“Hindi ko mailagay lahat sa puso ko ang ganda ng nakikita ko!” -Eugel
(“I can’t contain in my heart the beauty that I see!”)
April 20th of 2013, schedule of our day trip to Mt. Pinatubo through RBT Transport Services, Inc.
We were 9 in the group. The other one to complete a supposedly group of 10 was sick and his substitute became sick as well. All of us were at the pick up point before 0300H, except for one who arrived 30 minutes late. These were slight delays and challenges in our trip, but things did turn out nicely because we faced them good-heartedly. We realized later, that everything in the itinerary were precise.
We had a (strict) 20-minute breakfast at McDonald’s Capas, Tarlac, which was 30 minutes ride away from the registration and 4×4 jeep stations. We started to put on sun screens and trekking gear on our way to Camp O’Donnell.
*Camp O’Donnell is the starting point of a Mt. Pinatubo trip. It was a facility of the U.S. Air Force, and is now a camp of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. During the Japanese occupation in World War II, Camp O’Donnell was the final stop of the Bataan Death March and was used as an interment camp for American and Filipino prisoners of war.
It was the last day of Balikatan exercises that day. We saw a number of barracks (tents) from afar. Our guide, Aries, told us not to take pictures of the barracks or have it as photo background.
At the first 5 minutes of our 4×4 jeep ride at Crow Valley, the driver said something to Aries in a vernacular language I could not understand. We were informed that we had to go back because the driver forgot to fill up the gas tank. Yeah, we really need to go back! Otherwise, we have to walk under the unforgiving heat of the sun when the gas would run out. We decided to get off the jeep, stay right where we were for photo ops, and wait for the jeep to return.
*Crow Valley is the moonlike valley you have to cross when using 4×4 jeep going to Mt. Pinatubo. It was the main bombing range of the U.S. Armed Forces in the western Pacific. It was a 42-mile facility that was used for aerial combat training, which includes bombing practice. The facility featured an airfield as well as sophisticated electronic warfare installations, including advanced radar and radar jamming equipment and even a Russian surface-to-air missile installation. At present, the facility is used for practice by the Philippine Air Force.
Aries told us that they would hear explosions and rifle sounds during military exercises. The military men would target junk cars or drums while on air. Since Crow Valley is 42 miles long, one would be an ultra runner/trekker if he chooses to reach Mt. Pinatubo caldera by foot all the way from the starting end of the valley.
The 4×4 jeep ride is a total of around 2 hours of bumpy, dusty and thrilling ride. But the view… the view is exhilarating!!
I enjoyed more the view when standing at the back of the jeep. By the way, there are jeepneys with roof at the back, or are covered, but not air-conditioned. But when it becomes dusty, the dust would collect inside because there is limited outlet. On an open jeepney, just enjoy better the view during the ride, and the feel of the sun’s heat on your skin. 😀 On weekends, the 100 units of 4×4 jeepneys are usually rented and you cannot really choose the type of jeep you can have. While standing and taking pictures, I had my strong left hand holding a skeleton tube of the jeep, and my dominant right taking care of the camera. One cannot stand upright without support. Because of the so bumpy ride, I have a picture that looks like this:
Reaching the 10-minute mark from the crater. (Pang young age kaya ito, middle, or senior citizen?)
This trip/hike is much, much easier than going to other peaks because the option that we chose was the shortest way, the trail was almost flat, except the assault going to the crater’s rim,
and the steps going down the lake.
Savor the view! I cannot forget this comment of Eugel, one in our group, “Hindi ko mailagay lahat sa puso ko ang ganda ng nakikita ko!” I myself thought I was looking at a painting!!! We were in front of such a serene and picturesque view, that was once a large bowl of boiling water in June 1991, erupted and threw tephra that affected almost the whole Luzon island.
Before June 15, 1991, at around 1342H, *Mt. Pinatubo was an unremarkable and heavily eroded mountain, covered in dense forest that supported a population of several thousands of indigenous people, the Aeta. The Mt. Pinatubo eruption lasted for 9 hours and caused several large earthquakes, which resulted in the collapse of the summit the creation of the caldera, or crater lake.
After the eruptions, the water in the caldera was hot and highly acidic. Abundant rainfall cooled and diluted the lake and increased its depth by about 1 meter per month on avarage.
Since an incident in January 2013 wherein a tourist had a heart attack while swimming near the banks, swimming had not been not allowed anymore. Boating was also available at the lake before.
We went back as scheduled. I was so sleepy that I didn’t mind bumping into the hard head rest of the driver’s seat (I thought I was going to has bruises on my left cheek) on my left, and the head of Ivy who was on my right. Because I was was asleep most of the time on our ride going back, I was not able to feel the sun’s unforgiving heat and to uselessly complain about it. Harharhar! I don’t usually complain if it’s not going to solve the problem. “Pag mainit, mamaypay ka na lang! Tataas pa yung entropy e!” <– one of my favorite self-made quotes. 🙂
We reached Camp O’Donnell at around 1300H. We went straight to where we had to eat our pre-ordered Filipino lunch, and ate to compensate. The food looked good. Some dishes were bland. (Datu Puti Toyo, sili at calamansi to the rescue!) Some dishes were good. I’m just not sure if they were truly good tasting or we were just so tired and hungry. Hehehe. Some of the servers were remarkably accommodating. The place was not air conditioned, but I didn’t mind. I was one with the things out under the heat. I was tired and hungry, all I thought about was to eat. Hey, I got a Haiku:
I was one of things under heat
I was tired and hungry
All I thought about was to eat.
I had shower before we left and continued to sleep in the Wagon.
That was a short and memorable trip, worth sharing to everyone so they may be inspired as well to visit the Mt. Pinatubo Caldera.
Below was our itinerary.
Our service on this day trip: EDSA-CAPAS,TARLAC (4×4 jeep station)-EDSA, was a maroon Ford Wagon that can comfortably accommodate 10 persons excluding the driver. Our driver was Frederick.
0600H Transfer to 4×4 jeep going to trekking point (advice driver beforehand if you want to pass by Aeta Village)
0800H Start the trek to Mt. Pinatubo caldera (crater lake)
0900H Arrive at the caldera (trekking may be completed in 15-20 minutes, but extra time was allotted for photo ops, most especially when each camera owner wants to have a shot of the same spot. 🙂
1100H Back to 4×4 jeep at jump off
1300H Lunch [P250/pax (Filipino dish), P350/pax (Korean, American dishes)] / shower (P100) / massage (P500) / Volcanic ash spa (P500) / shower, massage, volcanic ash spa, mud pool (P1000)
Filipino Lunch includes: plain rice, grilled chicken, pancit bihon, (refillable), chop suey (refillable), steamed kangkong (refillable), potato salad (refillable) and banana
1500H Departure from Capas, Tarlac to Manila
Contact details of RBT Transport:
Landline no.: +632 546 2056
Mobile nos. : +63949 765 555, +63917 401 0917
*Reference: RBT Transport Service, Inc. handout