Mt. Pinatubo scenic crater
It was at least 4 years ago when I last visited Mt. Pinatubo. We had an outreach held at an Aeta Village in Tarukan, on the way to Pinatubo and the next day we headed for the crater. From the said village it was a grueling 6 hours trek towards the crater. This was like my 3rd climb at the time when I started on the outdoors and it was a real test of endurance on my part. With your feet constantly sinking in the sand, passing by numerous rivers and the scorching heat constantly at your back, this wasn’t a walk in the park. But reaching the crater was truly an amazing reward.
Fast forward to present, after seeing those amazing photos of Mt. Pinatubo from co-bloggers Oggie and Daniel, I was surprised on how the mountain has changed. I knew I had to go back there and see it for myself. Fortunately a friend of mine was organizing an “Earth Day” daytrip at the area and I asked if I can get a spot. I did get a spot alright and was asked to be the trail lead last minute.
Roughing it up with 4x4s.
After assembly at the Total Head office in Makati around 3:30 am we were off to Capas, Tarlac. There were around 30 participants and we rode this brand spanking new Genesis Bus which was really comfortable. 3 hours after we got to the Pinatubo Tourism Center, had our breakfast, 4×4 car assignments and group assignments. Around 8am we were off to the jump-off point which is an hour away. But we had to wait few minutes for the military exercises which are regularly held around 8am.
With the availability of 4×4’s, Pinatubo Trekkers nowadays are quite fortunate because of shorter trek time, which is around 3 hours towards the crater.
TOTAL participants at the start of the trek.
On the way to the crater, I was amazed on how everything has changed. From what was a barren dessert like surface-of-the-moon landscape 4 years ago, now there’s the noticeable lush vegetation on the surfaces of the lahar sculpted landscape. It was really impressive how these massive walls of lahar are being covered in greenery. It was like Eden, a start of something better. I guess Mt. Pinatubo is quite descriptive of itself since the word Pinatubo means “To made grow” in English. With the greens, trekking the mountainscape is like a scene in “lord of the Rings” middle-earth. I was impressed.
On the last stretch towards the crater, I noticed that there were concrete stairs and a couple of restrooms! Ok, I guess this is now becoming a popular tourist destination. Fortunately this was well placed as not to obstruct the natural scenery. Then there’s the platform! Hmmm…. I remember this was our base camp before. I can’t blame that Eco Park Office for this though. I think they were expecting an influx of tourist here, especially Koreans who have a Spa in Capas itself. But it’s kind of a mixed bag for me.
A closer look at the crater
Anyways getting past that is WOW! The crater looks more scenic than before! The color has completely changed and I noticed the water level decreased by like 20 to 30 feet which created the seashore on the side of the crater. And there was noticeable large erosion on the side mountain as well. I just remember sitting by the edge of a cliff where a small tree giving me shade while staring at this natural wonder and waiting for the others to arrive, especially our lunch. It was almost noon.
After lunch, we headed down at the crater for a swim. Again there are concrete stairs, which I must admit made going down a lot easier. Also at the crater shore, you could rent those pedal boats and normal oar boats good for 2. I didn’t manage to ask how much though. After taking more photos at the crater, I joined the others to swim. And boy was the water cool! Last time it was warm and warmer on several spots. And now, despite the noon time sun, the water was really cool!
More greens on top of impressive formations
I left the water like 20 minutes after to join the first party going back. Going back was easier as usual, but I took advantage of taking photos at every turn. With the different cast of light on the landscape it was another scenic trek back. We passed by a group of Korean tourist on the trail, a bus load of them I think. They’re quite a presence in the Phil nowadays; it seems I could see them anywhere I go.
It was around 4pm when everyone got back at the jump-off point and we started our way back. But then, another Military Exercise was blocking our way, we had to stop like 20 minutes first lest we want to be in a crossfire from the Jet’s machine guns which we can clearly hear and see from afar. Passing by the Military grounds we saw a large number of Aeta groups scavenging through the Jet’s target practice area, getting what’s left off the metals from the Ammos fired to sell for a considerable price. That’s how some of them thrive.
It was a long day but a worthy one at that. It’s just amazing seeing this volcano which made quite a stir, in the world’s environment in 1991 by delivering one of the most destructive explosions in the world since Krakatoa in 1883, become one of the most scenic and breathtaking place in the Philippines right now. And I think this is just the start, maybe again in 5 years time, Mt. Pinatubo will grow more amazing than it is now.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.