Mt Pinatubo: Now and Then

Zambales Travel Blog

 › entry 5 of 14 › view all entries
The Group Picture. L-> R: Ville, Abubu, Barbz, Apo (planisphere), someone who looks like Jear from Afar, Foy (coffeefairy), Ann (our tour organizer)
A friend who works in Singapore invited me for a day-trip hike in Mt. Pinatubo. Since I am out of job right now, it was so easy for me to accept her invitation especially when she said that she would be paying for the 50% of my fee as her christmas gift to me. I so love her, she was my sugar mommy in singapore (peace, Barbs!). :)

Hiking Mt Pinatubo is nothing new to me. I hiked this volcano for two days 7 years ago as part of an eco-challenge. Even if I was quite fit then, I remember coming last on that race of 100 where only half of the teams completed the race due to weather. We were the last team to be able to descend to the lake and took few minutes to enjoy the sulfur rich water of the lake before we have to be evacuated due to the heavy rain and everybody feared the LAHAR flow.
Welcome to Mt Pinatubo
We didn't want to be anything like what happened to people of Pompeii.

My first hike was exactly a decade after the violent eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Prior to the eruption, this volcano was nothing but a normal looking mountain common across the archipelago of the Philippines. It was virtually unknown even to us Filipinos. It was during the Independence Day of 1991 when the first major eruption of this volcano took place. It shocked everyone even the scholars because this volcano was long known to be dormant, with no volcanic activities for the thousands of years. The eruption was so violent that the shockwaves had been felt even in the Visayas. It was estimated to have blasted 20 million tonnes of Sulfur Dioxide into the atmosphere, creating a red sky for several months.
4x4 ride scenery
A giant ash cloud rose 35 km high which photo was declared as the Photo of the Year by the TIME magazine.

I lived quite far from this place but I remembered waking up in a peculiar morning in Mindoro where everything was gray and silver. Everything was covered with ash, an inch or two thick of ash! At first I thought it was a snow, how naive could I be that time but since having an ash fall in our place where there's no known volcano was really next to impossible. But it did happen. The dust particles even reached the US. And several months after, Mt Pinatubo was declared the culprit why the global temperature drop during that time, its dust blocking the rays of the sun to reach the atmosphere.
4x4 ride scenery
This eruption was the biggest volcanic eruption in the modern times.

The whole Central Luzon particularly Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga were hit the hardest by the eruption of this mighty volcano. Massive death and lost of properties was the result of this eruption. See my previous blogs about Pampanga, the extent of the damage was so huge that the people just recovered and went back to normal life recently after 18 years of the eruption. And for some lives, it would never be the same again.

Pinatubo is once again sleeping, except for tourist activities. The first time I hiked there, everything was gray or silver or black. Now, the vegetation has started to grow, few birds are starting to permanently reside in the slopes of the volcano again.
Group Picture again
Life is simply returning to this place. However, the giant eruption has left a lasting legacy, the lake that formed in the crater after the eruption. The water was murky brown when I first dived into it, and over the years, the water turned blue green now. They said, the water is blue green in the summer, and brownish during the rainy season. I really don't have the explanation why is such.

Pinatubo is located in the province of Zambales but the jump off point of the 4x4 ride was in Santa Juliana, Capas, Tarlac. It was a nice ride especially during very early morning to start the ride to the Cuadra. The sight was just surreal, very different to any landscape I have seen the the Philippines so far or even in South East Asia. We asked from time to time for the driver to stop to take some pictures of the scenery.
Trail to the crater
It was not the normal "harvest time" feel across the archipelago but here, it is more of a place where the orcs of LOTR originated. The whole ride was about an hour and a half. From Cuadra where the 4x4 jeeps were parked and a sort of stop over to pee, we started our the trek to the crater.

The supposed 45 minutes hike started with a long descend passing through narrow passages and tip toeing from one rock to another. Then it was a long winding path of rocks, water crossing, from pebble inside my shoes to boulders as huge as my room, the hike albeit short was intense enough to make my body ache the following days. While walking, all my memories of my first hike came back to me. I remember the rocks and ash formations that used to be more gray. It is greener now.

