The Simple Reason Why April 9 is the Best Time to Visit Bataan

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

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"'Wag isuko ang Bataan!" My gradeschool Araling Panlipunan teacher once exclaimed, echoing the cries of our Filipino soldiers many many decades ago. Back then, I merely found this quip amusing and thought it had no real-life significance. It was later into my adult life that I'd finally understood what great weight these four words held.
plaza de mayor balanga
Beautiful facades such as this surround the Plaza de Mayor in Balanga, Bataan
The province of Bataan occupies the entire eponymous Peninsula of Luzon, enclosing Manila Bay to the east and Subic Bay to the northwest. It faces the West Philippine Sea and lies between the provinces of Zambales and Pampanga. Within its covers, rests the Philippines' lone nuclear power plant.
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Tinapa is one of Bataan's products
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Bataan's arrow root cookies are also a popular pasalubong


Bataan has been a witness to historical moments and houses a number of important structures and mementos.  In the municipality of Abucay, stands the centuries-old Santo Domingo Church. Here, a replica of the first ever printer – the one used by Abucay native Tomas Pinpin, no other than the Prince of the Filipino Printers himself – can be viewed and admired. In Orion, facing the sea is the Garden of Balagtas (Hardin ni Balagtas) constructed in honor of the great Francisco Balagtas aka Francisco Baltazar. The poet had spent some time in Bataan and was said to have found immense inspiration from the sea, hence the layout of the monument.
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Inside the Santo Domingo Church in Abucay
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Hardin ni Balagtas in Orion

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Glimpses to the past are not the only offerings of Bataan. Adventure- and nature-lovers will find delight in its many waterfalls, the Mount Samat Zipline and Tree-hopping, and the Tarak Ridge/Mount Mariveles.
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Ala Spiderman during the Tree-hopping adventure in Pilar
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Ambon-ambon Falls at the foot of Mount Samat

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Bataan also offers a variety of foodscapes. There's Las Marianas (formerly Abucay Cafe), the local cafe The Beanery, the gelato place Stregato Gelateria, and the home-cooked goodness of Ima Flora's Pamangan where you can have an eat-all-you-can meal for only Php200. (Pro tip: Don't miss out on the sisig!
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The many offerings of Stregato
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Budgetarian foodtrip at Ima's

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More than these, however, is the ideology that Bataan undeniably stands for. The Battle of Bataan, one of the last stands of Filipino and American soldiers before being overwhelmed by the Japanese during World War II, is famous in history as a testament to fortitude and bravery.

"Bataan has fallen," cried the Voice of Freedom over the airwaves. "But the spirit that made it stand—a beacon to all the liberty-loving peoples of the world—cannot fall!"

This legacy is celebrated every April 9, on the Day of Valor or "Araw ng Kagitingan." During this day, veterans are honored for their courage and sacrifice. What's being celebrated is not defeat, but the relentless fight for freedom and principle.
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This life-size chess piece was displayed at the Plaza de Mayor during the celebration of Araw ng Kagitingan
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PARADA NG KAGITINGAN
A day before the actual celebration, a parade goes around Bataan featuring floats that depict moments in the Battle of Bataan and the horrendous Death March. It is highlighted with a program that includes a reenactment of these significant events, and a show of gratitude and honor to the Filipino veterans and their families. 
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Philippine Flags soar during the Parada ng Kagitingan
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This float depicts the "Labanan sa Tangway"

ARAW NG KAGITINGAN SA MT. SAMAT
Mount Samat in Pilar served as the stronghold of our troops during the war. It is only fitting that the same becomes the venue for commemoration. On April 9, a grand celebration takes place here. With attendees composed of not only foreign diplomats but also the President of the Philippines.
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During the celebration in Mount Samat
In the Dambana ng Kagitingan, the Japanese, and American Ambassadors as well as our President, partake in a ceremonial offering of wreaths. All then address the veterans and the rest of the audience, affirming the friendship between the three countries.
The "Dambana ng Kagitingan" in Mount Samat
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Ambassadors Philip Goldberg (front left) and Kazuhide Ishikawa (back) walk toward the main stage
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President Benigno S. Aquino III was the guest of honor during the 2016 celebration of Araw ng Kagitingan

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Being part of this celebration is something all Filipinos should experience at least once, for it not only is grand but also stands as a reminder that sacrifices have been made and lives have been lost for us to enjoy the freedom we have today.  

So, if you're planning to visit Bataan, do it on April 9, because not only will it awaken your nationalistic pride, you'll get to experience the Cradle of Heroes in its full unbridled glory.

Don't forget to also check out cool souvenir shirts from Kagitingan Project!
kagitingan project shirt
Not your average souvenir shirt.
Know of any trivia about Bataan? Share it in the comments below!

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