A Day in Bataan.

                Bataan, a peninsula 128 kilometers northwest of Manila. A province renowned for its infamous Death March. An inflicted and war crippled silent witness to the atrocity of the Japanese forces in the second World war in the Pacific and became the final stand of our beloved Valiant soldiers and allies before facing their cruel defeat.

70 years past and Bataan is now beginning to face its gleaming future, liberating itself from the horrors of its unforgivable past.

I started to cradle this special interest in World war II related stories during my college years, the aftermath and the horror it brought to “The golden generation” and their descendants have somehow led me to thoroughly study their lives during the siege and the liberation and everything in between.

I always have the best and precious moments every time I listen to my lola’s stories as she recounts the gravity of the war so great yet so devastating.

Those stories were once deemed as set of lullabies that made me dream t of ships, of war machine, of air crafts, and the absence of peace in contrast. Every spoken words then was coated in full color, yet vague in my childhood memories.

My fascination about BATAAN has tremendously grew over time and with the help of  the internet (travel blogs), exploring Bataan became more of a reality.

Came Sunday morning, and what I have with me were my ever reliable backpack, tripod, a DIY (Do it yourself) itinerary based on internet research, and a handful of hope, a promise of collecting new stories and exploring my self even better after the trip. And when everything’s set, off I went.

I rode a five star bus plying Orani, Balanga (five star terminal is located in Cubao, fare at 200php dropping off Balanga terminal. While on the bus, I was praying and hopeful that the Lord will bring the sunshine back, because all through out the trip, the gleaming sun was no where in sight, only the gloomy sky and the moderate rainfall, blurring the view from the window seat. Time logged at 9:30am.

Here are some of the photos taken while on the road.

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After traveling for 3 hours, I arrived at the Balanga bus terminal. And men the Fresh air. Sweet Fresh air welcomed me as I stroll around the terminal, making me energized to jump start my day trip in Bataan.:))

I was surprised when I saw a familiar logo as I walked a few steps away from the bus terminal, and as I took a closer look at it, indeed it was close to my heart. it’s the COP LOGO! Just a few steps from the terminal and I have already found the old Cathedral Of Praise’s Bataan. Can’t wait to discover more.

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time check- 12:30 pm, I only have 5hours at most to visit the landmarks that I am planning to check. So larga na!

First stop,

St Joseph Cathedral

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From the bus terminal, I rode a tricycle going to the Balanga Church ( Also known as St Joseph Cathedral), it is only less than a hundred meters away from the bus terminal, but because the rain had started again, I had no choice but to take the ride. I paid 15php for the service and immediately went inside the church’s gate.

There were two doors as I went inside the gate, the main door and the door on the side of the church,  I went straight to the latter as it was the closest to me that time, Got stuck though as the door I have chosen was closed that time. So I settle there as I wait for the rain to halt its pouring mercy.

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DSC_0329I was entertained though by watching these Sampaguita vendors as they goofed around a  Japanese tourist.

and as the tourist went inside the church through the main door, I became an easy target of these two kiddie vendors. I bought a string of Sampaguita then followed the tourist as he went inside the church.

Here’s what I’ve seen inside:

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During the Japanese Invasion, the cathedral was used as an artillery emplacement to bombard Mt. Samat where the Filipino-American troops gave their last stand. It was later renovated by the first bishop of the Diocese, His excellency Bishop Celso Guevarra DD and made its patron saint, Saint Joseph.

Robinsons Galleria Victoria Mall

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then from the church’s window, I saw this unusual structure, at first I thought it was also a church or an annex or a structure resembling such, but I was surprised when I asked a vendor and told me that it was a mall. Their city’s Robinson branch mall.

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( it wasn’t painted yet during my trip, I like it that way though, very elegantly raw.)

I like the proximity of their landmarks/Historical grounds from one another. You have a then japs occupied church, a soon to be installed dancing fountain in Plaza de Mayor, the City Hall, a well decorated mall with elusive architectural flare, the statue of the “little bad boy” Rizal and the 44 kilometer death march marker. a refreshing sight of concrete progress and heroic past rolled into one well planned square.

was really impressed with the beauty of their city square, but quite disappointed as realizations popped inside my head soon after. I dunno, it just hit me, Manila would have been a Paris like capital if only given this same kind of restoration and importance. A true blooded old city 400 years in existence dreaming side by side with its millions of urban souls, men, she deserves a massive facelift, old glory days..(Hashtagsorryforventingout)

Back to my day trip, I went inside the mall, stroll for a while, ate my meryenda then went outside, rest for a while as I make myself ready for my next destination, the Filipino Japanese Friendship Tower located In Bagac.