Then the crater, it was one of the most amazing places I have seen so far in my life.
The crater of Mt Pinatubo
I remember it as a gray place, the water of the lake was murky brown 7 years ago. However, the water now is blue green, more blue than green I would say. The rim that used to be nothing but ashen rocks are now full of vegetation. We were first to arrived at the crater for that day, it gave us enough time to take pictures of the volcano without any muggles cluttering the view. From the rim where we spent few minutes to take picture, we descended to the lake. Took more photos and when the first batch of the boat ride (abu, vile and somebody) left, the three of us left (barbs, coffeefairy and me) took a dip to the lake, the water was icy cold. I needed few minutes to adjust my body to the cold water. I spent almost 30 minutes on a sulfur rich water of Pinatubo, it was a blast, an unforgettable moment of my early 30s life.
Signature pose
:)

And then it was our turn to do the boat ride. It was a 30 minutes boating from our origin to the other side of the lake. It was a very serene experience. Ironically, it felt so peaceful yet we knew that underneath the surface was the crater of a very violent volcano. Once on the other side of the lake, I accidentally stepped on a soft sand, the layer beneath the surface was still hot that it burned my foot, the burn didn't cause any injuries at all but enough warning for me not to swim on that side of the lake, it could have been devastating, it could have meant "boiled eggs" for me. Hihihi

After the boat ride, we had our lunch (packed by the tour organizers). It was a decent one - meatballs and some buttered veggies. I am not sure if the food was really good or I was too hungry that any food would taste so good.
The boat ride
Nonetheless, the lunch at the crater of Pinatubo al fresco was one of the most pleasant dining experiences for me. We stayed for few more minutes at the crater then we started our journey back to the Cuadra where our 4x4 ride was waiting for us. The hike back was harder, maybe because we were already tired and it was noon time. it was a very hot walk, thanks to my malong that served as my sun block. I was rushing to just go back to the 4x4 ride. I was like dancing my ballet while hopping from one rock to another. Thanks to my Ipod for playing Jason Mraz that whole time. The final ascend to the Cuadra was the hardest part, I have cramps on my thighs, it was painful enough to give me discomfort to this last part of the hike. Once reaching Cuadra, I promised myself to hit the gym or start doing some sports to keep me fit.
Last part of the walk before the ascend
I am just a slob, a couch potato, a Juan Tamad for the past few months. Galaw galaw para wag ma-stoke. Hahaha

I reached Cuadra tired and wanting nothing but to smoke. Abu and Ville were already there, they overtook me on the last ascend. Coffeefairy and Barbs reached Cuadra 30 minutes later. We rode on to the same 4x4 back to San Juliana. It was a dry bumpy dusty ride back. The ride was rocking us as if we were having a rough sex but without reaching an orgasm. Once we reached the flat plains, we all went to sleep. We woke up when we are already in the town. We headed to the Korean spa not for a massage but just to have a decent bath. After freshening up, we headed to the store across the street for some street food. Our tour organizer gave us a small certificate saying that we conquered the Pinatubo, actually it was Pinatubo which conquered me.

The rest of the trip was the uneventful ride back to Manila with one stop over because our Finnish friend was craving for Jollibee.
jennethm says:
Congrats on being featured!!! Nice thing to see your blog being featured on rare times that i logged in TB.

Keep blogging my friend :)
Posted on: Dec 31, 2008
JeAr says:
ah! kasi kame 9 na nagstart... ganda talaga love it!
Posted on: Dec 30, 2008
planisphere says:
6 AM yung start ng 4x4 ride kaya mejo maganda ang drama sa umaga ng araw... :)
Posted on: Dec 29, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
The Group Picture. L-> R: Ville, A…
The Group Picture. L-> R: Ville, …
Welcome to Mt Pinatubo
Welcome to Mt Pinatubo
4x4 ride scenery
4x4 ride scenery
4x4 ride scenery
4x4 ride scenery
Group Picture again
Group Picture again
Trail to the crater
Trail to the crater
The crater of Mt Pinatubo
The crater of Mt Pinatubo
Signature pose
Signature pose
The boat ride
The boat ride
Last part of the walk before the a…
Last part of the walk before the …
Abubu and a call of nature
Abubu and a call of nature
Aetas Village
Aeta's Village
The start of the trek
The start of the trek
sand, pebbles, rocks and boulders
sand, pebbles, rocks and boulders
Group picture again
Group picture again
Nuno sa Punso
Nuno sa Punso
Destiny guy
Destiny guy
The crater
The crater
Raffles pose
Raffles pose
the banker (bangkero)
the banker (bangkero)
Aetas drying clothes
Aeta's drying clothes
Zambales General Tips & Advice review
Good Tour Organizer for Pinatubo Hike
Here is the Itinerary given to us by Ann, the organizer: Cost: 1, 950.00/person Inclusions: * Roundtrip Van Transfer (Manila-Tarlac-Manila) in… read entire review
Zambales
photo by: JeAr