For eight decades now since making its heroic last stand during against Japan in World War 2, Bataan has been synonymous to the uncommon valor displayed by its defenders against overwhelming odds. Small wonder many of its tourist attractions are associated with the historic spots which figured prominently during the Pacific War.
But beyond the memories left by the war, this peninsular province offers an exciting experience you will surely fall for. What used to be a long and circuitous journey in the not-so-distant past is a breeze with the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and the improvement of the Roman Superhighway, the main road.
For an insightful drive around, the Bataan Tourism Center is a one-stop visitors information center in the capital city of Balanga. It has a souvenir shop, a diorama mini-museum, audio-visual room war documentaries and tourism videos, and a manicured park which is now a top public recreational area with its promenade gardens, lagoon and ampitheater.
Travel back in time at the ground zero of Bataan’s gallantry at the World War 2 Museum inside the Balanga Elementary School where Fil-American troops surrendered to the Japanese. The act of capitulation is depicted through life-size bronze tableau at the very spot where it took place in 1942.
Meanwhile, you can witness some 9,500 endemic and migratory birds flying by at dusk at the City of Balanga Wetlands and Nature Park, a 34-hectare mangrove forest, foreshore and special ecotourism zone.
Not to be missed is the postcard-pretty Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) in Mt. Samat in Pilar, which is a must-see for all first-time visitors of Bataan.
The centerpiece of this government memorial complex is a 92-meter tall cross punctuated by relief sculptures of the late National Artist Napoleon Abueva, a colonnade with the war dead’s names, and a museum. At the shrine’s platform, one can have a commanding view of the island fortress of Corregidor just across Manila Bay.
The iconic mountain is also as an adventure tourism and enterprise zone with the recreational facilities, forest trails, waterfall and natural pool.
Situated at Bataan’s bottom-most tip is Mariveles, once a top summer beach excursion place in the 1980s for Metro Manilans because of its long coastline. Situated at the foot of Mt. Mariveles, the heart of town can be reached through a breathtaking steep zigzag road.
An iconic historic spot is the Km 0 park of the infamous Death March where over 70,000 Filipino and American troops who surrendered were gathered for the 100-km walk to their prison camp in Tarlac.
Nestled at the mountain’s slopes is The Oriental Hotel Bataan, a luxe stomping ground for business travelers and the homebased for staycationers who want to behold the bounty of the province.
Known in its past life as the Bataan Hilltop Hotel in the 1970s, it is an architectural masterpiece of late National Artist Leandro Locsin during his heydays located at the Freeport Area of Bataan industrial enclave. Left untouched for decades, the two-level circular brutalist-style edifice was given a new lease on life as a contemporary boutique hotel in the midst of a tropical forest.
The chic resort also boasts of Cocoon Restaurant, arguably top dining spot in this side of the province, with its Asian specialties ranging from Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian and Filipino favorites, and topped with house-concocted desserts.
The hotel also has seaview al fresco resto and grill which brought back its sought-after Saturday live band and entertainment show featuring its dancing staff clad in Asian regalia and firedancers.
Once used as quarters for medical frontliners during the critical phases of the pandemic quarantine two years ago, The Oriental Bataan has been welcoming guests for corporate, leisure, special events and the usual holiday promos.
If you wish to move around the town, the hotel personnel is on hand to act as tour guides around the go-to places in town, such as San Miguel Peak, and Sisiman Beach and Lighthouse where Corregidor Island seems to be just a spitting distance away.
A must-visit is Five Fingers, a series of hand-shaped rocky coves which is a crude yet unspoiled hideaway for lovers of the sea.
Lastly, golf aficionados won’t miss their game at the 18-hole championship Camaya Coast Golf Course, which has a mesmerizing fairway looking out to sea. Golfers can also frolic at the water theme park and powdery beach after a challenging game.
With its checkered history, natural wonders and everything in between, you simply can’t help fall for Bataan as you behold its allure.