As we worked our way through the ashen gullies of Mount Pinatubo’s shoulder, I admired the signs of rebirth underway: the steady stream of water that skipped over horsetails, tadpoles and pumice stones painted with sulphur and iron; the moss, thickets and tree ferns carpeting the ravines beneath distant avian cawing; and Aeta children keenly observing our ascent into the gaping cerulean mouth of Apo Namallari– the almighty god of this sacred mountain, whose pyroclastic power the world witnessed during the eruption of June 1991, the largest in living memory.
Located on the border intersection of the provinces of Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga, Mount Pinatubo has become a popular trekking destination highlighting its tranquil crater lake accessible by a 90-minute ride on a 4WD jeep and a steady two-hour hike from the jump-off point to the summit. What was once the epicenter of destruction that erased towns, imperiled thousands and altered climates globally now showcases the regenerative beauty of nature. After all, the volcano’s name means “to make grow”.
From the plains of volcanic ash punctuated by wandering carabaos to the gullies of hardened lahar reminiscent of Tolkien’s Mordor, to the forested gorges by the crater rim, Pinatubo’s changing landscape is one of most awesome places in all of Luzon.
Easy treks to Mount Pinatubo start in Barangay Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac (2 1/2 hours north of Metro Manila). For hassle-free yet affordable tours, one may avail budget packages from tour organizers in social networking sites like Multiply. Travel Factor offers monthly day trip tours at PHP 2,000.00 per head, inclusive of bus transfers from Metro Manila to Capas, 4WD vehicle, tour guide and afternoon snacks. Wear comfortable hiking clothes, bring enough drinking water, and a shawl or some other head cover to shield yourself from dust on the 4WD trail. For DIY tour details, check out this blog.