Our Bataan Experience
by Danny Tariman
Bataan was the last stand of the gallantry of Filipinos at the height of World War II. This is the place where the ‘Death March’ ended, where soldiers trying to defend of country from colonialism died from exhaustion after days of starvation & thirst, marching from Tarlac as captives of the Japanese. We owe to these soldiers the freedom that we enjoy today.
But in these times, Bataan is a very good place to go, especially if you want isolate yourself from the dizzying busyness of the city.
It was was good two-and-a-half drive from Manila. We passed by the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), and exited at JASA for Jose Abad Santos Avenue. It is a long stretch of wide road. Upon reaching the monument “World War II First Line of Defense” in Dinalupihan, Bataan. We turned to the left, which took us all the way to the Cross of Bataan. You will not miss the uphill road going to the Cross; you will see the arc “Bantayog ng Bayani”.
The Cross that you see from afar as a tiny, little Cross, is actually a huge one, towering to an equivalent of 14 stories building! In fact, to go up, you need to ride a lift or an elevator. The elevator shaft is housed inside the vertical part of the Cross. (Could you imagine how big it is?). The horizontal of the Cross is actually a viewing deck. Can you figure out how big the cross is? (Caution for people with height phobia like me). My knees were literally shaking in nervousness! But it’s part of our experience. From the viewing deck you can see the vastness of the surroundings.
During our visit, it was the day before National Hero’s Day, and so some portions of the museum were closed to tourists.
Moving on with our tour, we passed by the Japanese monument “Friendship Tower”. It is a 3-pillar tower in the middle of a rotunda or round-about. I need pull-over our car so we can take a good shot of the monument.
We stayed for the rest of the afternoon at Westnuk Beach, a property within the unused Bataan Nuclear Plant facility. After finding a good quite place for our outdoor overnight stay, we pitched our 2 tents, spread-out our folding picnic table and setup our beach umbrella.
This is a really nice place. We enjoyed the swim in its crystal clear waters. My family enjoyed the warm afternoon waters. My son & I went to the corners of cove to gather some dried wood we can use for the bonfire later in the evening. The beach has a creamy-white sand, with reefs just a hundred meters from the beach. But yes, we rented a boat to reach the reef. At the background is the still unused nuclear power plant.
We stayed overnight in the beach. We had bonfire at night. It was my first time experience to taste grilled marshmallows, cooked in bonfire! Crunchy on the outside, melting in the inside. Really nice (thanks to my daughter)! It was an excellent experience building the bonfire with my family, a great time for interaction and bonding.
From the beach, we visited the sea turtle sanctuary where “live” turtles are cared for, bred, and raised. This is almost an hour leisure drive from Westnuk beach. In this sanctuary, we were oriented on the different varieties of sea turtles, its natural habitat, and how it breeds. Indeed an educational tour!
Along the way, don’t forget to buy cashew butter at the roadside. It a delectable experience. This is something not found in the Metro. Of course, roasted cashew nuts are at really bargain price! Take a few packs of these.
Indeed, a happy family bonding time and educational tour in one!