While many would just see it as a peaceful drive, there is a lot of history that happened on the ground of Balete Pass. Also called Dalton Pass, the road that connects Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya was where the Battle of Luzon, one of the bloodiest encounters in World War II, happened.
Balete Pass traces its history to March 1945, the end of the war. By then, Allied forces had staked their claim on key locations in Luzon. But General Tomoyuki Yamashita—yes, that Yamashita—resisted and built defenses in the mountains. They wanted to delay the retreat from Baguio to Bayombong and Ifugao.
U.S. Col. James Dalton of the 161st Infantry Regiment led the attack at Balete Pass. The Battle of Luzon lasted for three months, yielding 17,000 casualties, including Dalton, who was killed by a Japanese sniper. On May 31, 1945, the allied forces took control of the pass and drove the Japanese out. The area was named after the American colonel, and to this day, it is sometimes called Dalton Pass. It is now maintained by the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO).
Visitors to Balete Pass can see three memorials that pay respects to the soldiers who bravely fought during the war.
The American Memorial is an obelisk, while the Japanese monument features several plaques, engraved stones, and a cross with the text “peace forever.” There is also a memorial that commemorates the eight members of the Chinese Overseas Wartime Hsuekan Militia (COWHM) who lost their lives fighting with the Americans. Their plaque reads, “May their brave heroic efforts in fighting for freedom serve as a shining model for all peace-loving men and women for all times to come.”
Beyond the memorials is Perez Park, which features a 150mm Japanese Howitzer and a cave. A highlight is the deck with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and forests. There are benches and picnic sheds where tourists can rest, reflect on the history of the place, and admire the mountainscape. It also has an 800-meter zip line that goes through a forest, a project of the Department of Tourism.
These days, the sounds of nature have replaced battle cries and gunfire. Close to 50 species of birds have been spotted here, including the endangered Japanese night heron. DOT-trained tour guides are available daily for walk-in visitors.
So much has changed in Balete Pass but it still serves as a reminder of the heroism of Filipinos who sacrificed their lives to give us the freedom that we enjoy today.
Because of its strategic location, Balete Pass is known as a gateway to the Ifugao Rice Terraces and Cagayan Valley. Make sure to include this in your itinerary to admire the view of the hinterlands and learn more about the country’s past.
Santa Fe, Nueva Vizcaya
Opening hours: 8AM-5PM
Entrance fee: FREE
How to get there: Tuguegarao is accessible by plane from Manila. Take a flight from Manila to the Cauayan City Airport in Isabela. Then take a 3-hour drive to Tuguegarao.
Meanwhile, Sta. Fe is some five hours drive from Metro Manila via NLEX and SCTEX.
Tourist destinations in Nueva Vizcaya are ready for domestics and foreing tourists. Guests are required to wear a face mask, practice social distancing, and regularly wash hands before dining in. Be ready to present your vaccination card or certification.
These places have sanitary and contact tracing procedures such as registration and temperature check at the reception and using alcohol to sanitize hands before entering the premises.
To know more about Nueva Vizcaya, visit https://nuevavizcaya.gov.ph/.
To check out up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.