Sunday, April 22, 2012

Understanding the Shrine of Valor

As said in the previous article, I was not yet quite happy even if I was done roaming the Dambana Ng Kagitingan where I could already have the rightful claim to say “been there, done that”. Something was missing. I needed to know more of the how and why about this enormous place.

So I chanced upon someone,,, i knew she would have been a good resource, even if briefly! She is a teacher and I caught up with her at the garden by the base of the cross. She was telling her students something like “remember what I told you in the bus? Those murals were made by National Artist Napoleon Abueva…”. I was actually already listening-in to that informative jackpot but shortly she said “okay, you can now go up to the top of the cross, make a single line in front of the elevator, and behave children”, that while another teacher started getting busy lining them students at the entrance. I went into action…

“Good afternoon ma’am, may I ask you a question”
”Ay, good afternoon, yes, of course, how can I help you?”
”What did you say the title of that mural was?”
”Ah that one is called ‘Nabiag Na Bato’ by national artist Napoleon Abueva, he was commissioned by the late President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos to make those sculptures specifically for this shrine”…
and so on with my many questions that she happily and readily answered!

Halfway through our conversation, she did notice that I was capturing everything on video so she told me not to publicize anything. And I will respect that. Told her that the video was just for me to remember the information overload I was hearing from her hehe! I came to know she is not really THE teacher of those kids but it was the one who was busy attending to the entrance line. She is a teacher from this area that got acquainted with the real teacher of those kids (at some DepEd seminar) and that she was here to assist her in the tour annotation. Nice! That is what I call true and real “helping each other”!

So what did I learn? Ah many things that I wouldn't have even known if I didn't decide to be so forward as to accost this teacher hehe. Like?

This shrine was an idea of Ferdinand Marcos who saw to its construction shortly after his assumption as president of the country in 1966. Whoa! that means this was already on the way even before most of us were born! Yeah, am a Marcos baby!

Why Bataan? Because this was the last place where Filipino and American soldiers holed up during the war until they were cornered by the Japanese Imperial Army and finally surrendered. Afterwhich, the horrible “death march” ensued. OMG, I shiver a bit when I start imagining that part of history.

Why Mt. Samat? Because this was the very area in Bataan, where those soldiers made their bravest and final defense, though futile. I asked which part of the mountain and she said “right where we are standing, sir”. Gosh!

Then she went on describing to me the various parts/places of/in this compound…

1. There is a memorial cross – the building beside us – that Marcos purportedly envisioned should be huge to be seen from as far away as possible. The original planned height was just 60 meters but the end-result is this towering cross 92 meters tall from base to top that she says is equivalent to a 36-storey building. Hmm, exactly what the elevator-operator told me!

The arms of the cross which is/are the viewing deck has a total length of 30 meters (15 meters on each side) and is 74 meters high from the ground.

The building (yes the cross) that is made of steel and concrete actually sits on a hill so that it is towering at 555 meters above sea level The whole compound is officially called Mount Samat National Shrine and is about 73,665 hectares which was also officially separated from the Bataan National Park Reservation in 1966.

2. A memorial chapel and hall of fame; now called the Colonnade. It has an altar, an esplanade (concourses) and a museum – where all exteriors are finished or topped with marble. Historical mementos and symbolisms are at various areas of the Colonnade like:

Stained glass murals behind the altar designed by Cenon Rivera and executed by an Italian art company. I saw them earlier, they’re beautiful and huge! High relief sculptures depicting war images also by Abueva. These are alternated with bronze Insignias of USAFFE division units that fought in the war. There are smaller flagpoles in front of each insignia for the flags of each division. The two bronze urns at the top landing of the stairs to the altar are supposed to symbolize eternal flame (of valor, gallantry, heroism). The sides of the altar is marble inscribed with the “Battle of Bataan” story and the museum is a repository of many was memorabilia especially on the battle in these grounds. The footpath from the colonnade to the cross is laid with bloodstones from Corregidor.

Marcos initially envisioned the dambana to have been finished and dedicated in time for the 25th anniversary of the Fall of Bataan in 1967. But funding issues delayed the construction such that, although the colonnade was already underway, the cross was not yet started. Just the same, the dedication of the dambana was formally done. The ‘finished product’ that it is now was only finished in 1970.

Wow! All those informations just blew me away! Guess what?! After hearing all those historical tidbits from the dear teacher, I roamed the whole place once again – this time, armed with the knowledge of what all those things meant.

Yeah, I wish that there’d be some folks like it is in Corregidor to annotate a tour inside this huge compound. Had it not been for the teacher, I was thinking I just went to see another white-elephant. But it is there for a big and noble reason. Best if there are tour guides. But just the same, it’s a wonderful place to visit and learn from. Gets your nationalistic fervor awakened and kept burning like an ‘eternal flame’!

More than memorable!


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