Saturday, April 21, 2012

Roaming the Shrine of Valor

Okay folks, after the long story on how I reached this place, there I was entering the gate. What a big place to roam! I realize now, you should have, or should reserve more energy for roaming the whole facility. Its a big compound with many things to see and discover! But first the name… gate signage says Mt. Samat Shrine. But officially, more formally. its name is the Shrine of Valor or the Dambana Ng Kagitingan at Mt. Samat! Entering the gate btw, does not mean you are really there! The big cross that is a tall building is still a hill to climb from the gate! Kah kah kah hehehe

Your car can only go up a certain level past the gate of the facility, so don't rely on that too much! There has to be some walking that everyone needs to muster. Actually, its climbing stairs or rampways! You can of course pretend to be an invalid or PWD so your vehicle may be allowed to go up to the big cross – though it won’t be as exciting at baka matuluyan ka pa hehe! But lets do this blow by blow as per my visit!

There is a hostel more aptly called a Guest House. There is?! Yes dear, and it sits just a few steps from the gate. The building does look good and it may have been a fantastic facility by itself then. But as of now, it is nothing but an abandoned edifice. White elephant? Ah well, maybe lets call it a white carabao, since it does not look so big. At least from the roadside! But knowing the Marcos era, for something to be called a guest house, it must have been something near luxurious or just a little bit above that hehe! I am guessing its big going down the hill, so its not obvious from the road level. As for now anyway, I could not even go in to take a peek because bus drivers of various tour groups were sprawled sleeping at what is supposed to have been the lobby entrance!

Lets climb a few steps in that expansive stairs that leads up to an equally big building but not yet the cross-styled skyscraper. Quite a big thing you'd imagine you are going up the stairs of a Gabaldon building or something similar that came from the American-era. It just goes up but halfway is a big and tall flagpole. At that level, there are gardens, if we might call them that. To the left the greens is dotted with some war mementos like old machine guns, logos of the regiments or troops that fought in the war, etc., To the right is a football field with a sizeable stage at the end. All I could say was, this must really be an important war memorial.

Up more on the expansive stairs and I reached the big building that is like a stage or an altar or a capitol lobby or something like it. Veeery big and wide with marble almost everywhere, nice era-type chandeliers, historical information engraved unto marble slabs,  and equally big stained-glass murals. There is a museum to the left and it goes down to somewhere beneath this huge platform. But what visitors flock towards are those coin-operated telescopes where you can view many parts of Bataan, Corregidor, even Tondo and Roxas Boulevard in Manila!

Up again via a zigzagging pathway, (this one is really high at something like climbing a 6-storey tall building or even more) to reach the base, yes just the ground where the giant cross stands. This is actually a hill, but the pathway is a nice manicured, even fenced affair - already with grand views to anywhere behind and below! There's a nice garden in this place. There are little make-shift stores that sell snacks and drinks but only to as big a solid as hotdogs. Nothing that I could call lunch! Whaaah, it was already 1:15PM when I reached this portion, and all I had since dawn were crackers and Coke. Argh!

Well, I saw the bikers still resting under trees, some munching at their energy bars or guzzling their energy drinks, while others made do with things from the little make-shift stores. What da… So I did the same! Crackers again, Coke again, but this time, as if to celebrate my triumphant walk, my "meal" included a small size original flavor Chippy hahaha! Ah, plus a bar of “ice-drop” from one manong who was going around the place. Good enough! Pantawid gutom as they say!

And then the cross. Oh yes the shrine itself. It is tall! How tall? Well, go to Makati and stand in front of any big building then look up to its top. This is probably as tall as the Citibank Tower along Valero in Makati. That tall and that is the feeling! But its not a very big or wide a building, probably even just about 10 meters or so in diameter at the base. I piled into the elevator queue. Yeah, it can only take a few people at a time and there were so many students who kept going up and down. I know they call it “play” or “fun” - I should know, I have been a child too, y’know! Have you?! Ever?! Well, I let them be, they were not jumping the line anyway.

As the elevator ascended, I felt a bit jittery knowing that it was climbing up in a thin but tall building. Elevator-operator says this thing is equivalent in height to a 36 storey building. OMG! And if the elevator stopped or conked out? He did not say anything but just laughed. There are no intermediate floors in between like it is at office buildings where if your elevator is stuck over at 11th floor, you can crawl out to well, 11th floor! In this one… duuu!

Up at the top where elevator stopped and opened, I felt something like squirmy and uneasy. It is really high up in the clouds! Plus, the fact that this tall thing stands on a mountain, well, grand views everywhere, but it takes time and courage to getting used to! The view decks are themselves the two extensions of the cross. Yep, the arms of the cross and you know that it just extends from center with nothing below it. Oh my mana, this is even more tummy-tickling than circling the Macau Towers!

Viewdeck glass windows are open. This adds to the “excitement” as you can hear and feel howling winds! When those high school kids start running I would feel a bit bothered, probably apprehensive this thing might tip and crumble hehe. But looking around, it is easy to recognize though that this is a real strong and sturdy building. While generally empty aside from the lounge chairs that line the windows, this thing does look it has been tastefully done. Above the windows are a series of war mementos. The ends of both arms of the cross have circular glass windows, and yes, the views are really breathtaking.

Oh, this is just the arms of the cross. There is still something above, right?! There are flights of steps just in front of the elevator that leads up to the top portion of the cross. But I did not anymore bother going up there - 1) because kids were huddled on those stairs, 2) because guard said there is nothing to see there, and 3) I thought I was already feeling dizzy at the height of this thing!

Whew, after about half an hour of sitting there, watching the far reaches that can be viewed, I went down this tall building. But something in me was saying I was not at all very happy (yet). My mind was searching for something more. Yeah, something more – probably more of the histories, facts, physical specifications of the cross, location and reasons. The elevator operator did tell me so many things I even caught most of them on video, but I thought I needed more. How I wished there was some kind of a tour guide here like they do over at Corregidor.

I saw someone… i knew she would have been a good resource, even if briefly. But let me tell you about that in the next story… aight?!

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