With 85 percent of it covered in mountainous jungle, the Bataan peninsula is one of the most rugged places in the country. The province, forming the western side of Manila Bay, will always be associated with one of the bloodiest episodes of World War II. For four months in 1942, 65,000 Filipinos and 15,000 Americans – “the battling bastards of Bataan” – held out here against the superior arms and equipment of the Japanese. After their surrender in April 1942, the Filipino and American soldiers, weakened by months of deprivation, were forced to walk to detention camps in Tarlac province. About 10,000 men died along the way.
A poignant memorial to those that died, the “Dambana ng Kagitingan” or Shrine of Valor (daily 8am–5pm; P20) occupies the summit of Mount Samat (564m), a little inland from the provincial capital Balanga. The shrine has a chapel and a small museum of weapons captured from the Japanese, but the centrepiece is a 92-metre crucifix (P10) with a lift inside that takes you to a gallery at the top with views across the peninsula and, on a clear day, to Manila. Jeepneys ply the mountain highway between Balanga and Bagac, passing Mount Samat, but unless you find someone to give you a lift, it’s a 7km walk (1hr) from the nearest stop to the shrine. Hiring a van from Balanga should cost around P1000.