So, there I was at the Balanga City bus/jeep terminal, fresh from a long bus ride from Manila, now trying to find a ride to Pilar – the town where Mt. Samat is and where the dambana stands at its peak. The helpful drivers and dispatchers in the area showed me the jeeps going to Morong and/or other places on the western side of the Bataan peninsula as they all pass by Pilar. But it was taking so long as each jeep must first be filled to the rafters to depart!
I was almost tempted to hop into a trike. But I stayed on since there was no hurry. The dambana was supposedly my only destination for the day in this place anyway, so I told myself I could take the whole day if need be hehe! It was only somewhere half past 9AM and I learned that the bulk of transport movements during these times are arrivals from the hinter towns into Balanga. I was going in the opposite direction, thus, few passengers, thus… long wait!
And there I was, standing at the corner of the highway and the road that goes up to the Dambana Ng Kagitingan! Yes, I was mostly saying, I should have taken a trike for this short distance! Oh well, I was thinking this was on another road, probably unpaved and uninhabited as if I was going to some waterfalls or mountain range. Argh! Wrong assumptions. I should have done better research! This was actually the very main road we passed-by two months ago going to Montemar Beach Club! Anyway…
Now what?! I was at the corner alright. but how was I supposed to go up this feeder road to Mt. Samat? There is this little building that seems to have been erected in conjunction with the shrine. Went near only to find out that there is nothing there. No trace of humanity, from the looks of it, I think this building is not even being used anymore. It does have some signange bannering Philippine-Japanese friendship, so I was intrigued…
What did he/she/they say to our Japanese friends? Like, “come now my tomodachi, please donate XXX million pesos so we can build a big grand monument to commemorate and to ensure we always remember how your Imperial Army attempted and almost got successful in conquering and annihilating the Filipino people together with many American soldiers”. Ganun? I wonder hehe! It is there anyway, and it still has signage, so all I could do was smile hehe!
Impatience, excitement or both… instead of steadfastly standing on that corner to wait for a habal-habal ride, I started inching forward on that road, just to see things around. I knew if them habal-habal drivers came, they would have easily spotted me anyway so I can hop on to go up the dambana.
Something caught my attention. Things strewn on the pavement that seemed unfamiliar to me. I know it is common in the provinces for farmers to dry palay on the roads, but this was no rice I was looking at! It seemed like so many hundreds, even thousands of little sticks!
Where do they get the bamboos? Kid told me that there are a lot of those further up the road all the way to the dambana. Interesting! So I leisurely walked further up if only to see more of them bbq-stick producers! There were of course other interesting sights on the way and it was getting breezier as I went on. Like some big wide leaves fallen off trees, I picked one and saw that it could easily wrap my size 12 shoes! And oh, a little bit further I chanced upon a kilometer marker that said I was 6 kilometers more to the dambana. Wheh! That meant I have already been walking for a kilometer from the main road. Gosh!
There is some kind of a picnic area along the way, with tall trees, concrete tables and benches, nice views of the farms down below, so I rested a while in there. Hey, I even had a pictorial of my own self as subject and still me myself and I as photographer hehe! I did feel some thirst and I knew that corner store would have already been very far back to return to. But I was sure I would probably pass by another sari-sari store along the way.
A few steps from the picnic area, I encounter another marker that said the dambana was 5 kilometers away. Now I was verbally and even loudly exclaiming “oh c'mon, that was already 2 kilometers?” for it was not easy to believe I already walked that far hehe! And I have not even seen the folks who gather bamboo made into sticks! They could not be up at the shrine, right? Its a building and surely any bamboo growth or even some trees will have been cut to make way for the facility and its ornamentals, right? I was sure those dudes would be somewhere nearby, so I walked on…
And… every hair in my body stood tall at the next scene that confronted me!
It was the boy I asked down at the road earlier. He was the one who answered my questions and the very same one who told me I would find more of them bamboo gatherers somewhere here. He was actually the only human being I ever saw after the manang at her corner store, But why was he already here, some few meters ahead of me even? I knew I was walking alone, and I have not seen nor heard any human being walk past me since I talked to him a few kilometers back! Yes, I stayed awhile at that picnic area, but I was sure no one, not even any type of vehicle overtook me. That picnic area is just by the side of this road anyway. I should have seen or heard anything!
I wanted to scream, but what could the screaming do? I was kilometers away from the nearest human being - if this boy was not! Running back would have been futile if I already saw that the kid was suddenly ahead of me for no discernable reason since I left him kilometers back! He could appear in front of me whether I go forth or turn back, I was already sure of that! I moved on just the same. No I was not afraid. I WAS TERRIFIED hehe utang na loob naman o! Kayo na makakita ng ganito! But for some reason, something in me said I better go on forward instead of back.
I moved on, though reluctantly. This time I was praying for some habal-habal to already show up and get me to the top quickly! Psychology must have worked its toll on me at this stage. Why? Because all of a sudden I felt really thirsty, a bit hungry, felt I was perspiring too much, felt my backpack was getting heavier, cursing myself why did I have to wear jeans on this trip… ah just about so many things worth complaining, they all came to mind. But for some reason, I was still inching my way forward. On hindsight, I think the negative feelings all came after the goose-bumpy sighting of the boy that smiled at me and suddenly disappeared into the thickets hehe!
Stayed there a while to learn more about their shortcut hehe. I even tried my hand at cutting those bamboo nodes into little sticks as this brother of the boy answered my questions. Hesumalusep! And I really had to recite ’I believe in God’ and ’Our Father’ hahaha! Shortcut lang pala! Everything changed in my attitude! I was now again eager to go walk all the way to the dambana. There were no more apprehensions about engkanto, and the likes hahaha!
And there I was about to enter the big compound of the Shrine Of Valor or Dambana Ng Kagitingan - that's the very first picture above. Time check: 12:40PM and I started this walk at exactly 10:28AM down at main road intersection!
Lets have more of my dambana stories in the next entry. Hah! Kapoy!