Must-Visit Historical Sites and Shrines
In a patriotism-themed campaign launch-cum-talk of an internationally renowned Scotch whisky brand last year, Dr. Ambeth Ocampo—a respected historian, writer, and academician—emphasised that "being a hero doesn’t always require grand gestures, but rather the ability to inspire and provoke others to dream and make the world better." Indeed, we have a number of countless unsung heroes not only from wars and revolutions but as well as of modern-day strife and endless struggle for peace. We always give high praises to heroes whose glorified and romanticised lives have been taught to us at school—even named after some of them one way or another. But what about of others whose fervent passion for the country also brought us to independence but their names were just lines etched on memorial markers?
As we are looking forward to the coming long weekend holidays, we've rounded up historical sites and shrines declared by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines you may want to visit to pay tribute to the fallen heroes, either declared as National or unsung.
Few minutes off the Mactan Cebu International Airport is the Mactan Shrine in Punta Engaño. Here, you will see the towering 20-metre high bronze figure of Lapu-Lapu, the country's first hero, who defended his people against the Spanish explorers led by Ferdinand Magellan. It was erected in 1941 by the then National Historical Institute few metres away from the obelisk built in 1866 in honour of Magellan. It was on this site that the epic Battle of Mactan in 1521 happened, which drove the foreigners away with their leader left for dead. In this monument, the Cebuano rajah looks differently from the Sentinel of Freedom statue in Agrifina Circle, Rizal Park, Manila. Here he is standing tall with a shield on his left hand and curved kampilan sword on his right. Like his troops that have fought against the Spaniards, as well as today's Philippine National Police and Bureau of Fire Protection that bear his figure on their coats of arms, the monument celebrates the readiness of brave warriors to confront aggresors.
Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, Visayas
Sights to see in Cebu: Basilica del Santo Niño, Cebu Taoist Temple, Museo Sugbo, Fort San Pedro, Magellan's Cross, Temple of Leah, Sky Experience Adventure
Where to stay: Marco Polo Plaza Cebu, Shangri-La Mactan Resort & Spa, Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan, Mövenpick Hotel Mactan Island, Radisson Blu Cebu, The Henry Hotel Cebu
SULTAN KUDARAT MONUMENT
Down south of the Philippines is the beautiful province of Sultan Kudarat, which was named after Sultan Kudarat who the people of Mindanao consider as the greatest sultan of the then sultanate of Maguindanao and the most powerful across the island of Mindanao. In front of the Moro-designed provincial capitol in Isulan, the monument for the revered sultan stands and proudly shining in gold. Sultan Kudarat (reigned 1619-1671), whose name means power in Arabic, proved his might by reclaiming many parts of Mindanao from the Spaniards during their 300-year regime. Through him, most of the island was left unchristianised and remained under his sultanate. He was known for his "relentlessness, sagaciousness, and cunningness" as said in the monument's marker. With these qualities, he inspired thousands of muslims to fight against the invaders and make the islamic culture and religion intact and strong even up to this day.
Sultan Kudarat Provincial Capitol, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao
Sights to see in Mindanao: Lake Sebu , Maria Cristina Falls, Mount Apo, Tinago Falls, Hinatuan Enchanted River, Mount Dulang-dulang, Tinuy-an Falls, Dapitan Shrine, Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary
Where to stay: Seda Abreeza, Seda Centrio, Marco Polo Davao, Dedon Island Resort, Pearl Farm Beach Resort
It was not only the muslims who fought against the Spaniards but also the catholics who were already tired of the lies, suppression, and corruption of their encomenderos. In Caloocan City, people from the north are welcomed to Metro Manila by the exquisitely beautiful Monument de la Légion Etrangère that stands high commemorating the so-called "children of the nation" or the Katipunan. The memorial monument was designed by the National Artist Guillermo Tolentino to commemorate Katipunan's founder and Supremo, Andres Bonifacio. The 45-feet high monument has symbolic images that recall the beginning of the Philippine Revolution that broke out in 1896 through the "Cry of Pugad Lawin". It was during the Cry when the katipuneros took arms and tore their cedulas as a sign of their revolt inside one of the houses near where the monument stands today.
Grace Park, Caloocan City, Metro Manila
After the Cry, the Spanish forces tried to seize the katipuneros. On August 25, Bonifacio started to deploy his men on different areas around the city and on August 30, he launched an attack in El Polvorin de Almacen, a Spanish arms and powder artillery in San Juan del Monte. This was then declared as the first real battle of the Philippine Revolution against Spain after the Cry. The Pinaglabanan Shrine, which stands on the grounds where the Battle of San Juan del Monte occured, was built to commemorate the heroism of the Katipuneros.
The shrine's centrepiece is the Spirit of Pinaglabanan monument by Edgardo Castrillo. During the 150th birth anniversary of Bonifacio, NHCP opened the Museo ng Katipunan in the shrine where there are interactive displays and original Katipunan artefacts. A list of thousands of members of the society can also be found there.
