Mt Samat is located in Pilar town of Bataan. While others make it a trip to climb the mountain itself, the mountain is more popular for the Dambana ng Kagitingan or the Shrine of Valor which stands at its peak. The shrine at the top was built to honor the Filipinos and American soldiers who had fought for the country during World War II. Standing at 92 meters or 302 ft and located at an area of approximately 74 hectares and at the mountain height of 555 meters of 1821 meters below sea level, the white cross was built in commemoration of the Battle of Bataan.
The Battle of Bataan ended in the army of US and Filipino soldiers surrendering to the Japanese which ended in the famous Bataan Death March. The Bataan Death March consisted of the transport of 75000 Filipino and American soldiers who surrendered and became prisoners after 3 months in war with the Japanese. This transport was no ordinary transport as instead of the use of any other type of vehicle, the 75000 men walked 97km of pain, suffering and abuse that resulted with a high death count of both the prisoners and civilians. During the march, prisoners were given no food, those who could not walk or fell behind were bayoneted or beheaded by the Japanese who were practicing their Samurai swords, trucks ran over those who had fallen and clean up crews had been assigned to put to death those who could not continue. The death toll during the march reached up to approximately 5000 – 10000 Filipino soldiers and 600 – 650 American soldiers. This part of the war against the Japanese is one of the most gruesome shows of cruelty during wars and is now a very important part of the Filipino history.
Aside from the cross to which you can enter and climb to its peak inside, there is also a museum that holds a collection of paintings of these heroes as well as armaments and artifacts used during the time of the war.
For those who’d love to have a history walk, Bataan is one of the best places to tour as this province contains so many memorials, landmarks and statues meant to remember our countrymen and the American soldiers who had suffered such wrongful treatment.
Being able to be there in Bataan that day was already an honor for me. Aside from my curiousness, I was also anxious to know what this Shrine of Valor was all about, not even knowing fully what had happened in Bataan. It was only then, after my visit to Bataan that I truly realized and appreciated what these men has done for the country.
Mt. Samat was about an hour or so drive from Morong. It is located in the town of Pilar and we used schools to determine the location of the mountain, although the place had a signage board indicating where to turn for Mt. Samat visitors. I’ve heard others who climb the mountain, but as we went up the road going into the memorial, I wondered if they climbed it away from the road or along the road that was paved and cemented? Anyway, there is an entrance fee of P20 for Filipinos, P10 for children and P30 for foreigners, and fee for parking at P20.
The parking lot are all elevated so parking is a little scary. There is a guesthouse below the Shrine of Valor and even if you park near the guardhouse, you’ll still have to climb up to go to the Shrine or even to the museum.
The museum is open at 8am – 5pm with a lunch break at the elevator of 12pm – 1pm. The elevator holds at least 10 pax and will costs another P10 for those who would like to go up into the shrine.
The cross is built with relief images and embossed figures all throughout the lower part of the cross with images of the country’s heroes, soldiers, civilians and pictures reflecting parts of the Bataan history. The doors going into the elevator are also filled with tiny relief images of Rizal in his execution, war images and more.
The elevator is tiny so if you’re claustrophobic that could be a problem. The ride up is only less than a minute but when you are at the top, you will appreciate the view of the Bataan peninsula. My Dad was a little disappointed that the Shrine of Valor was really just a shrine and not a religious monument like Kamay ni Hesus had been and he got height sickness as soon as we stepped out of the elevator.
At the top of the cross, (or at least where the arms are), there are two rooms separated by the middle where the elevator rises. The rooms are empty except for some army artifacts and a chain of chairs to sit on and glance at the beautiful view through the window sills.
If you love to see great views, this is one way to do it. Just be sure you’re not afraid of heights or anything. When you’re at the top, it suddenly feels really, really high, so make sure not to forget to breathe and just relax. Appreciate the shrine and the scenery and history all in one.
It was a very memorable climb and journey over one of the most important historical pieces of the Philippines.
Entrance Fee – P20 (P30 – for foreigners)
Parking Fee – P20
Elevator Fee – P10
How to Go to Mt. Samat