Bataan: A Journey Back in Time

World War II. Seeing how the well-armed Imperial Japanese Army was winning in the three-month long Battle of Bataan, the joint forces of American and Filipino soldiers finally surrendered to the enemies. However, the soldiers still did not escape death. More than 70,000 civilians and prisoners of war were forced to walk over 60 miles from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga, starting on April 12, 1942.

It doesn’t sound too much with proper conditions and good rest, but these people were already tired from the battle. As if that’s not enough, the prisoners were not given food and water for the first 3 days. The heat of the sun was scorching, and thousands of people died of sickness, starvation, and exhaustion. Those who were weak and fell down were executed through beheading or bayoneting. Those who were stronger were lashed and tortured. The site of bloody bodies became an everyday view. Thousands of Filipinos and Americans died.

Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor)
Today, the heroism of these people is commemorated through the Dambana ng Kagitigan in Mt. Samat, where a 300-foot cross was put up by the late Pres. Marcos. In front of it is the Philippine flag while underneath is a small museum.

Thankfully, we were allowed to drive up so we didn’t have to hike to the top under the hot sun (which, if you think about it, is nothing compared to what our ancestors had to go through). After taking lots of pictures, we got into a small elevator on the foot of the cross which took us to the hands of the cross. Here, we enjoyed the breathtaking view of Bataan while taking in fresh, cool air.

  

  

This cultural trip has made me wonder if the soldiers ever regretted surrendering to the Japanese. After all, they must have expected to survive after surrendering; instead, they had to face a worse condition. AT the same time, I’m so thankful that we didn’t experience the same thing that our ancestors did. I just hope we’ll be able to pass the stories of their valor to the future generations.

Friendship Tower (Bagac, Bataan)
On the way to our next destination, we made a quick stopover to the Filipino-Japanese Friendship Tower that was established after World War II, as a sign of reconciliation between the two countries.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar (Bagac, Bataan)
Philippines in the 18th Century. Noble Filipinos lived in Spanish-inspired houses called House of Stone or “Bahay na Bato”. These houses were built on a sturdy foundation made of rocks. At that time, rocks were expensive so only the rich can afford them; the poor lived in houses made only of wood and wooden stilts. With the concrete houses and all the modernities that we have nowadays, these historical bahay na bato’s seem to have been forgotten – until now.

When we arrived at Las Casas Filipinas, we were welcomed by men dressed as gwardiya sibils (security guards). In the registration office (that also looks like one of the Hispanic homes), women dressed in Filipiniana attire greeted us with ice cold glasses of gulaman.

The Registration Office


Tour Guide in Filipiniana

It was 1 in the afternoon, and we were hungry so we decided to have lunch first at Café Marivent. It was situated in another one of the reconstructed houses called Casa Unisan, and there was no air-conditioner. We didn’t mind this at first since the air outside was pretty cool. But then we got the pinakbet and kare-kare… and got swarmed by annoying little flies. According to the waitress, the flies were attracted to its smell.

We finally went on to the one-hour tour. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is a wonderful preview of how our ancestors lived. Situated against a picturesque scene of blue skies, green mountains and vast seas, this heritage town truly takes us to the past, when children played Luksong Baka and Palosebo:

Palosebo

and also enjoyed enjoyed the stories of Lola Basyang.

Lola Basyang

All are remembered through bronze statues that scatter all over the area. Pieces of ancient houses from different parts of the country were collected and reassembled in this heritage resort. Some of the houses can be rented like a resort-hotel. There’s a swimming pool in the premises, and a bridge that leads to the beach proper.

Filipino Mythological Creatures

Bridge to the Beach

Before starting the tour, the guide gave us these hats made of natural materials to make us feel the ambiance even more. When the trip was finished, we had to return these hats (to our surprise! We thought it was a souvenir!). The guide then gave us these cold face towels that seemed to have been placed in the freezer – a very welcome item as it somehow helped us cool down.

Pros:
- The Shrine of Valor truly humbled us and reminded us that we should not put the heroism of our ancestors to waste.
- Las Casas truly made us feel like we were in the 18th Century. The village had a quiet ambiance with huge spaces or walkways between the houses.

Cons:
- The entrance fee to the Las Casas Filipinas is P650. A bit pricey for a walking tour that does not include food and entrance to the swimming pool. Not even a souvenir. And when the place is fully-booked (like what happened to us), you only get to see some of the houses.
- Not a lot of trash bins. I’m not exactly an eco-activist but I do like throwing my trash into their proper bins.

Crown Royale Hotel (Balanga, Bataan)
As the sky was getting darker, we went off to Crown Royale Hotel. The hotel had a spacious lobby and the staffs were friendly. We got the De Luxe Room (2 Single beds) and paid for an extra bed – the room was so spacious that I think we could have easily fitted 2 more extra beds. Even the toilet was huge and clean. Definitely a recommended place and a place we’ll stay in whenever we’re in the area.

Budget:
We spent around P2,000 for this trip. This includes food, snacks, entrance fees, accommodation, gas, and toll fees.

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One Response to Bataan: A Journey Back in Time

  1. joan says:

    hi. thanks for posting this. very useful to our upcoming trip to bataan. btw, how far is crowne royale from las casas? TIA.

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