Mt. Pinatubo shook the entire world during its massive eruption in 1991. The catastrophe was so enormous that volcanic ashes from the eruption filled the atmosphere affecting even the remotest corners of the Earth. Thousands of people lost their homes and livelihood as the aftermath was even more devastating. That year marked the saddest Christmas for the people living in the provinces surrounding Mt. Pinatubo that forever will they bear the memories of that dreadful day this majestic volcano made its presence felt.
Mt. Pinatubo may have brought pain and suffering more than two decades ago but it is nowadays a testament to the never-ending wonders of nature. This magnificent creation is now dubbed as “The Beautiful Disaster” and has been one of the most sought locations for movies. Bet no one ever thought that the monster that once plagued the entire nation will evolve into something inexplicably beautiful. Twenty years ago, people would cringe by the mere mention of Mt. Pinatubo but today, its name is synonymous to adventure, fun and unrivaled charm.
12 Midnight. I was on a cab moving towards Five Star Bus Station in Cubao. With me was my 30L Rhinox backpack, sheer courage, anticipation and uncontainable excitement. Ten Years. It was ten years ago since I last saw these friends I’ve known since I was six. The memories of us chasing one another at the school’s lawn under the midday sun during breaks put a little smile on my lips. We had so much fun back when we were younger and to be able to enjoy their company once more in one epic adventure in Mt. Pinatubo is such a delightful opportunity I surely can’t miss.
Four years. That was how long I stalled my Mt. Pinatubo adventure due to some unforeseen circumstances. It just makes me glad that I am finally making this long time dream a reality and I have my long time friends to share it with. As soon as I reached the bus station in Cubao, I quickly grabbed my stuff and searched for those faces I last saw ten years ago. I somehow feared for awkward moments given how I wasn’t the type to communicate constantly with people but as soon as we saw one another, words came flowing through that we spent hours talking just about anything. Guess friends will always be friends no matter what.
Travelling from Manila to Capas, Tarlac took only two hours. At four in the morning, we were in McDonalds Capas sharing stories over coffee and cheesy eggdesal. Thirty minutes past the hour of five, off we went to journey the roads to the DOT registration site. The tricycle ride was pretty much uneventful with the exception of the beautiful sunrise enveloping the far flung horizons with orange and crimson. A few minutes past the hour of six in the morning, we arrived at the registration site.
After all the formalities were covered, off we started with our adventure ridden in a 4×4 jeep. We were kind of disappointed at first cause we wanted an open jeep but what we were given was the covered jeep. We felt like it wouldn’t give us the kind of adventure we hoped to experience.
The first “supposedly exhilarating” part of our 4×4 ride was crossing the river but since we were all safe and sound inside a close jeep, the exhilaration didn’t hit us that much. After crossing a half kilometer river, we continued the ride passing by rugged terrains all the way to what they call the “Toblerone Hills”. We stopped by for a moment, took some photos and interacted with the cool Aeta kids. We then resumed the ride to an even more rugged terrain until we reached the start point for the trek.
It was 8AM and the sun has already made its way up the sky when we started the hike. It was at first very easy but after covering several meters, the rugged terrain began. Things have started to get too challenging when the scorching heat began to takes its toll. While the hike was generally easy with us hiking along rocks and crossing too many streams I lost count of, it was the sun which made the hike a nightmare.
We stopped for breathers several times before being able to cover almost half of that 7KM hike. We arrived at a resting hut where a welcome sign to Mt. Pinatubo stood. We rested for a bit, took some photos, relieved ourselves of thirst and pretty much did everything to prepare ourselves for the next hour or so of hiking under the scorching heat of the sun. When we felt we’ve rested enough, we continued the hike.
The hike went on along gradually ascending dry and rugged path. This time we were crossing wider streams of freezing cold water. If only I wasn’t wearing a shoe, I would have loved to dip my feet into the water to freshen up a bit. It would really be a pleasurable feeling being able to escape the punishing heat of the sun but we needed to get going or we would be dealing with an even worse pain given it was already approaching the hour of 10AM and we were no where half way to the crater.
After overcoming several mini-river crossing and enduring that knee breaking hike along a gradually ascending path emblazoned with oversized rocks, we finally covered 6KM of the hike and arrived at a resting hut. There I was able to finally relieve myself off water which I had been suppressing for a good 2 hours since there was no way I could sit anywhere in the trail and pee.
I never really expected the hike to be that exhausting. If I would really think about it, it would no where be as difficult as the other mountains I had hiked before but Mt. Pinatubo really gave me a hard time. Yeah, I think I should keep on getting better. Everyone does. It doesn’t matter really how many mountains you had conquered but when you’re in a mountain, uncertainty is a total guarantee.