From the plaza facing the church, I walked straight to the Bataan terminal mall (which I’ve already passed by earlier when I rode the tricycle going to the church),  I  find it interesting that there were many Jeepneys and buses inside the terminal, servicing more than 6 destination within the province proper. Quite confused, I asked a barker on how to get to Bagac, where the Filipino Japanese monument is situated along the JJ Linao road, he escorted me to the line of Morong-bound minibuses. Paid 65php for the fare and jumped in (of course I immediately chose the window seat, as always.)

Going to bagac via minibus was one heck of a ride, a wet and wild road trip that is! We passengers experienced a free shower spree as the minibus plunged its way to the wet and winding road of JJ Linao road heading Bagac.

The Minibus Experience

take a look on how awesome the views were while on the minibus:

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I spotted the battle of Toul Pocket marker while traversing the road off Bagac (after familiarizing myself with important landmarks in Bataan through internet, I immediately recognized it, the bus was so fast though that I missed the millisecond chance of taking some photos of it.)

heavy fighting took place in this area resulting from enemy infiltration to the rear prior to the deployment of troops on Pilar-Bagac line on the last week of January 1942. The enemy was pocketed and the ensuing engagement became known as the battle of Toul pocket.

And After almost an hour,

Japanese Philippine Friendship Tower in Atilano Ricardo, Bagac.

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The Risho Kosei Kai Group from Japan built this monument tower on April 8, 1975 to be a peace offering, and also to symbolize man’s quest for peace. The tower was dedicated to those who suffered and died in World War II, telling the world that from this hallowed ground people have taken the first steps toward world peace. It is a towering symbol that after the war, there is a period of reconciliation, peace, and friendship between the two countries.

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This tower was built by Japanese Buddhists with the cooperation of the Province of Bataan as a symbol of Filipino-Japanese Friendship. The tower holds a buddhist bell with inscriptions in three languages: Nippongo, Tagalog and English. Likewise, the narrative markers are in three languages.

I had a lot of time taking pictures of the Japanese Philippine Friendship Tower especially taking a lot of selfies with it’s bell. I enjoyed the cool wind, the verdant scenery along the road, and the silvery asphalt road, reflecting the blurred ash colored sky above. ( tripod is a big help when traveling alone.)

I am having a great time there when I remember that the zero kilometer marker is just close to the tower, so I rode a tricycle and told the driver to take me off the zero kilometer marker, (fare at 10php per person) took some photos and asked him if he can also bring me to the nameless statue along the road, it’s  a statue of a bayonet thrust to the ground with a helmet symbolically slung over the riffle butt. ( which was also a walking distance from the marker.)DSC_0658DSC_0663

There are actually two zero kilometer markers in Bataan, the first one is in Bagumbayan, Bagac (where the above pictures were taken ). the other one is in Mariveles, Bataan where it marked the start of the “March of Death” of the Filipino and American soldiers in 1942, going to camp O’ Donnell in Capas, Tarlac.

it’s a saddening, but refreshing feeling out there, knowing that this is the same path that these nameless valiant heroes suffered and died made this experience piercingly exceptional.

because I am pressed against time and the weather wasn’t that friendly even (the sky was getting dimmer and dark clouds were starting to hover the sunless sky.), I decided to cut my trip short. so after visiting the friendship tower and the zero kilometer death march marker,

and being forewarned about the transportation conundrum that will rise due to the bad weather, I jumped on the first Balanga bound minibus that passed by. Paid the bus fare (I forgot how much it was) and made myself cramped inside that four wheeled semi sardines can.

And the dilemma that sprouted wasn’t just about the torturing “standing room only” stint while on the bus, but if I’ll just stay safe until the bus halt in the integrated terminal or if Ill still visit the Balanga tourism center which was just along roman Superhighway.

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But as soon as I saw the Balanga city proper welcome arch, I made up my mind. I chose to latter (it’s part of the adventure, a safe adventure that is) told the driver to drop me adjacent to the tourism center.  I was about to cross the street when suddenly the sky was pouring with rain so I ran the best I could to the tourism center before the rain give me an unsolicited bath.

 

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Last stop was at the Bataan tourism center in Balanga, which reminded me of the Eco living center in Nuvali, Sta Rosa Laguna.

Soon as I get to the center, manong guard greeted me and opened the door for me. The officers welcomed me and told me to sign on their logbook then toured me inside the showrooms.

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The center housed a life-size diorama and some memorabilia of the tragic death march and other world war II related articles. they also have a souvenir shop inside.

