Saturday, March 24, 2012

Conquer Pinatubo

Some would call Mount Pinatubo in Zambales as the "mighty destroyer" or the "silent killer".  I think both are relatively true.  Mount Pinatubo was once considered as a dormant volcano because its eruptive history is unknown to most people.  But in 1991, it broke its silence.  Lahar flooded the entire area, bridges collapsed, roads were destroyed and many people were left homeless.  Provinces as far as my homeown in Laguna have seen streets covered by the volcano's ashes. Mt. Pinatubo has erupted.

Fast forward to present day and you'll see a lot of people going to the volcano.  Many mountaineers and travellers have been there.  The main attraction was the volcano's crater.  A  few weeks ago, I found myself face to face with the "silent killer".  My brother and I joined the travel group, Travel Factor to "Conquer Pinatubo".  There were 30 of us during the Pinatubo trip.  Meeting time was 2am.  I wasn't able to sleep well the night before because I was afraid that I won't be able to wake up that early.  I think I only had 2 hrs of sleep.  :-(

My Travel Factor ID

We arrived in the Tourism Office at around 5:30 in the morning.  It was still dark but I was surprised to see that there were a lot of people who would trek that day.  There were also other travel groups and a lot of foreigners. We registered at the Tourism Office and was excited to board the 4x4 truck.  I asked some drivers and found out that the rate for the 4x4 truck is Php3500 round trip for 5 people.  You would also need to have a tour guide, ours was Kuya Billy.

The 4x4 truck traversing into the terrain
Ashes and sand covering the area
The 4x4 truck ride took about an hour.  I met two lovely people from our group - Net and Rissa.  We passed through barren but beautiful landscapes - roads covered with hardened ashes as far as your eyes can see.  The ride was an experience in itself.  We hit our heads several times because of the very rough road. We held our breaths as the truck struggled its way through the rivers and rocks.

Aetas we met along the way
The 4x4 truck making its way through the river
Photo shoot before the trek
After an hour, we started the trek.  They say that on average, it takes 2.5 hrs to reach the crater.  There was an easier way before through the "Skyway".  You only have to trek around 15 minutes because the Skyway leads you through the main Pinatubo area.  But the typhoon Ondoy has destroyed the Skyway so hikers need to endure a longer trek.  And since most of us in the group were amateur climbers, we reached the crater at almost noon (more than 3 hrs trek time)!  We had to stop at almost every shade, sit and rest our tired feet.
All geared up for the trek
Passing through a river
Resting place for weary travelers
Sign leading to the crater
We were rewarded with a magnificent view when we saw the crater.  Truly, every drop of sweat and every step was worth it. The crater was so beautiful.  It has a turquoise color that blended well with the surrounding.  The cool wind blowing in our faces was refreshing.  It was our perfect reward.
My first glimpse of the crater
The magnificent view of the crater
After a lot of picture taking, we went down to the main crater.  We decided to hire a boat and swim in the crater.  Yes, you can swim in the crater.  At first, I was hesitant but I know that I have to maximize the experience and try everything.  The journey to the other side of the crater took about 15 minutes. The boat ride is Php350 per person.  Before taking a plunge, we first sat in the sand.  After a few minutes of sitting in the sand, we felt as if our bottoms were burning!  The sand is hot but ironically, the water is cold.  Swimming in the crater has refreshed our bodies from the long and tiring trek.

Fellow conquerors enjoying the view
Crater lake boat ride
We made our way back down at around 3pm.  I thought that the trek downwards would be a lot easier but it's not.  After around 1.5 hrs of trekking, I asked our guide:

Me: Manong, malayo pa ba tayo? (Sir, are we still far?)

Guide: Medyo malapit na po.  Isa't kalahating bundok na lang! (No, we're quite near. It's only one and a half mountain to cross)

Me: ?!!!!

One and a half more mountain to cross
By the way, I forgot to mention that we crossed four mountains before we got to the crater! Haha.

Making our way down
Going to Mt. Pinatubo feels like squeezing a month's worth of exercise into a day.  You will shed buckets of sweat.  But at the end of it all, every step was truly worth it because what you see up there is amazing.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Trek To Mt. Pinatubo: A Story In Photographs

This post is a sneak peek on my recent trip to Mt. Pinatubo, Zambales.  I'll be writing more about it in my next post.  For now, I hope you enjoy this.

Trip Name: Conquer Pinatubo

Travel Group: Travel Factor

Time of meet-up: Zombie hours of 2:00 A.M.

Total number of trek hours: 5 long hours

Level of Difficulty: Way out of the charts! (for an amateur climber)

Level of Fun: Super fun!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Travel Plans for 2012

While others have written their travel plans at the start of 2012, mine came up only now.  As old cliches say, it's better late than never.  So here's a run-down of my travel plans for this year:

I'll be challenging myself by climbing the crater of Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales.  It will be a 2.5 hour trek amidst the scorching heat to reach the crater.  A lot of people say that it was worth it because the view on top is majestic.  This will also be a bonding time for me & and my brother because he will be accompanying me to this trip.  We will be joining the group, TravelFactor.

I'll also start a travel series featuring my hometown, Laguna.

My birthday month.  Hopefully, the plans to visit Poro Point, La Union will push through. Thunderbird Poro Point is a resort in La Union that was inspired by Santorini Island in Greece. Visiting this place would make my Santorini dream come true (well, almost).

In April, I will also continue with the Laguna series as well as explore the province of Rizal.

My big Southeast Asian trip - 9 days, 4 flights, 4 countries.  Me and my friend will be going to Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand.

In Singapore, we will go to Universal Studios and I just can't wait to try the tofu fries from the store,   I ♥ Tamei!  We also plan to visit other landmarks such as Marina Bay Sands, Little India, Arab Street and the Esplanade.

Then we will fly to Malaysia.  I've been wanting to see Astaka Morocco in Putrajaya.  I also want to cross the Sky bridge in the Petronas Towers.

Our next stop will be Siem Reap, Cambodia.  It has always been my dream to see the Angkor Wat.  I have read a lot about it and i just can't wait to explore this majestic site. Let's see if I'll also have the courage to try out some of the country's exotic delicacies (tarantulas, crickets and bugs).

After that we will cross the border either by bus or van going to the backpacker's mecca - Bangkok, Thailand.  My goal is to take a picture of the Wat Arun (or the Temple of the Dawn) as the sun sets. We will also be visiting the Grand Palace and the ultimate shopper's paradise - the Chatuchak Market.

I plan to join a group tour going to Banaue and explore the Rice Terraces.

I will go to Samar to visit the Biri Rock formations.  I booked an airline ticket to Samar as soon as I read about the rock formation feature in

Because I miss bagnet and empanada so much, I will be revisiting Ilocos in August.  This time I will be focusing on the Bangui windmills, Pagudpud, Kapurpurawan Rock, La Paz sand dunes, Calle Crisologo and Paoay.

September - October
Explore Cavite and Batangas.

I plan to see the Chocolate Hills, have a close encounter with a tarsier and swim in the beautiful beaches of Bohol.

I'll be spending the holidays in Laguna

Most of the items here are still in the planning stage, so if anyone wants to join me in any one of my trips, suggest an itinerary or share some info, please feel free to shoot an email at  I'll be more than happy to hear from you.  Thanks!