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Travel Tales: What I love about Bataan

Aside from listing down your New Year’s resolution, for sure you’re also planning for your escapades this 2015.

Maybe the province of Bataan in Central Luzon will not be in your top list, but this place is very interesting.

What I love about Bataan is it’s very accessible. Coming from Balintawak tollgate of North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Bataan is just 2 to 3-hour drive. (Driving through Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) will make your travel easier.)

Dambana ng Kagitingan in Mt. Samat
Dambana ng Kagitingan in Mt. Samat in Pilar Bataan

What I love about Bataan is I don’t have to spend so much for my transpo, food, accommodation, and side-trips just to have a worthwhile and enjoyable trip.

And what I love about Bataan is it has so much to offer — beaches, falls, mountains for hikers, watching migratory birds, and of course historical sites.

Before 2014 ended, I was lucky to visit the province through the invitation of Authority of Freeport Area of Bataan and the local government of Bataan.

View from the Cross
View from the Cross

The first time I’ve been there was when I was a college freshman. It was my second time to go to Bataan and there’s so much development in the province particularly in its tourism sector.

Also Read: List of Beach Resorts in Bataan

If you’re a history buff, you’ll surely enjoy visiting Bataan as the province wrote lots of stories during the World War II; take note that the towns of Mariveles and Bagac were the starting points of Death March.

At the World War II Museum in BES
At the World War II Museum in BES

Bataan’s famous landmark would be the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) at the peak of Mt. Samat. The province claims that they have the tallest cross structure in the world as the memorial cross stands 92 meters or 302 feet.

bataan travel
My “I-must-pose-a-senti-pose” in one of the windows inside the cross

Going down from Dambana ng Kagitingan, why don’t hit Dunsulan Falls at the foot of Mt. Samat. Entrance fee would be up to Php100 per head. (However, we’re not able to visit the falls since we had a meeting after Mt. Samat.)

Still can’t get enough with historical places? Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac will let you travel back to Spanish times. Unlike typical hotels situated in a building, accommodations in Las Casas will be in century-old heritage houses.

Death March diorama at the World War II Museum in BES
Death March diorama at the World War II Museum in BES

Bataan is such a history buff BFF as there are many World War II stories the province can tell. To hear more stories about World War II and visit the actual place where Japanese troops quartered in Bataan, you must visit the World War II Museum inside the Balanga Elementary School (BES).

The Surrender Site inside the BES
The Surrender Site inside the BES. It’s just across the World War II Museum

After visiting the surrender site in BES, you may head to Balanga Wetland and Nature Park in barangay Tortugas which is a five to 10-minute drive from the school. Wetland, which is in the shore of Manila Bay, is known as a bird-watching site as migratory birds fly over and rest in Balanga. These migratory birds flying over the skies of Balanga can be seen in the months of December to February. Because of this attraction, the City Government of Balanga organized annually the Ibong Dayo Festival (literally means foreign birds) every December.

The Torture Room
The “torture room” for Filipino and American soldiers during the World War II which is inside the BES

Two more things to love about Bataan: the Balanga City Plaza and an ice cream parlor in the city named Stregato Gelateria.

The Balanga City Plaza marries modern life and Spanish-style structure. The Plaza is composed of Saint Joseph Cathedral, Balanga City Hall, Galeria Victoria, Plaza Hotel and Center Plaza Mall.

Facade of Plaza Hotel
Facade of The Plaza Hotel in City of Balanga

One of the best places to stay in Bataan is the newest hotel in the province, The Plaza Hotel. Opened in June 2014, Plaza Hotel has 34 rooms with prices ranging from Php2,800 up to Php4,500.

And what I love in Plaza Hotel is its Cafe’ Kyoto’s very unique ice cream tempura!

Ice Cream Tempura
Ice Cream Tempura of Plaza Hotel’s Cafe’ Kyoto

Plaza Hotel
You’ll love staying at Plaza Hotel with this very accommodating and good-looking hotel resident manager, Mr. Javier Coromina — a full-blooded Spanish born in Manila.

Never go home not having a stopover in a cozy and fancy ice cream parlor in Gen. Kapinpin St., Balanga City — the Stregato Gelateria. Owned by Zenaida B. Gonzales, who also franchised Max’s Restaurant in Balanga City, Stregato Gelateria will give you the taste of Italian ice cream right in the heart of Bataan. Aside from Stregato Gelateria and a franchise of Max’s, the Gonzales family also owned Michell’s Cakes & Pastries across Balanga City Hall.

What makes Stregato Gelateria interesting? These:

Stregato Gelateria
Stregato Gelateria’s interior design; very playful and fancy.

An ice cream parlor with swings inside
An ice cream parlor with swings inside

Gelato in Bataan
OMG! Oh my gelato!

My Gelato
My Perfect Combination: Stregato Gelateria’s best selling pistachio gelato and my favorite salted caramel flavor.

This 2015, you should write Bataan in your travel list. I, too, will surely come back to this province this year since I have not yet visited any beaches and haven’t trekked a mountain in Bataan.

Written by Kris Crismundo

Kris Crismundo is a travel journalist from Meycauayan Bulacan.

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