At my age (yes, I’m 43!), a certified mom and definitely not a mountaineer, I was a bit hesitant joining the Mt. Pinatubo challenge headed by my office mate Phil. But I’ve been waiting for this adventure for quite some time and I’m not getting any younger. With the encouragement of these two sporty girls, Joyce and Janice, I whisked off all the negative thoughts in my mind, took a one-week regular body work-out and braved this exciting getaway with my colleagues.
The group Teamwalangiwanan was created and here are the wonderful people behind it: Phil, Joyce, Jobert, Nica, Ver, May-Anne, Rona, Debbie, Cha, and yours truly. We were all ten and to ensure safety, we were equally divided into two because the maximum capacity in the 4×4 jeep was seven only, five guests, driver and trail guide.
The first hurdle in this activity was getting up at the bewitching hour of 1:30 am to meet the group by 2:30 am in McDonald’s Quezon Ave. Joyce, Rona and I arrived just in time. We had a quick breakfast to fuel up our bodies for the long trek ahead. We boarded the van and by 3 am, we made our way to Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac.
It was still dark when we arrived in front of Tourism Office for the registration. Our driver Kuya Jerry, assisted us in signing a waiver. Forty years old and above needs to undergo a compulsory blood pressure checking before they can be allowed to the trek. I have no hypertension so I skipped bp checking.
We headed to the waiting area for briefing and orientation by Ms. Sonia Bognot, the tour organizer. Later, one liter complimentary bottled waters were individually distributed to us. I was in the 9th group of 4×4 jeep with Joyce, Rona, Debbie, Ver, trail guide Vincent and Raymond our driver.
As soon as we enter the vast expanse of lahar valley, my spirit started soaring high. My heart was immensely jumping and shouting for joy. It was so amazing exploring a new-found territory.
We were laughing out loud like little kids as we were being jolted up and down, swayed from left to right. It was a bumpy fast ride and we have to hold on for dear life! Halfway, we hopped out from the vehicle for a photo shoot. There were small Aeta children here. When asked for picture taking, they smiled candidly in front of the camera. I was expecting that these kids will ask money in exchange of what we asked for. But they never did.
I can’t help not to remember how the Aetas were left with almost nothing after the massive destruction of 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo which was dormant for 500 years. Now, Mt. Pinatubo is sleeping peacefully, no longer a threat to the nearby towns of Zambales, Pampanga and Tarlac. I admire those who survived it.
We went back to the 4×4 jeep and were able to conquer the rocky trail and strong streams running through the rocks. After half an hour, we finally reached the Base Camp. The 6 km, two-hour trek to the crater of Mt. Pinatubo will start here.
The sun was shining radiantly, and fortunately, there was a breeze as we started walking by 7:50 am. I knew deep in my heart, I can make it. Mind over matter ika nga.
Vincent was very helpful leading the way. He even held our hands as we crossed streams with big stones aligned on it. If you are used to this kind of water crossing, you don’t need someone to hold your hand, like I did. An hour passed, it got hotter and hotter but thanks to the breeze for it gave us some cooling sensation which did not make the trek any harder.
Looking around, all I saw were lahar, lahar-formed hills, stones, boulders, flowing streams. I was even more excited as we made it halfway. I was amused seeing a small stream where the flowing water was color yellow. According to one of the guides, it was sulfur. Amazing find, isn’t it?
Later we reached TJ Station (according to the guide), the actual Drop Point area. There were two kubos here, a bathroom and the iconic welcome sign of Mt. Pinatubo… Your trek starts here… for young age: 15 minutes, middle age: 18 minutes and Senior citizen: 20 minutes. Where do you belong?
After two hours of sweating, the trek will really start here? Hahaha! We sat in the kubo and ate crackers. Some went to the bathroom. There were cold refreshments for sale but quite pricey (P100 per item).
Surprisingly, I still had the energy I need. Nobody pain yet, just a sweat. This is what I get from being a sporty mom. Thanks to our badminton and volleyball sports in the office. It made me active and energetic. After photo ops with the welcome sign, we headed now to the crater.
No more lahar this time. We entered a mini rainforest, with several small streams with very clear water and lots of rocks. Some of these rocks were so slippery. So beware! Thanks to the shades of the towering trees for it protected us from the sun.
We walked fast aiming for the 15-minute trek. But we could not overtake some trekkers on steep trail who were walking so slowly. Then there were the flight of steps (79 steps based in my counting) and then the sign: “Welcome to Mt. Pinatubo!” Yehey! Finally we’re here!
It was so beautiful! The crater full of turquoise water was a picture-perfect and a sight to behold. I giggled, “Guys we are now inside a volcano!” It’s my second time to see a crater, Taal Lake being first. And it was so amazingly wonderful!
We sat on the clean grass, took a moment of rest while savoring the clean and fresh air. Later Rona, Phil, Jobert, Ver and me went down to the crater. The others took rest.
I was amazed even more as I soaked myself to the magnificent view that my eyes were feasting. Everywhere I look is a picture of tranquility. The lake was so clear. It was so inviting to swim. But swimming is now prohibited because of previous accident happened to an OFW who died of heart attack in the water. Even boating is no longer allowed in the lake. Since we can’t enjoy with water activity, we just captured the moment looking at the view.
Later we went up and settled for lunch. We sat comfortably under a shade of a tree and enjoyed munching our food.
We rested for about an hour. By one pm, we got up from our seats and had our last group picture in the photo den.
I was left behind savoring more the remaining minutes watching the beautiful crater. Refreshed and satisfied.
Going back was easy. We did it in one hour and thirty minutes only. Once again, the 4×4 jeep rove on the rocky and dusty roads and into river bed crossing. Dusts were flying freely in the air.
I just can’t sustain my appreciation for I was able to conquer the beautiful and magical Mt. Pinatubo. I thank the Lord for another exciting and unforgettable adventure that I will never ever forget for the rest of my life.
The reward was very promising. Better try it for yourself while you still can.
Special thanks to Majestic Mt. Pinatubo Tours. This tour includes van transfer from Quezon Ave. to Capas, Tarlac and V.V., 4×4 jeep, packed lunch, local tour guide, entrance and 1 liter bottled water.
Things to bring:
- Packed lunch (for those who are not availing a package tour)
- Arm warmer
- Jellyace, chocolate
- Dust mask
- Big scarf
- Trekking stick may help
- Extra clothes
- Garbage bag
- Wear comfortable shirt, short or leggings (for girls).
- Multi-strap sandals (Sandugo or Tribu) or slippers are good for river crossing but your feet might get so dirty because of dust.
- Rubber shoes are just fine with socks. In my case, I wore Merrelle water proof shoes.
- Hydrate yourself with water so you will not get tired during the trek.
- There are no comfort rooms along the way, so better go to the bathroom at the waiting area before you trek. Bathrooms are found in Drop Point area and in crater lake park.
- Swimming and boating are not available this time.
- Forty years old and above needs to undergo a compulsory blood pressure checking.
- Leave no waste.
In getting there through public transportation:
Board a bus in Manila or in Pasay (Victory Liner, Genesis or Five Star) going to Baguio, Dagupan, Tarlac or Urdaneta and alight at Capas, Tarlac. Board a tricycle in front of McDonald’s Capas and tell the driver to drop you in front of Tourism Office in Sta. Juliana.
Sonia Bognot’s contact numbers: 09326094226 and 09186021943