“Knowing where you’re going is the first step to getting there”
- ken blanchard
|mabuhay! first stop: mt. pinatubo|
Determined to fulfill my dreams, I have been constantly searching the net for affordable yet super sulit adventures. Pinoymountaineer.com is one of the sites that I always check not only for the wonderful stories of their bloggers but also for travel adventures that they organize. It was my lucky day. Trail AdvenTours – one of the trip organizers, posted that they will have their first Mt. Pinatubo crater lake daytrip trek for this year. I cannot contain my excitement and my head started generating questions - is it too expensive for a daytrip, what should I wear, will Jayjay come with me, will I get to meet new friends and so much more. It was like in grade school whenever our class will have a field trip it was the same feeling! I feel like a kid again…
I started researching just like what journeyingjames.com said “make Google your best friend”. I read feedbacks about Mt. Pinatubo adventures and I came across different travel packages (way high for my very limited budget), visiting my fave travel blogs (which were almost of the same price range) and trying to compute based on a DIY adventure (same price range but should be a minimum of 5 people). After several hours of research I decided to go with Trail AdvenTours. I emailed them about the trek and after a couple of (very patient) emails from them, 2 slots were reserved for me.
When I decided to fulfill these dreams I want Jayjay to be part of it all but he is not the adventurous-type like me and my problem now was will Jayjay come with me in this trip tsk... With very good awa-effect acting and few reverse psychology he easily said yes (only because it was a daytrip).
We do not have any idea how many people will be in the group so when we reached the meeting place at 2:30 AM, we counted the people who seems to be in adventure attire as part of the group, it turned out that we were only 11 in the group – a mixture of mountaineers, a british - traveling pinas for the first time and a geologist/teacher. We left 30 minutes late of schedule (the only flaw by the organizers).
The sun was just starting to rise when we arrived at the jump-off point in Sta. Juliana, Capas Tarlac. Several 4x4 trucks, groups of trekkers and foreigners were already there. Daren (from Trail AdvenTours) made the necessary arrangements and 30 minutes later we were all riding our 4x4s! Ours was the closed type which will be a problem if you want to take pictures unless you’re sitting in the front seat, since I’m the only girl on our truck I was able to sit in front. I’m smiling from ear to ear as I enjoyed the ride and the scenery hoping that Jayjay also feels the same but as I look at the back of the truck, there he was the nature-lover (weh!) and the adventure-seeker he is (hindi nga!) catching up on lost sleep haha!...
We will be taking the longer route, 3-4 hours of trekking after the 1-hour 4x4 ride. There is another 4x4 route which they call Skyway which will pass through a mountain road and a 45-minutes trek to the crater. Since this was my first and official trek I am excited that we will be taking the longer route (Skyway was not passable at that time), I want to take it all in and be mesmerized all the way to the crater by the scenery that we will be passing through (cheessssy!) also to test how far can I push myself.
|view from the 4x4|
|wait for us!!!|
The trail was just easy and I think I am pretty fit but halfway through the trek I am starting to feel my muscles burning and I am sweating like a pig haha! But I am having fun and enjoying the trek so I don’t care. One of our group mates Bev was even singing while trekking keeping us entertained. We keep on asking our local guides if we were getting near and they patiently answered us with the truth “malayo pa po ma’am”. Haha!
We were still trekking through lahar (ash from Pinatubo) and when I saw an open space with 2 huts at the foot of lush vegetation I got excited, we’re almost there. We rest for a while and good thing also that there were restrooms in this area. There was also a signage indicating the minutes (based on age range) of trek for you to reach the crater. I’m confident that I can reach it in 15 minutes.
After several photo shoots we continue trekking, 17 minutes later (yeah, I’m classified under middle age), an open space and blue sky greeted us. This is it! Few more steps and bang! The most stunning view I have ever seen in my life. Even Jayjay has that big “O” face, finally I have awakened the sense of adventure in him, yeys!
How can such a beautiful thing be destructive at the same time. It was in 1991 when Mt. Pinatubo erupted, I live in Rizal and I was in 3rd grade then and recalled waking up from my afternoon nap seeing crystalline sand on the street asking my lola if I was dreaming that we were on the beach. It was one of largest and most destructive eruptions of the 20th century, ash fall reaching Cambodia and Malaysia, taking hundreds of lives and damaging billions worth of livelihood. And now looking at its calm lake will make you think if this was the same Mt. Pinatubo who has done such destruction.
