decided to include hiking in Mt. Samat to add some adventure in our long weekend.
To dedicate a whole day trip to Mt. Samat Shrine, we slept over in my colleague’s place in Tagumpay, Orani. We started our trip the following day. We reached the foot of Mt. Samat after one and a half hour travel from Orani. (please see complete instructions below on how to travel from Manila to Mt. Samat, Bataan)
|Jeepney ride from Balanga Transport Terminal to Mt. Samat and Diwa intersetion|
Riding the tricycle going up is expensive(100pesos/person), so as planned we walked the road to the top and took shortcuts known by my colleague, serving as our tour guide.
|Foot of Mt. Samat|
The first few minutes of walking was full of talks, jokes, mixed with the admiration to the forest of Mount Samat. As we continue, tricycles coming from above are offering us a ride but we kept on declining believing that the walk uphill was a challenge that we could easily survive. Everyone was equipped with bursting energy and determination that we would make it with lesser effort and time as we have someone in our group who already knows the shortcuts bypassing the long curves of the road.
|Barbecue sticks along the road made by the local residents|
The first shortcut that we took was about 400 meters. It was filled with trees and stones, and there are trail marks showing the way to the exit point.
The next alternate route we took which supposedly should be shorter was a tragedy. At first we were traversing clear trails, we were looking forward to a clear point which could be a sign of exit point to the road. For 20 minutes our “looking forward” state remained as it was. We continued walking the steep and rocky spaces of the forest until we reached and faced a wide open area filled with high grasses and talahib which caused thin wounds to the legs and arms of most of us. At that moment, we realized that we were already led astrayed. We decided to climbed down until we reached the entrance point to that shortcut. Lesson learned, 1. Do not enter a shortcut unless you are 100% sure of its trails, 2. Wear pants when hiking in forest or grass fields.
That “second shortcut?” has consumed most of our energy and time. Almost everyone got tired and thirsty. The fresh and high spirited hikers have vanished. For a while, we sat and rested in ground to regain the energy lost. We still had a long lane to travel, so we continued walking and decided to have short rests every 10 minutes.
|The group took the wrong shortcut way and reached the other summit of Samat, an unforgettable experience|
Thanks to the couple who let us get a hitch in their car in the middle of the road. We reached the shrine after three hours of. As an entrance fee, each person paid 20 pesos. It was already lunch time so we decided to fill in our hungry stomach and quench our thirst with the meals prepared in Orani. Stores selling food and drinks are available in the foot and at the top of the mountain. As expected, prices at the top are expensive.
After recharging, we immediately started the tour with a visit in the shrine’s Colonnade. The colonnade is composed of an altar at the center covered with marble, religious stained glass murals, walls covered by maps and historical inscriptions of the Battle of Bataan, bronze urns, and chandeliers hanging on the ceiling. Overall, the colonnade is an architectural work of art.
|Historical Scriptures about the Battle of Bataan on the wall of Colonnade|
To reach the cross you have to take the stairs behind the colonnade. The climb might be a bit long but it helped us to be refreshed with the air coming from trees surrounding the area. The cross is a 92 meters high structure equivalent to 32 storeys with the extending wings 15 meters each.
|Murals at the foot of the Cross|
|Samat Shrine was built under the administratin of Former President Ferdinand Marcos to commemorate the heroism and valor of Filipino soldiers.|
Visitors of the shrine are allowed to enter and go up the arms of the cross through an elevator ride worth 10 pesos. Inside the arms of the cross, you will find seats facing the window where you will get to see a breath taking view of Bataan and its another historical island, Corregidor. One of the most favorite picture spots of the visitors is the circular window located at both ends of the arms.
|Interior of the cross|
March to the Shrine
1. From Manila to Bataan
At Cubao terminal, ride Bataan Transit bound for Balanga Public Transport Terminal. Fare is 200 pesos/person. Travel time is around 2 hours and 30 minutes. First Trip is 1:00AM; Last trip is 11:00PM; 15 minutes interval. Or,
At Avenida terminal, ride Bataan Transit bound for Balanga Public Transport Terminal. Fare is 200 pesos/person. Travel time is around 2 hours and 30 minutes. First Trip is 2:00AM; Last trip is 9:30PM; 20 minutes interval.
2. From Balanga Terminal to Diwa Intersection
Ride the jeep going to Cabog-Cabog and get out of the car when you reach the Diwa and Mt. Samat intersection which is the foot of the mountain. Fare is 17pesos/person. Travel time is 20 minutes. First trip is 6:00AM; Last Trip 8:00PM. Jeepney travel will not start until it is fully loaded with passengers.
3. From Diwa Intersection to Shrine
There is a tricycle terminal in the foot of Mt. Samat but they will ask 100pesos/person for for a one-way trip fare. Travel time is about 30 minutes. If you dedicate your whole day to the shrine trip, you can also try walking the 7km road and take shortcut routes from the foot to the top. Walking will take approximately 2 hours and this will let you appreciate and get to know the forest of Mt. Samat. If you are lucky, there are generous travelers with their own cars who are willing to accommodate you going up the mountain.
4. Going Down and Back to Manila
If you are already tired after the tour in the shrine, tricycles are also available at the top of the mountain. Asking price for fare is the same and travel time will be 30minutes or faster. On the other hand, going down to the foot by walking is much easier and faster as compared to going up. Walking this time would take 1hour and 30 minutes.
At the Diwa intersection, there are jeepney/buses passing by going to Balanga. There are buses (Genesis or Bataan Transit) in Balanga Transport Terminal bound to Manila.