Mount Pinatubo : Beauty After Madness
They looked like lions’ eye lurking in the dark, ready to chase you in the barren wilderness. Slowly moving in a pack as the gentle dust start to illuminate against the barely lit universe. This is the scene at 5AM at Crow Valley in Capas, Tarlac as the group of Mount Pinatubo conquerors ascend the volcano on board the rugged 4x4s.
Mount Pinatubo had its most cataclysmic explosion and made a worldwide history in 1991 when it destructively erupted covering the entire Central Luzon Province in dark ash. It obliterated anything and anyone on its path, dislocated humanity, turmoiled culture, buried communities and forever altered economy.
More than a decade had passed and along its harrowing tales of an unforgettable nature’s wrath stands the resilience of Filipinos to catastrophes and that is finding beauty after madness. Today, Mount Pinatubo is a beautiful weekend escape for those seeking adrenaline-pumping treks, relaxing afternoon picnic and health bath. Its turquoise caldera lake called Lawa ni Apo Malyari is like a gem that glistens under the hot sun. The crater, measuring about 2.5 kilometers in diameter and 85 meters deep has now become a boating oasis, a sulfuric water spa and a huge swimming pool for tourists.
Mount Pinatubo straddles at the tripoint of Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga, three of the biggest provinces in Central Luzon. However, the most popular gateway is in Sta. Juliana, in Capas, Tarlac. Here, the trail is easier and just about 25 kilometers away. The trip starts onboard a 4×4 jeep along the Crow Valley, a 16-kilometer super dusty drive on flatland. It crosses the shallow parts of O’Donnel River and traverses through plateaus and cliffs of hardened lahar or pyroclastic sand. The 4×4 ride in itself is already fun maneuvering through different terrains. Up until it reaches the end of the navigable flatland is the start of an agonizing 7-kilometer trek to that once mouth of hell.
Trekkers walk for about 2 hours on dusty lahar and shallow riverbeds. Since vegetation rarely thrive in the lowland, tourists walk under the heat of the sun. There are designated resting places made of thatched nipa roofing for shade and bottled coolers may be bought at an expensive price. Up into the trek, the once barren sand dunes fade out into nippy brooks breaking from boulders, huge ferns, unusual flowers and the cooler temperature starts to seep in. From what starts as toxic turns dramatic as a whole new world unfolds before your eyes. Just by gazing through the wonderful sight of Mount Pinatubo’s mouth is worth all the sweat, dust and muscle pain of getting there. To experience the rest of the activities like boating and bathing in its warm sulfuric water, which is believed to be therapeutic to skin, you have to go down on its narrow and steep 170 steps built on concrete.
Retracing your way back to the campsite where your 4×4 waits is easier and by this time the temperature has gone down a bit. You may wallow on the shallow parts of the river along the way to cool you down. Tarukan Village, the Aetas native dwelling community along Crow Valley may be visited with prior arrangements with your guide. Camping overnight in the caldera area may be permitted by the local government unit but only allowed with accompanying accredited local guide and security. All explorations in Mount Pinatubo, are only allowed on certain months due to weather conditions. No tourists are allowed to go up without registering first in the local DENR office and those without hired guide services. It is necessary though to avail of their guide services since every so often the trail going up changes.
Today, Mount Pinatubo may already be restful and stable but with worldwide global warming, it is not considered dormant. It may have wrecked havoc more than 20 years ago, but today it is acclaimed to be one of the tourist destinations in the country. It is worth the try, worth the experience. Mount Pinatubo is all worth it.
HOW TO GET THERE
The best way to explore Mount Pinatubo is to have it arranged by a tour agency. This will save you so much time, effort and resources in securing government permits, hiring local guides, gas for vehicle and the time to completely see everything necessary.
Reliable service is most important in dealing with tour agencies and this is what I could highly speak of TRIPinas Travel and Tour Ventures. They take care of everything from pre-departure to arrival back in Manila. The tour operator joins the team throughout the excursion and engages with the participants all the time to check on safety, concerns or even for casual chitchat. TRIPinas can arrange for an exclusive group tour or they may accommodate you to join existing groups if you are traveling alone. Integrity in the advance payments you made is also accounted so there is practically nothing to worry about. The only thing you need to do is show up, enjoy the trip and let them do the rest of the logistics.
TRIPinas Travel and Tour Ventures
1102 Le Gran Condominium, 45 Eisenhower St., Greenhills, San Juan City, Metro Manila, Philippines contact number: +632 477-7446/ +639179037672 email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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