Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Behold Bataan

Balanga City Plaza

Death March, that infamous 100-kilometer walk that our forefathers suffered during the Second World War (soldiers or not). That was Bataan on my mind. But as I explored what this province has to offer, I saw some things beyond grief and suffering, there’s enthusiasm and delight in those happy faces I met. This is Bataan in the 21st century.

Bataan Peninsula
Bataan Peninsula
It was early morning on a Saturday and while some folks were still hibernating from a weeklong toil, my blogger friends and I embarked on a three-day discovery of that place I’ve been taking for granted for so long. Well, my mom and dad both hailed from Zambales (a neighboring province of Bataan) but we never get to tour around except for quick stopovers on a public market in the town of Orani to take home some smoked fish. And that’s it. It’s too bad that the ones closest to you are often overlooked.

Morong Bataan Beach Sunset
Morong, Bataan
It was such a pleasure to have been invited by the Bataan Tourism for a weekend of adventure. Our first stop was the Bataan Tourism Office in Balanga. This one-stop shop caters to everyone and you could chill on the comfy and unique lounge chairs inside or at the garden area. A mini museum that features some of the famed spots around the province and a souvenir shop can also be seen at the tourism center (the spicy tamarind and uraro cookies are my favorites). Anyone would feel envious on this dedicated space for tourism in Bataan, probably the best one I’ve visited in the country so far.

Brizo Hotel and Beach Resort
Poblacion, Morong, Bataan
Contact Numbers: (+63) 2.9981563 | (+63) 2.998.1531
Brizo Hotel And Beach Resort Morong Bataan

Brizo Hotel and Beach Resort was our home in Bataan. Located in the town of Morong, this relatively new resort is a beachfront property thus, beach frolicking will not be a task.

After settling in, me and my buddy checked out the moonlit shoreline. The sound of the waves crashing through the grayish sand was comforting. It was deserted at around midnight. We wanted to have our beer night at the shore but were too tired to set things up so we just hung out at the cabanas on the garden area near the pool, swimming will be our target the next day.

Brizo Hotel And Beach Resort Morong Bataan

Brizo Hotel And Beach Resort Morong Bataan

The night’s sleep was lovely and waking up to the morning sea breeze was calming. We headed straight to The Wheelhouse, the in-house restaurant of the resort, for the complimentary plated breakfast. I had the very Pinoy tocilog (tocino, fried rice and egg) while my buddy opted for daingsilog (daing na bangus, fried rice and egg) with some coffee.

Brizo Hotel And Beach Resort Morong Bataan
Good Morning Bataan!
Brizo Hotel And Beach Resort Morong Bataan
My favorite silog :)
After a day’s tour, we headed back to the resort after lunch and while the others took their much needed respite, me and my buddy spent that free time to lounge at the beach and pool area. The dip was refreshing amidst the sweltering heat. That night, we had another round of beer sesh and this time, everyone was up for challenges of night swimming and all-nighter chitchats on travels and whatever. It was so fun!

Brizo Hotel And Beach Resort Morong Bataan

Bataan World War II Museum
Balanga Elementary School
J.P. Rizal Street, Balanga Elementary School, Balanga City
Contact Numbers: (+63) 922.563.9197 | (+63) 920.542.5256
Entrance Fee: Adults P50 | Students P20 | Senior Citizens P40
Open Hours: Mondays to Saturdays (except holidays) | 9:00 am to 4:00 pm

It may be disturbing to know that during the Second World War, almost 76,000 Filipino and American Prisoners of War (POW) were forced by the Japanese militaries on a 100-kilometer walk without food or water under extreme heat from Mariveles, Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga in April 9,1942. They also experienced abuses of all sorts that killed over 10,000 men. It was depicted on a huge diorama inside the Bataan World War II Museum. The ways on how the locals were trying to help the POW were also captured. It was depressing and also an eye-opener.

Bataan World War II Museum Balanga Bataan
Torture chamber during the 30's
War remnants, video clips and other stuff were also displayed. An old torture chamber from 1939 was still in one piece near the museum's premises. I could imagine the terrorizing exploit that took place here.

Bataan World War II Museum Balanga Bataan
Death March diorama
Zero Kilometer Mark | Philippine-Japanese Friendship Tower
Bagac, Bataan

We visited two important historical landmarks in Bataan; the Zero kilometer marker (where the POW started the Death March) and 700 feet away was the Philippine-Japanese Friendship Tower (which symbolizes the renewed friendship of Filipinos and the Japanese after World War II).