When we were ready to resume the hike, off we went to the final stretch of our Mt. Pinatubo adventure. From the resting area, we descended to a river. This time the hike would be along rocks accompanied by gushing water. Unlike the first 6KM of the hike where we encountered moderate uphill walk, the last kilometer of hike was like climbing a ladder of boulders dripping wet with water. It was an assault from the start to finish.
Not only did the final stretch leave us out of breath due to the continuous uphill path we had to pass through but it did challenge our balance as plenty of times we needed to jump over gushing water with only slippery rocks waiting on the other side. Just as it had always been, I was walking last trying to keep pace with the rest of the pack. And just like I had always been, I was able to conquer my human weakness and survive.
A few minutes before the clock hit the hour of 11AM, I caught up with my friends who were waiting for me seated on a concrete ladder leading the way up to the crater. I took some time to catch my breath and when I was finally ready, together we climbed that 50-step ladder towards where our priceless reward awaited.
Relief engulfed my entire body as soon as my eyes got a glimpse of that mesmerizing pool of emerald green water. There was no way to describe the joy I was feeling at that moment after overcoming my own limitations and finally emerging triumphant and bestowed with the best reward, a stunning view view of Mt. Pinatubo crater. Indeed, she was a beautiful disaster much like how this hike had been. After all the adversities came the most rewarding feeling of success while witnessing Mt. Pinatubo’s beauty unfold with out very eyes.
TIPS AND USEFUL INFO
- The hike is through a rugged terrain all the way up to the crater. It would normally just take two hours the most. I would suggest start hiking early to avoid the sun.
- Bring lots of water. Trying to endure the hike under the scorching heat of the sun would be too impossible without water.
- Food, water and other drinking beverages sold by vendors in the park are triple the original price so you would do best to bring your own food and water enough to last until the end of the hike.
- Bring umbrella not only to ward off the heat of the sun but to shelter you from the rain as it normally rains in Mt. Pinatubo in the afternoon. Rain coat and poncho would do as well.
- Every 4×4 jeep is only good for 5 people max. Tric may be shared by up to 4 people but would depend whether you carry big backpacks.
- There is NO need for slot reservations except during the summer months when influx of visitors are expected. If you need to reserve, please contact Kuya Wendel – +63 919 608 4313
- Option other than 4×4 is ATV. Package for 2 people inc all the fees is P8500. You’ll be taking the short trail to the crater if you would choose this option.
- Cut off time for registration is 8AM for day tour and 2PM for overnighters.
- Best months to go there would be from October-May. During these times, the 4×4 jeep could drive you all the way to the 6KM mark where you would only cover one more kilometer of uphill road to the crater.
HOW TO GET THERE
In Cubao Bus Stations (5-Star/Victory Liner), ride a bus going to Capas Junction (3Hrs ; P172/way). In Capas Junction, ride a trike going to DOT site (45Min ; P300/trike/way). Ride a 4×4 jeep to the jump-off (1Hr ; P3000/5pax) then start trek to the crater.
BUDGET, SAMPLE ITINERARY & OTHER ESSENTIALS
|SUMMARY OF EXPENSES (4 Pax)||🚌 2-way bus @P172 - P344
🏍 2-way trike @P300/way/2 - P300
🚙 4x4 @P3000/4 - P750
💸 Guide @P500/4 - P125
💸 Botolan Fee - P400
💸 Conservation Fee - P500
🍱 Food - P300
Total - P2719/pax
Note: You can still save more if you would bring your own food and would have all 5 people sharing the expenses
|SAMPLE ITINERARY||0000 Meet Up 5-Star Bus Cubao
0100 ETD Capas Junction
0400 ETA Capas Junction. Buy Provisions
0430 Ride Tric to DOT Site
0530 DOT Site. Register. Pay Fees
0700 Start 4x4 Ride
0800 Trek Jump Off. Breakfast
0900 6KM Resting Area
1000 Crater. Photos Ops. Rest
1400 Start Descent
1600 Jump Off. 4x4 Jeep
1700 Registration Area. Wash Up
1800 Bus Home
|THINGS TO BRING||2L Drinking Water
Poncho (in case of rain)
|WHAT ARE THE FEES||4x4 Jeep - P3000/jeep/5pax
Guide Fee - P500 Daytour ; P1000 Overnight (1guide/5pax)
Botolan Fee - P400/pax
Conservation Fee - P500/pax
|CONTACT PERSON||Tour Coordinator - Kuya Wendel - +63 919 608 4313|
There you have it lovely people! That sums up our Mt. Pinatubo adventure. For questions, suggestions, violent reactions and to simply give me some LOVE, just shoot them on the comments box below. Until next time. Don’t forget to share this to your friends. Ciao