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Bataan is Moving Strong…and Pretty!

“BOOM! BANG and another BANG!.... then an unknown black smoke oozed into the sky, turning everything dark, then the roaring tora tora flew in, bombing everything on the ground…then the stench of the splattered human blood filled the misty air and the day was made more freigthening by the long and deep eerie cry from the women and children across Bataan… The Japanese were here! "

"The imperial soldiers conquered the land like a sweeping tornado! And with every local resistance, the walls and streets of Bataan were turned into an open mural, painted with blood, spilling from the slaugthered men and women killed here and there with the unforgiving bayonets fiercing through their restless and tortured body."

"Then days after, the long dusty roads of Bagac and Mariveles were tailed with more than 10,000 restless men, marching hundreds of kilometers under the blistering sun, starving, thirsty and dying … and that was the time we realized,  BATAAN HAD ALREADY FALLEN!”…these were the phrases I have recalled as Katherine Mejia of HAS Club echoed the horrible events of World War II after the Japanese soldiers attacked Bataan in fatal surprise.

Moving on with the tour, my body shivered as I read the stories of the horrible Japanese invasion through the walls of the newly installed World War II Museum in Balanga.  The exhibit would take you back to the darkest days of history and as you scout from one wall to another, you’ll have that glaring eyes with stirred emotions as it reveals the stories of the great sufferings, life sacrifices, and the heroic deeds of the people and their courage to defend this nation against the Japaneses’ expansion of power in the Far East.

Re-enactment of the Battle of the Points and Pockets in Bataan

It was in 1941 when the feared dark days have come to Bataan and not even time can erase the memories of the horrible massacre and the earth shattering battle of the Filipino-American soldiers who fought to the last ounce of strength, defending their posts against the unmerciful Japanese warriors. It was hell on earth in the Philippines as infrastractures were burned down to the ground, women and children killed and violated, and this nation’s  wealth corrupted.

But that was then. The tales of the past have just enriched  the endless  and colorful life in the province that have served as the solid foundation of what Bataan is today. Instead of fear, the hearts of the people of Bataan are now nursing the hope and keeping the courage to stand  commited in taking the leap on social transformation, environmental stewardship and economic progress, with the goal to be known once again as the land of  prosperity and opportunities.

I confess that I have little knowledge about Bataan and I do not speak their tongue. So, for the very first time, I have stepped into this land with few information that I have only read from the pages inked by Zaide. 

I was really hoping that my visit to Bataan would be something remarkable and praying that there would be something I would really learn interesting from the usual escapade. This jaunt wouldn’t be possible without the assistance and guidance of the hospitable staff and officers of the Bataan Provincial Tourism Office, led by Arch. Christina B. Banzon, and  they deserve my snappest salute.

Shedding the Battle Scars

For the very first time, I was invited to witness the highlight of the “73rd Araw ng Kagitingan” and it was held at the Shrine of Valor at the peak of Mt. Samat to remember the courage and sacrifices of the unsung heroes during the infamous Death March. 

With the unmeasurable valiant of the war veterans , it was only fitting that the ceremony was led by the Philippine President, Benigno S. Aquino III together with US Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg and Japanese Ambassador Kazuhide Ishikawa, honoring the fallen soldiers, their living descendants and today’s surviving veterans. 
L-R: Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg, Pres. Benigno Aquino III and Ambassador Kuzuhide Ishikawa
As the song “Ang Mamatay ng Dahil Sa Iyo” echoes from the peak of Mt. Samat to the great plains of Pilar to the shore of Morong, the teary eyes of the attending veterans rekindled the memories of the blood shed battle and the suffering of the Filipino and American soldiers during the war. 

This year’s anthem that I tagged as the lullaby of the battlecry, have lifted the spirits of the remaining veterans, that, if not for taking the risks, we wouldn’t enjoy the freedom that we have today.

Veterans of World War II in the Province of Bataan

But the dark shadows have long been overcast with the promise of friendship and cooperation among the Filipino, American, and Japanese communities. As what the Japanese Ambassador emphasized on his speech, “WE ARE FRIENDS!” (referring to Filipinos and Japanese people). 

Ambassador Ishikawa also reiterated that today’s generation condemns the barbaric acts of World War II particularly in Asia Pacific and now moving forward to correct the mistakes of their forefathers through a strong bilateral cooperation between the Philippines and Japan. 

