Pilar: Dambana ng Kagitingan, A Befitting Memorial for the Valiant Heroes

The first thoughts that come to mind when talking about Bataan would most likely be about bravery, courage, and heroism. This is the place well known for being the site of one of the largest and the most bitter part of the national history. It is the last bastion of the defending American and Philippine forces during the Second World War, and the Philippines effectively became under the Japanese rule when the province fell to the invaders.12

Since childhood, when going through the highway I am already seeing the large cross atop the mountain. When I finally had a chance to visit here, my excitement rushed through my whole body with and tingled my history-sense.

Mt. Samat National Park, Pilar, Bataan

The iconic Memorial Cross (Mt. Samat National Park, Pilar, Bataan)

Mount Samat National Shrine, or the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor). Located near the summit of Mount Samat in Pilar, Bataan, it was built to honor the gallantry of the Philippine and American forces who fought during the Second World War. It was commissioned in 1966 by then-President Ferdinand Marcos as part of the 25th Anniversary of the Second World War. The giant cross served as a remembrance to the Filipino and American forces who lost their lives during the Battle of Bataan. The complex also contained a war museum, which contains collections and paintings of the Philippine heroes, as well as artifacts such as weaponry and other equipment that was used during the battle. From atop the cross, visitors can see the panoramic view of Bataan and on a clear day, the capital Manila can be seen, fifty kilometers away across the Manila Bay.

Along with the fortified island of Corregidor, Mount Samat is the site of one of the most vicious battles of the Philippine defense against the advancing Japanese Imperial Army in 1942 during the Battle of Bataan. Suffering heavy losses, Filipino and American troops retreated to Bataan Peninsula for the last valiant but futile stand. It is part of the US strategy called War Plan Orange. Bataan finally fell to the Japanese after 78,000 exhausted, sick and starving men under General Edward P. King surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942, the largest US surrender in history. They were then led to what will be called as the Bataan Death March, where they were forced to walk to Capas, Tarlac. Those who fall were bayoneted, those who dared escape were shot.

The Dambana ng Kagitingan, as what it is called in Filipino, stands on the site in Mount Samat as a befitting memorial to the sacrifices made by the soldiers in the historic battle for freedom. The memorial site was ground broken by the laying of the cornerstone by President Marcos on April 14, 1966. Due to lack of funds, the construction was still unfinished on the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of Bataan in 1977. The shrine was completed and inaugurated in 1970, just in time for the 25th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

From the parking lot are wide three series of steps that narrows to the top that leads visitors to the flagpole that holds the Flag of the Philippines. The last series of steps are bordered on both sides by two pedestals topped with bronze urns symbolizing eternal flame.

The Colonnade is a marble-clad structure surrounded by Esplanade, itself surrounded by marble-clad parapets. The outer side is covered with 19 high relief sculptures by National Artist Napoleon Abueva, and alternate depictions of the war with 18 bronze insignia by USAFFE Division Units by Talleres de Maximo Vicente, Leonides Valdez and Angel Sampra and Sons. Each bronze insignia has a flagstaff for the flags of each division.

In the center of the Colonnade is the altar, behind are three religious stained glass murals designed by Cenon Rivera and executed by Vetrate D’Arte Giuliani of Rome, Italy. Four bronze chandeliers hang from the ceiling, while inscribed on a marble on the two lateral walls is a narrative of the “Battle of Bataan”. A footpath that leads to the base of the Memorial Cross begins behind the Colonnade. The 14-flight, zigzagging path of the mountain slope is paved with bloodstones from Corregidor Island. An alternate road also takes visitors to the base of the Memorial Cross.

Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

The Memorial Cross towers above the highest point of Mount Samat, 555 meters above sea level. The structure is made of steel and reinforced concrete. There is a viewing gallery inside the cross’ arms, which can be accessed by either an elevator or by stairs. The height of the cross is 92 meters from the base, while the arms, each measuring 15 meters on each side, are 74 meters above ground. The viewing gallery is 5.5 meters by 27.4 meters, with a 2.1 meters clearance.

The exterior of the cross is finished with chipped granolithic marble. The base up to 11 meters is capped with sculptural slabs and relief titled Nabiag na Bato also by Abueva, depicting important historical figures and events like the heroic deeds of Jose Rizal, Lapu-Lapu, and Antonio Luna.

The Shrine complex is part of Barangay Diwa in Pilár, Bataan. From Manila, the complex can be reached via the North Luzon Expressway (Balintawak Cloverleaf) and the SCTEX exit in Mabalacat, Pampanga which leads to the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway. Follow the signs to Subic, and exit at Dinalupihan then turn right at the Roman Highway. Upon reaching the Mt. Samat junction after about 24 km, turn right. After about 4.5 km towards Mt. Samat, to the left is a 6.5 km uphill road to the Shrine.


Dunsulan Falls, Pilar, Bataan

Dunsulan Falls, Pilar, Bataan



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  1. November 25, 2016

    […] being educated and entertained in the historic Dambana ng Kagitingan, we decided to have a side trip in one hidden falls of Mount Samat – the Dunsulan Falls. […]

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