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Just thinking of how the people withstand, some perished, some survived that tragic march made me realized how blessed this country is, for we have brave and freedom loving countrymen who fought and gave their lives to let the seed of patriotism be instilled to each one of us (hope its byproduct will still sprawl amidst our marring political instability.)

The tourism officers that afternoon were really accommodating to think that it’s already past 5pm when they saw me running toward the center as the gusty rain poured again. Kudos to these wonderful people, even to the guard who’s been smiling all through out my visit. Don’t forget to buy some Pawikan (Sea Turtles) shaped key chain souvenirs and ask for a free Bataan map. 🙂

So that’s it. I crossed the street and waited for the bus to arrive. That’s 30 nerve cracking minutes of waiting and walking along the highway before a Cubao-bound bus hitched me on. (thought I will be stranded especially when I heard that the flood was getting higher in Dinalupihan that time) And the rest is… Habagat driven history. Sigh.

Thankful that I was able to ride the last bus trip, I would have been stranded for days if I didn’t jump on that genesis bus plying Roman Superhighway that afternoon.

(as of this writing, 8/20/13, the whole province of Bataan is under the state of calamity due to heavy rainfall and extreme flooding:(

Thankful that even typhoon Maring had teamed up with the Habagat (southwest Monsoon) to intensify the rainfall that day (one of the worst Monsoon rains that hit Metro Manila, affecting the nearby provinces including Bataan), I was still able to explore that side of Bataan and enjoyed the trip regardless of the unsolicited shower spree that made my solo trip somewhat slow but truly memorable.

At least the next time I visit Bataan, I know exactly how to get to Stella Maris Beach, Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar, Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, Pawikan Conservation Center, Dunsulan Falls, Shrine of Valor, and other Bataan pride nearby, saving me a good amount of time and money. In retrospect, it gives me ample reasons to visit Bataan again (not on a gloomy weather mind you that!) soon.

Parting Words

I never expect that this province not so far away from Manila has a fair share of insightful places to visit. It’s actually a total package. they have mountains, seacoasts, and cool people, what else can I ask for?

These are my takeaways:

Don’t settle on just reading travel blogs when you know you can be in those places too. You will never be sorry with the places your restless feet can bring you. It’s priceless.

Behold Bataan is the province’s battle cry, and with all that I’ve experienced, they proved it big time. this alluring peninsula rich in history, natural wonders tied with wonderful locals and post war charm definitely defines them from the rest, there’s just so much more to learn, experience, and marvel. Its Heroic past and  progressive helm is indeed very promising.

thank you Bataan for letting me experience this wonderful thrilling rain drenched adventure, it’s all worth the effort. And I must say this, You are Not just a Land of Valor, but truly a land of wonders.

Things to remember:

  • bataan is a 2 to 3 hour bus ride (128km) from manila. Bataan transit is located in Cubao. Fare at 200Php per person (as of August, 2013)
  • If you are not really familiar with the landmarks or what to do and visit in Bataan, please make sure to drop by at the Bataan tourism center along Roman Superhighway. They can assist you and help you find a tour guide/ accommodation/ restaurants and everything you may need for your trip.
  • Bataan boasts a number of activities to almost everyone. From Adrenaline  junkie to History buff (like me) to nature trippers, for sure they got you covered.  Deem to visit the first line of defense in Dinalupihan, the Deathmarch markers distributed along Roman highway from Orani to Bagac/Mariveles. The gorgeously inspiring Plaza de Mayor (especially by night) and the Wetland Park in Balanga,  Toul pocket marker in Bagac, Shrine of Valor and the adventure park (here is where the longest Zip line in central Luzon is located) in Pilar, the Philippine Japanese friendship in bagac, the Diwa ng Bataan in Balanga. The Pawikan Center and the many wonderful beaches  in Morong, they also have the natural parks and mountains of Mariveles plus its magnificent view of the sunset from its seacoasts.  And there’s so much more!
  • there are numerous beach resorts in bataan, most of which are located in Bagac, Morong, and Mariveles.

How to get there:

from Manila take the North Luzon Expressway and take the San Fernando toll exit.

From there, proceed to Jose Abad Santos Ave. (formerly Olongapo- Gapan Rd) all the way to Lubao, Pampaga and Dinalupihan, Bataan. At the Layac junction, take the road leading to Roman Superhighway on the left (right turn leads to Olongapo City) all the way to the town center in Balanga, Bataan. Roads are all well signposted. (information from the Bataan Tourism map)

Till our Next Gala. God bless!

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