Philippine Japanese Friendship Tower Bagac Bataan
Philippine-Japanese Friendship Tower
Philippine Japanese Friendship Tower Bagac Bataan

Philippine Japanese Friendship Tower Bagac Bataan

Mount Samat Cross | Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor)
Mount Samat Road, Pilar, Bataan
Entrance Fee: Adults P20 | Students
Elevator Fee: P10
Parking Fee: P20 small vehicles | P30 large vehicles
Open Hours: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm | Everyday

One of the famed spots in Bataan was a huge cross on top of the hill which is said to be as tall as the Statue of Liberty in the U.S. We were there during the Mt. Samat Pilgrimage 2015 which was primarily attended by the youth. The young bloods endured the 7-kilometer zigzaggy uphill hike to reach the area. The enormous cross greeted us as we partook in the celebration which ended on a fireworks display.

Mount Samat Bataan

Mount Samat Bataan
Mt. Samat Cross | Dambana ng Kagitingan
Mount Samat Bataan

Once is not enough. Before heading back home to Manila, we specifically asked if we could visit the cross again to climb up to the viewing deck.

It was a hot sunny day and we queued for the lift. We happily squeezed ourselves inside the tiny lift that instantly brought us to the top. And the view was amazing! We had the perfect 360-degree view of the mountainous side of Bataan, West Philippine Sea and Manila Bay.

Mount Samat Viewing Deck Bataan
The viewing deck inside the cross
Mount Samat Viewing Deck Bataan

Our Lady of the Pillar Parish Church
Morong, Bataan

Our Lady Of The Pillar Church Morong Bataan

Our Lady Of The Pillar Church Morong Bataan

Our Lady Of The Pillar Church Morong Bataan
Our Lady of the Pillar Church
This 400-year old church in the town of Morong is made from coral stones and regarded as the oldest church in Bataan. It is also considered as one of the oldest seats of Catholicism in the country.

St. Dominic de Guzman Church
Abucay, Bataan

Saint Dominic De Guzman Church Abucay Bataan

Saint Dominic De Guzman Church Abucay Bataan

Being one of the oldest churches in Bataan, this 17th century church is very well-preserved. The baroque style can be manifested on its fa├žade. 

Saint Dominic De Guzman Church Abucay Bataan

Saint Dominic De Guzman Church Abucay Bataan
St. Dominic de Guzman Church

Plaza Mayor de Ciudad de Balanga

As we approached Balanga city center, I was impressed on the beautiful unfinished look of the structures. It blended pretty well and felt like we’re in the middle of Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, Spain. Well, I’ve never been there but it felt like I did. Balanga City Hall, a hotel, cathedral, restaurants and shops circled the plaza which was filled with seating area and playground for the kids.

Plaza Mayor de Balanga

Plaza Mayor de Balanga
Plaza Mayor de Balanga
At night, it glowed as a fountain show lighted up the heart of Balanga. Locals and tourists alike gathered at the area to witness this nightly grand show.

Plaza Mayor de Balanga

Balanga City Cathedral
Balanga Cathedral

Pawikan Festival 2015

At the last weekend of November, Bataan annually holds one of its celebrated festivals in the province. The Pawikan Festival is a weeklong celebration to spread awareness on the preservation of the endangered sea turtles. The local government’s efforts to raise understanding on the importance of the purpose are gladly supported by the locals.

Bataan Pawikan Festival

Bataan Pawikan Festival
Pawikan Festival 2015
In the middle of intense heat by the shore, a stage was set up at the Pawikan Conservation Center in Barangay Nagbalayong where the major competitions were held. We were lucky enough to have a close encounter with an interpretative dance competition that featured high school students from the towns in Bataan. Other competitions were also held on different locations around the area such as; Beach Volleyball, Sand Art Competition and more.

Bataan Pawikan Festival
Dance Competition
The ceremonial release of the baby sea turtles was the highlight of the festival. It was witnessed by some of the guests and as they were released, everyone’s in high hopes that they would survive the dangers they would encounter during the course of their marine life. I was just upset to see others who were touching these cutesy turtles, they were, of course, warned in doing so.

Bataan Pawikan Festival
Releasing of the pawikans

Las Casas Acuzar de Filipinas (book online)

This is one of the highlights of our trip and I will dedicate a separate entry on this one.

***

It was refreshing to see this side of Bataan, way different from what I’m taking for granted for the longest time. It was so near yet I’ve never even had an urge to visit it before. Now that I’ve had a quick peek of what the province has to offer, I’m sure I’ll be coming back for more. Maybe a night or two at Las Casas Acuzar de Filipinas, a night in Balanga City Center and visit the Nuclear Power Plant in Morong. And oh, by the way, did you know that Bataan is a peninsula? Hmm...

Morong Bataan Beach Sunset


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