Directions and Surprises in Mount Samat Trip (Bataan)

There are two long weekends in November 2009 and maybe some may be interested to drop by the Dambana ng Kagitingan in Pilar, Bataan. Maybe when we remember and pray for our dearly departed on All Saints’/ Souls’ Day or undas, we should also whisper a prayer for the heroes that fought and died for our country during WWII. Let’s talk about the directions and the welcome surprises of a trip to the Dambana ng Kagitingan.

The Dambana ng Kagitingan, which is dedicated to remember and honor the heroism of the Filipino and American soldiers during World War II, is perched on top of Mount Samat. The Memorial Cross sits at the very top, with the altar hall at the lower part. When we asked for directions from a friend, we also asked what other places of interest could be seen along the way. He wasn’t able to answer so we figured there’s none. We were wrong. The trip to the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) brought a number of welcome surprises.

Expressways getting better

A quick call to a friend, Robel, gave us plenty of hope that we’ll get to Mt. Samat before lunch. We planned to have lunch in Subic on our way back, so it’s important to know if we’d starve. The instructions were simple — get through the NLE and SCTEX towards Subic, get off the Dinalupihan exit before Subic, turn right after the toll gate. Just drive straight. On the way back, pass through Morong, then Subic. In between, we were told, ask for directions.

We passed by the towns of Hermosa, Orani, the Tech City of Balanga, then Pilar. After around 45  minutes of drive from the SCTEX exit is an intersection. We took a right turn. The Dambana ng Kagitingan at Mt. Samat is a good 30 minutes away. See map (normalbigger).

Anyway, you’ll notice at the NLE that gas stations in expressways are getting bigger each time. The old ones are just gas pumps with a small grocery store. Now they have Mega Stations, just like the Caltex station on our way back. Plenty of restaurant choices. They have a kids playground and a Nike outlet store. When these outlet stores open in expressway gas stations — even if you just came from Subic where Duty Free stores abound like sari-sari stores, it means something. I haven’t figured out that “something” yet. Perhaps you know.

Nice roads in Bataan

The road from the SCTEX to Mount Samat is fairly ok. On the other hand, the roads from Mt. Samat, through Morong and Subic, are good. If I drove straight in my usual style, I figure we’d make it to Mt. Samat in under two hours. I can’t recall how many stops we made to take photos, aside from the gas station stop-over. One doesn’t drive fast in the province. It’s not really for safety reasons. It’s just that there’s so much to see in a provincial drive. The grass is greener. The colors are crispier. Cars and people are fewer. It’s the simple life.

Golden yellow harvests

For instance, do you even know how your rice get to your table? It starts at the rice field. Green at the start, the rice plants turn golden yellow once ready for harvesting. Threshing comes after harvesting. The chaff are separated from the grains during harvesting and drying follows, then milling, which is the process when husks are removed. You’ll see the entire process on your drive to Mt. Samat. And a lot more.

The scenery here reminds me of home, but this is nearer to Manila. Our trip coincided with harvest time, so rice fields are golden yellow. This is a masterpiece that could only be truly appreciated in the flesh, as it were. A similar scene painted on a canvass back at the office, though pleasing to the eyes, is farthest from the real thing.

Just drive slow. Bring enough food in case you miss lunch. Enjoying the trip is much a part of the entire experience.

Enough road signs to Mt. Samat

The moment we took the Dinalupihan exit of SCTEX, I the regular sign boards along the highway gave us enough reassurance that we’re on the right way.

The cryptic instructions from my friend was just enough to lead us the way. The “Mt. Samat This Way” billboards at the roadside means you’re not lost. These signs abound in the provincial highway, together with the “No Overtaking Sign” and the “Accident Prone Area” signs that are closely spaced together. Maybe they’re really concerned with safety here. I can’t understand that “No Overtaking” signs when the road paint is broken white. Not double yellow lines. Not even single yellow line. Most of the yellow stuff ON the road is rice. Yes, they dry rice in certain portions of the road.

Too much road signs to Pawikan Center

After we saw the “This Way to Mt. Samat” signs, we also saw the sign for the Pawikan Center, telling motorists that it is “Straight Ahead”. The signs were also placed on regular intervals. We’ve passed Mount Samat, the Pawikan signs were still there. We passed Tabac, the Pawikan Center was still not there. Then we hit Morong and it was there. I never realized “straight ahead” could almost be a hundred kilometers. I would have loved to drop by the place, as it’s along the way, but my hungry passengers vehemently insisted that we proceed to Subic in haste. It was already 3 p.m. and we didn’t have lunch yet.

Living rivers

We’ve already noted that these days, clean natural bodies of water are rare. The bodies of water that our children could frolic and have fun are usually man-made, including artificial lakes and swimming pools. The bigger and cleaner rivers, like Loboc River in Bohol, are far away from is in Metro Manila. For sure the rivers up north, including in the area surrounding Mt. Pinatubo I suppose, are cleaner. But I never thought of seeing a nice-looking clear flow of water, under the bridge of a road in Bataan.

See the Philippines

The drive, while lasting the whole day over hundreds of kilometers, was never tiring. The air is fresh and the breeze is cool. Green vista greeted us in every bend of the nice roads, framed on both sides by green grass with the mountains as background. We were amazed how beautiful the place is, though the views are obviously simple. Each turn we took reinforces our belief that our Philippines is a beautiful country. We were wondering if only more Filipinos could see this. We were wondering if that could be done.

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