Saturday (July 30), we took a tour of the Bataan Peninsula to see the various sights of the Bataan Death March. It was a sobering experience that gave us a little deeper perspective on that era of history. It was interesting to learn that the Japanese had expected the Filipinos to support them (Asia for Asians). Some Filipino and American soldiers who escaped the March joined the rebels in the mountains. Key sites included the San Fernando Train Station where the Filipino and American soldiers were gathered before proceeding to a POW camp. Mt. Samat (topped with a large cross – elevator broken so could not go to the top of the cross) provided a great view of the area and a WW II museum. It was a little too hazy to see Corregidor Island off in the distance. In the town of Balanga, tucked behind an elementary school, we saw a bronze diorama of Major General King and his staff formally surrendering the Bataan peninsula. There is still a bathroom (Comfort Room as they are called here) standing in the background which is in the original photograph of this historic event. The school children say the bathroom has spirits. A very lively retired school teacher toured us through a small museum.
We concluded our tour with a stop in the village of Bacalor where we visited the San Guillermo Church (1576) which was half buried in 1995 with ash from the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. (This was a 6-meter deep flow of ash (lahar) that came down from Pinatubo four years after the original eruption in 1991.) The church still stands but the windows are now used as doors and you must duck to go through some doorways. Most (but not all) of us were excited by the many bats in the belfry. We ended our day grabbing some dinner at the Mall of Asia which sits on Manila Bay. Our tour guide, Carlos, was quite entertaining about life in the Philippines and very knowledgeable about the history. But, it turns out that by this point in our course, we all have a pretty solid grasp on the history and culture ourselves. I think that means the course was a success!