Upon reaching the viewing deck the group disappeared to small groups having their own photo shoots here and there. I cannot stop saying “wow ang ganda!” and “wow sulit ang lakad!” everytime I took a different spot, truly amazing!
You can buy cold sodas near the viewing deck but it was very expensive so I suggest you bring enough drinking water with you. You can go down the crater lake thru flights of cemented staircase it was kinda steep and there were no railings. There seems to be railings before, as I saw little holes at the side of each step I just don’t know what happened to it. Hopefully the people who are maintaining the place would put railings again for safety purposes also. Upon reaching the crater I was again awestruck with its beauty, tourists and foreigners were already swimming and frolicking on its green waters. Mt. Pinatubo has a lot of visitors that day and a good number of foreigners as well.
We had our lunch at the shaded open space area near the crater and bonded with the other members of the group. Allan, who happens to be a geologist, told us stories about types of volcanoes and that they count years before they erupt again. According to him Pinatubo needs another 400 years and that Taal Volcano was long overdue. It was kinda scary but that’s how mother nature works.
You can swim on the crater but be careful because after 3 steps into the water and it was already chest-deep and few more steps, water treading and swimming skills will be required. You can also rent a boat for P350/pax minimum of 5 people and go to the other side of the crater. If you’re also looking for a good tan line you can also lie down beside the crater. You can also camp overnight. Jayjay and I did not bring swimming attires and we cannot pass this opportunity without our feet touching its water. After eating our lunch we went to the crater and we had our own photo shoot. We together enjoyed the view. I know that there are a lot of beautiful places around the country but at that moment I am looking at mother nature at its best!
Nowadays, Mt. Pinatubo has become a source of livelihood and income for the locals of Tarlac especially for the Aetas. They serve as local guides who know the trails like the back of their hands, others were drivers of 4x4, and there were also several sari-sari stores at the Sta, Juliana jump-off point, and there was the Pinatubo Spa Town mostly catering to foreigners.
Whoever might come across this story forgive me for whatever shortcomings you might find in my article and bear with my narration (just started doing this), but the social worker in me strongly suggest that you try to visit and explore Mt. Pinatubo. Not only you will enjoy mother nature at its best but will also help our katutubong Aetas and the locals of Tarlac.
After 2 hours of relaxing, frolicking and enjoying the view Daren told us that we should start trekking down as dark clouds started to form and it might be difficult trekking in the rain with the lahar and all. It was another experience trekking down, I was still mesmerized by the view as if we have not passed that trail on our way up. What a way to start fulfilling my dreams of travel and adventure, my heart was smiling and very happy. 10 more minutes before we reach our 4x4 trucks it started raining, now that’s an adventure!
HOW TO GET THERE: I strongly suggest that you make reservations ahead of time especially for the 4x4 during weekends. According to the locals of Sta. Juliana several groups without prior reservations end up going home as there are no more available 4x4s.
Our package: Trail AdvenTours: P2, 200 (which includes transportation, 4x4 ride, local guides, registration fee EXCEPT lunch)
DIY (commute): Take the bus from Caloocan, Pasay or Cubao en route to Capas, Tarlac and go down at Junction in Capas then take a jeepney going to Patling for P30 then take a tricycle all the way to Sta. Juliana for P50/pax. Or you can directly take a tricycle from Capas Junction going to Sta. Juliana for P500.
DIY (with you own car): To travel by car from Manila to Capas, Tarlac take the North Luzon Expressway. Drive up to the Sta. Ines exit in Mabalacat, Pampanga and continue driving north to reach Capas, Tarlac. Head towards the Capas Shrine until you reach Brgy. Sta. Juliana where numerous billboards and road signs can be found pointing towards the Mt. Pinatubo Trail. There are also parking areas for private vehicles near the registration office.
For your 4x4 truck rental you may contact the following people for reservations (I came across them while researching thru the net)
- Francis at 09279887277
- Wendell at 09196084312
WHAT TO BRING:
- at least 1.5 liters of water (depending on your body)
- good pair of shoes/sandals/slippers (there were several streams that you need to pass if you will take the longer route)
- extra clothes (Spa Town has restrooms that you can use but not sure if you need to pay, but there are also restrooms near the parking areas and we were not asked to pay for using it)
- raincoat/umbrella (in case it rains)
- packed lunch/trail food
- hat and sunblock
- and the most important of them all - camera to capture your adventure!