It is mentally challenging to think of a word that would best illustrate the province of Bataan. The glory of the region is manifested not only through its physical attributes, but further, through the culture it embraces. A symbol of democracy and freedom, and a memorial to the gallant Filipino-American defenders, Bataan is in the same way, momentous historically. The unsullied shorelines and immaculate beaches in the area that are complemented by scenic springs and waterfalls, also definitely make Bataan one remarkable province in the archipelago.
Being the smallest at the Southwestern part of Central Luzon, the province of Bataan is a finger-shaped peninsula that is bounded by the province of Zambales on the North, Pampanga on the Northeast, South China Sea on the West, and Manila bay on the East. It has a total land area of 137, 296 hectares which is about 7.5% of Region 3 and .5% of the entire archipelago. Twelve municipalities comprise the province of Bataan, eleven of which are coastal areas lying along Manila Bay and South China Sea. The region is generally a mountainous land mass that is dominated by uplands, hills, and mountains which is in fact 80.9% of the whole area. Lowlands and plains comprise 19.1% of the area and is in general, the agricultural portion of Bataan. The province also has copious water resources in the form of rivers, streams, creeks, waterfalls, and springs that radiate from the mountains. Talisay and Almacen are the two major rivers in Bataan. The climate in the province is under Type 1 which has the wet and dry season.
Prior to the coming of the Spanish missionaries in 1570, several rural communities were already blossoming in the coastal areas of the province of Bataan. Before known as Vatan, the province used to be a division in the vast Capampangan Empire which also included the provinces which are now Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, and some portions of Bulacan, Zambales, and Pangasinan. The populace in these coastal villages were fishermen, craftsmen, and farmers, while the hillsides were resided by nomadic Aeta tribes.
The province was established in 1754 by Governor General Pedro Manuel Arandia out of the two divisions which were the corregimiento of Mariveles and the province of Pampanga. Towns that comprise the province of Pampanga were under the jurisdiction of the Recollect Order of the Roman Catholic church, while those from the former were put under the Dominican Order.
Several historical episodes took place in the province, but it was during the outbreak of World War II that Bataan acquired prominence that gave it its place in the chronicles of world history. From 1610 to 1639, Tomas Pinpin, the prince of Filipino printers which happened to be a native of Abucay, Bataan authored and printed himself some of the oldest books in the Philippines. In 1647, Dutch Naval forces landed in the country to seize the islands from Spain and their plundering was resisted in Bataan. In 1896, Bataan was one of the first provinces in Luzon to have revolted against Spanish rule.
After the ousting of Spanish conquerors and administrators, the command over the archipelago was turned over to the American forces. In May 1, 1898, the island of Corregidor fell into the hands of the Americans and in the following month, Bataan was already taken by the insurrectos. In March 1942, General MacArthur aversely left Bataan with his now famous proclamation “I shall return.” By April 3, the Japanese shelling of Mt. Samat in Bataan was turned into a hill of charred coals. In April 6, the bloody battle begun at Mt. Samat, and in April 9, 1942, the defenders of Bataan surrendered to the Japanese and the Army of Bataan completely collapsed. The end of the battle came and the lines “Bataan has fallen” were uttered. 76,000 prisoners of war were then forced by the Japanese troops to walk a 65 miles of perfidious terrain from Mariveles, Bataan to the Camp O’Donnell to the north. The Bataan Death March is known as one of the greatest inhumanities of WWII and also as one of the greatest displays of heroism and human will power on the part of its survivors.
The things and events that Bataan witnessed during these times will forever be etched into its history. “The little mountainous peninsula of Bataan saved democracy and the whole world from the evil hands of the devil.” –From a radio broadcast of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jan. 5, 1945.