1991: the year that marked the wrath of a once dormant volcano which was awakened after 600 years of sleep. This eruption was considered as one of the most catastrophic volcanic eruptions in the recent years as it discharged sulfur dioxide and spewed ashes everywhere. It was then considered to be a dreaded object of fear, violence, destruction and catastrophe, but now, at present, it is now revered and admired as an object of beauty and majesty. And I could not even believe my eyes as I personally admired how extraordinarily beautiful the Crater Lake is, complemented by a perfect weather, blue skies, and turquoise waters. It was indeed a perfect day to witness the beauty of Mt. Pinatubo.
Mt. Pinatubo is no longer the terror that it was more than two decades ago. It is now a prime tourist destination which offers various kinds of adventures for those gutsy enough to go through it. As it is gaining popularity among tourists, a lot of “volcanic activities” await any eager visitor. You could trek through Pinatubo’s Crow Valley Canyon, view its crater through a chartered light aircraft, visit the Tayawan Caldera, and even get a Pinatubo spa using lahar sediments left by the eruption.
We left Manila at 2:00 am, despite lack of sleep, Pao and I were ever so enthusiastic to anticipate the day’s activities. We reached Tarlac around 4:30 AM, ate breakfast, and had to wait 30-35 minutes more for the Tourism Office to open. Fortunately, we were part of the first ones to be given a 4×4 vehicle to take us through the “Old Way” of Mt. Pinatubo. It was a 1 hour ride, but it was not tedious at all because of the view that entertained us along the way.
Around 7:30 AM, we reached the drop-off point and off we started trekking towards the Crater Lake. It took us around 1.5 hours (normally 2.5 hours) to get to the Crater Lake. I guess we were blessed with a tour guide who was so fast in trekking and group mates who were very much athletic. We had to keep up, and push ourselves as if we were athletes ourselves, especially that we had a University Coach in our group. Thankfully, we were able to beat normal trekking time and arrived at the crater earlier than expected. We were part of the fortunate ones who arrived at the Crater Lake before loads of tourists came to admire the majestic volcano.
And my jaw just dropped at the beauty of Mt. Pinatubo. The trek was definitely worth it. It definitely is praise-worthy because of its natural beauty and exquisiteness. No exaggeration here, but its beauty was just something you can marvel at for long hours without getting tired of admiring it. We just enjoyed the view, marveled at the precious turquoise waters, and enjoyed the warm-hot waters of the crater lake. We went boating towards the other side of the crater and discovered pockets of boiling water steaming from the sand. It was a great experience seeing the view, but it was another to actually experience the crater lake in its natural wonder.
The lake formed when rainwater pooled at the volcano’s summit that sank after the eruptions from 1991 to 1993. However, recent advisories have been warning the public against swimming in Mt. Pinatubo’s volcanic waters as the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has found the Pinatubo crater lake to contain such hazardous substances such as arsenic, aluminum, boron, chloride, iron, manganese, sulphate and total solids that “may affect human health in various ways and may become fatal over an extended period of time.” (Cervantes, 2013)
But at the time of our visit, November 2012, no advisories were raised yet, thus making it possible for us to wade through the waters of Mt. Pinatubo and enjoy the warm temperature of its volcanic water. Despite the warnings raised now, I’m still grateful of the experience and definitely not regretful of the memories that we made along the way.
Mount Pinatubo is truly a majestic sight to see and this made me even look forward to more experiences of seeing Philippine volcanoes and mountains. If ever you would have extra time and if you’re around Tarlac, this activity is definitely a must-do!
How to get there:
- We availed of an all-inclusive tour from Access8 Tours. Everything has been taken cared of including the transportation, registration, waivers, 4×4 rides, and lunch.
- But if you would like to DIY, take any bus that will pass by Capas Junction, Tarlac (Baguio, Pangasinan, Tarlac etc.)
- Ride a tricycle going to the Pinatubo Tourism Office. These tricycles can be found outside McDonald’s, Capas Junction.
- Head towards the Tourism Office, sign the waivers, get registered and pay the applicable fees. Wait for the tour guide that will be assigned to your group.