San Juan, Metro Manila
BALANGIGA ENCOUNTER MONUMENT
Napoleon Abueva's life-sized statues of soldiers about to attack an American infantry against a replica of the church belfry may be considered as the last biggest work of the National Artist in terms of scale. Erected at the site of what was deemed as the greatest loss of the Americans during the Philippine Revolution, it commemorates the victorious ambush on the US troops inside the Balangiga Church in 1901, led by Valeriano Abanador and Eugenio Daza. However, it was followed by a great massacre counterattack, killing an estimate of 2,500 Filipino guerillas and civilians. The Americans took the three Balangiga bells as war booties and distributed it among their barracks. Until now, the Philippine government struggles in retrieving these bells. Indeed, not all wars are won but their courage and perseverance serve as inspiration to the Filipinos not to retreat too easily.
Balangiga, Samar, Visayas
Sights to see in Samar: Sohoton Natural Bridge National Park, Tarangban Falls, San Juanico Bridge, Pinipisakan Falls
Read more: The Bells of Balangiga
CAPAS NATIONAL SHRINE
Fast forward to the Japanese Occupation, the number of deaths in Balangiga is definitely paltry compared to the estimated 5,000 to 18,000 fatalities during the Bataan Death March. Unveiled on April 9, 2003 during the 100th year anniversary of the surrender of US and Philippine forces to the Imperial Japan, the Capas National Shrine is dedicated to the soldiers who died at Camp O'Donnell at the end of Bataan Death March in 1942. The 70-metre obelisk and memorial wall stands on the grounds of the former interment camp. In the marker, it says "This memorial is dedicated to the brave men and women who defied the might of the invaders at Bataan, Corregidor and other parts of the Philippines during World War II. Thousands died in battle, during the Death March, and while in captivity. Thousands more endured inhuman conditions at the prison camp in Capas, Tarlac. They suffered in the night so that their countrymen would wake to the dawn of freedom."
Cristo Rey, Capas, Tarlac, Luzon
Sights to see in Tarlac: Mount Pinatubo, Monasterio de Tarlac, Ninoy Aquino Ancestral House, Canding Falls
DAMBANA NG KAGITINGAN
The Death March was a grueling forcible transfer by the Imperial Japanese Army of 60 to 80 thousand Filipino and American prisoners of war from Bagac and Mariveles, Bataan to Camp O'Donnell in Capas, Tarlac. It was approximately 60 to 70 miles and cost the lives of tens of thousands. Although April 9 was a dark day in Philippine history, it was still appropriate to make it as the Day of Valor as it was the most vicious battle in the three-month siege. The shrine was a fitting memorial to the heroic struggle and sacrifices of the soldiers as it is on the site of their last stronghold, Mount Samat. Designed by Lorenzo Castillo and Napoleon Abueva, it was unveiled in 1970. With a towering height of 555 metres above sea level, it is the second tallest cross in the world.
Barangay Diwa, Pilár, Bataan
Sights to see in Bataan: Kilometre 0 of the Bataan Death March in Mariveles, Corregidor Island, Bataan World War II Museum, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar
Where to stay: Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar
BESSANG PASS NATURAL MONUMENT
All dark nights have its dawns. On June 14, 1945, Filipino soldiers triumphantly defeated the Imperial Japanese Army led by General Tomoyuki Yamashita in the Battle of Bessang Pass. It was originally part of Yamashita's triangular defense in the north, however it led to his own troops' doom. The guerilla fighters were well-versed with the terrain of the pass that the young General Gregorio del Pilar used during the Philippine Revolution. The entrapment of Yamashita's forces in the Cordillera on June 14, 1945 and his surrender in September of that year ended the World War II in the Philippines.
Cervantes, Ilocos Sur, Luzon
Sights to see in Ilocos Sur: Calle Crisologo, Bantay Bell Tower, Plaza Salcedo, Baluarte Zoo, Syquia Mansion, National Museum of the Philippines Ilocos Complex
Read more: An Examination Of The Filipino Conscience Through Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral
EDSA SHRINE AND PEOPLE POWER MONUMENT
Lastly, EDSA's eponymous historical and archdiocesan shrine, which official name is Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace is a must-visit shrine as well as a sight to behold. The humongous statue of the Our Lady of Peace is represented in art holding a dove and an olive branch, symbols of peace, commemorating the Our Lady's intercession in the two peaceful demonstrations that toppled Philippine presidents Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada. The globally popular People Power Revolution in 1986 wowed the world as over two millions of Filipinos regardless of age, gender, faith, and socio-economic status, converged peacefully through the help of a radio announcement from the Church's official radio station and clamoured for a new and democratic government. Some of the big players in the revolution inspired the images in the People Power Monument in White Plains, a few kilometres away from the EDSA Shrine. It was erected there, few metres off the gates of Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame because it was there the march started as well as the reclamation of the government media stations by the revolutionaries.
Ortigas, EDSA, Metro Manila