(pictures taken by Precious Madrid So)
“What? Mt. Pinatubo! Lahar! I don’t want to go there!” This was my reaction when my friends decided to change the itinerary for our vacation. We initially planned to go to hundred islands but because we don’t want to meddle with the pools of jellyfish which are currently joyous during this time of the year, the organizers decided to have a change of plan.
I was five years old when Mt. Pinatubo erupted almost two decades ago. I woke up in our home in Cavite seeing white everywhere. I do not understand it at first but when my Dad explained everything and as I watched people crying in television as the camera magnified the destruction that it brought to my country, it left a mark that I carried for decades. Hairs on my back still rose by the mere utterance of the name “Mt. Pinatubo”.
With the encouragement from my friends, I finally decided to join the getaway. I just pestered them with reminders such as “Please don’t leave me there…”, “I am not that good in hiking, don’t walk in a fast pace.”, “I do not know how to swim, I need a life jacket!”
We left Manila last Wednesday, December 27, 2011, backpacking our clothes and food for three days. It was 2 o’clock in the morning when the bus left the station bound to Tarlac. After two hours, we found ourselves in a Jollibee Store beside the Tarlac Bus Terminal. It was cold and raining as we wait for the 4×4 vehicles that will take us to Mt. Pinatubo. I thought that I could comfortably sleep as we travel but with the strong, cold, early morning air slapping my face and entire body, I doubt if anyone could sleep well in that state. We waited for an hour for the registration then the adventure of riding a four-wheeled vehicle began!
I would describe it as if we were riding some rides in a teen park. Adrenalin rushed as the vehicle bumped from side to side. With millions of stones so big being laid on the ground, plus the splashes of water every time we pass by streams, it was really a wonderful experience as we traverse the path to our destination.
After an hour and thirty minutes, the vehicle stopped which signaled that we need to start our trek towards the crater. The trek was so tiring and seemed that it would take forever before we could reach the crater. The only consolation is the wonderful ambiance that it seemed that we traveled in a different world. The mountain ranges around, tamaraw running to and fro, sheep, birds, and wild plants made the trek a one of a kind experience as we took a closer look at the grandeur of God’s creation! We are blessed with a cool climate with drizzles from time to time instead of a scourging hot sun. Couple of times we thought that we are almost there only to find out that we are way far from it. When we saw stairs that marked the commencement of a more spectacular ambiance, we rushed towards it with the remaining energy that we have. As we stride on our last step and our eyes landed at the crater, our jaws dropped as we saw the breath-taking sight that quenched the thirst of our tired and aching body. With the turquoise green water that served as an oasis to the greeneries around, we settled in awe as we say, “Worth it… all worth it!”
Going back from the crater towards our vehicle is another story. As we took our first few steps back, we know that it meant another two hours of trekking. It was tiring but since we have this child-like heart, we played ‘amazing race’ as we walk and run towards our vehicle. When we set sight to the vehicle that is patiently waiting for the return of its sojourners, it seemed that it was the most beautiful vehicle that I ever saw. That time, that vehicle became synonymous to a gold-laden, four-letter word… R-E-S-T!
Wet, tired, yet happy and fulfilled, we journeyed back to Tarlac as we brace ourselves for our next trip – Nagsasa Cove. It was truly a memorable experience not just for me but for the entire group!
What? Mt. Pinatubo! It is such a wonderful place! You will surely want to go there!”