He revealed that Japan is now covering the scars of the past through infrastructure assistance, technology transfers and investment placement and partnerships, benefiting the whole Filipino community.

The Araw ng Kagitingan celebrates the bravery and valor of the Filipino and American soldiers during WWII
The yearly  commemoration of World War II was indeed a blast in the past but instead of shedding tears and sentiments, the province, with the initiative of the the Bataan Tourism Council Foundation, turned the memories of the dreadful part of history into a joyous and colorful celebration. 

The week long celebration of the Araw ng Kagitingan is now focused mainly on the achievements and on the positive metamorphosis of Bataan. 

During the parade, the Bataaneno did not surrender to the scorching summer heat and roamed the city streets to demonstrate the people's participation during the World War II and echoed the valiant and untold stories through decorative floats and re-enactment in public venues. Some were entertaining, some were just simply mind-blowing! 

This part of the program was a real challenge for the participants to create a twist reliving the horrific events of the past and gain the two thumbs up of the public. It seems they came a little short in support with manpower and with some logistics.  But I have high hopes on the creativity of the Bataaneno to make this part of the program light and worth attending in the future.
Streets were filled with parades and portrayal of the events during WWII
I just hope that in the coming years, these parade and re-enactments sponsored by their respective municipality would be given more emphasis and to be presented in a more elaborate, dramatic and with grand and emotion stirring execution. I can forsee that this annual program can become a crowd magnet if well promoted by the unified people of Bataan.

Like is Kulayful in Bataan!

There were no dull moments  during my  week-long  stay in Bataan and was even made exciting, fun and colorful on the last day during the special Freedom Run participated by thousands of local runners, and those coming from nearby provinces as well.
 Freedom Run 2015 was spearheaded by the Bataan Tourism Office
Families, friends, youngsters and even the older generation have joined to express their support and deep appreciation to the valor of the Filipino-American soldiers to defend the freedom of this nation. And just like a strong spirited soldiers, the hearts of the 68.4km runners did not falter to reach the finish line, championed by Harly Baguistan, a native of Bataan.

The dark days were over and Bataan is just so optimistic to reinvent itself into a business conducive park, capitalizing on tourism and perfecting its local produce with the strong support from their respective local government units. 

The once mediocre province is now one of the most desirable communities for business ventures in the Philippines, with freeport and economic zones placed strategically in the heart of Bataan.
Local products of Bataan
Today, each municipalities in Bataan are now preparing to penetrate the competitive market by introducing its local produce. And some have even merge successfully to bring their products to a wide range of consumers . Local products from Mariveles, Orani and Balanga are now making an impact on the local economy and now preparing for national (and maybe global) distribution.

People’s innovations is also on the rise by showcasing their unique products with emphasis on the gastronomic creativity. I must say, Bataan is one of the provinces I have been to with endless appetite on delicacies. My favorite so far is the chocolate pulvoron that is really making a headline in making the simple Pinoy sweet into a world class product.

Some of the places of interests in the Province of Bataan: Plaza Mayor, San Miguel Rock, Las Casa Filipinas, Bataan National Park in Mt. Binutas, Wetland Eco Park
The scars of the battlefield were now replaced by the developing eco-tourism destinations. Las Casas Filipinas in Bagac, Bataan National Park in Orani, the San Miguel Rock in Mariveles, the Wetland Eco Park in Balanga and the establishment of center for marine conservations (pawikan) in Morong are just some of the pioneer projects that have turned Bataan as the new hope for the environmental conservation while economic boom is on the rise.
The faces of Bataan today!
My admiration for Bataan soars to the sky as the people are simply inspiring to use the lesson learned during the  dark times of their life to ignite the fire in the hearts and to stand and rise again. Bataan is like a bullet ready to fire, aiming perfectly not to miss their biggest shot! So, Behold Bataan, 1Bataan! Mabuhay Bataan!

For more interesting facts, stories and upcoming events, join the community of Bataan’s Fan Page.

or visit

Bataan Tourism Center
Roman Super Highway
City of Balanga, Bataan
2100 Philippines

Contact numbers:
(047) 237-4785
(047) 237-4476
(+63)927 960-1729
(+63)949 680-2695


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