This article was first published on Footsteps on April 17, 2016.
I just spent two days in Puerto Galera, went home to freshen up, then left again to go to our meeting place in Cubao for a trip to Mt. Pinatubo. I got there ahead of time, so I stopped by at Starbucks for a quick fix of caffeine. With no sleep, coffee was my only saving grace.
I went with my friends, Reg, Nase, and Mont. We reached our destination a few minutes before the sun rose. There were a lot of people signing up and a lot of kids selling trekking sticks. I wasn’t expecting it to be that crowded.
Reg ended up buying a stick. It was funny seeing her posing for the camera while holding that long stick. Since Ms. Universe Pia Wurtzbach was scheduled to have a homecoming parade in a few days, an idea came to me – Reg can be Ms. Universe-Pinatubo. Haha! She was all for it, so we went with that silly idea for a photo shoot. She even wrote ‘Miss Universe-Pinatubo 2016’ on the stick.
After waiting for a couple of hours, we finally got to ride the jeepney just before 9am. Us four were divided into two jeepneys accompanied by three strangers from other groups. It was not ideal, but we had no choice.
The first few minutes was surreal. The jeep was running quite fast, so I had to be careful while using Mont’s camera to take pictures. After a few minutes, the road started to get bumpy. The sun was glaring, but that only made the view even more astounding. Reg decided to stand up to know how it felt.
With a lot of excitement and adrenaline, it seemed like the first part of the four-wheel ride passed by so quickly, but I think it was actually about half an hour. There was a quick stopover to let us interact with the Aetas. I hurriedly took pictures of them, and they were striking their own poses just as quickly. It was a joy to see. I gave the kids candies. I wish I had more to give, seeing how their clothes and slippers were all dirty and damaged. I wish it occurred to me that these kids need more than candies. They smiled, though, even if I didn’t have anything but candies.
I wish I could’ve planned this trip better. I wish I wasn’t so busy writing articles, watching TV shows, and planning other trips. Maybe I could’ve made time to research about Mt. Pinatubo and the condition of the Aetas living here. If so, I would’ve brought shirts, slippers, and toys for the kids.
I wish I didn’t see Mt. Pinatubo simply as another destination to cross off my bucket list, but an opportunity to share even just a bit to make these kids happy. But at least I know this now, so I’d be more aware of where I’ll be going and what I could share next time I visit a place. If you are planning to go to Mt. Pinatubo soon, I hope you bring something for the kids. The way they smile back at you will make it all worth it.
While I was taking pictures of Reg, Nase and Mont arrived. Nase was so excited she was shouting at us! Haha. We had fun for about five minutes, but then it was time to go again. This time, I decided to stand up to take pictures, but it proved to be very difficult so I only lasted for about five minutes.
We finally reached the “parking lot” of the four-wheel drives. It was time to walk. The trail wasn’t as challenging as other mountains because there were no high assaults. You just have to walk amidst small and big rocks and the occasional stream of water which can be avoided by stepping onto the rocks.
After about 15 minutes, we saw kids chilling at their self-made “fortress” of rocks put together to create a circular space (picture below). We’ve seen four of these throughout the hike. I asked myself how they came up with this idea. Maybe out of boredom, but it’s pretty creative, I must say. I remembered being a kid and also building something like this with my friends, only with pillows and blankets. This is like a Flintstones version of “bahay-bahayan.” Kids, no matter who or where they are, always inspire me to be happy. I’m glad I was able to take this beautiful photo.
It was a calm but long trek. It’s twice as long as the last mountain I climbed, Mt. Manabu. I am not a physically fit person, so it was somewhat challenging, but nothing I couldn’t handle.
At the last part of the trek, I decided to take a few steps ahead of my friends and stay behind this guy who was playing music from his phone. I needed some entertainment, a soundtrack to accompany my steps. When my mind wanders, I always want some kind of music to accompany my thoughts.
At last, we reached the Crater Lake! It was an amazing feeling to finally see the popular Crater Lake I only saw in pictures before. It truly was a magnificent sight. Like a larger-than-life experience.
After appreciating the view for a few minutes, we looked for a place to sit and have our lunch. Those few minutes eating and laughing with my friends were lovely. I miss these people because it has been six months since we were together every single day working in one office. Random conversations with them will always make me happy.
After having our lunch, we went down the cemented steps to see the Crater Lake up close. Thankfully, the sun shone down on the Crater Lake after a few minutes. When the light of the sun reflected on the lake, it created two different shades of blue, like a division of some sort. It was so beautiful it left me speechless. We only had a few minutes to let all that beauty and wonder sink in because there were already whistles coming from above and we knew it was time to go back. But God, those minutes I will never forget.
I was more relaxed and comfortable on the way back. I almost slipped once because I was running trying to outpace other people. After an hour of trekking and another riding the 4×4 jeepney, we were back to where we started. Reg and I were the first ones to arrive, so we waited a few minutes for our friends before going to the shower area. You’ll have to pay 50 pesos to take a shower afterwards, but man it was the best 50 pesos you’ll ever spend in your entire life. We ate at Jollibee on the way home and that Jolli Spaghetti was the best serving I’ve ever had in my entire life. You get the gist.
Mt. Pinatubo was something else. I will never forget my experience; everything I saw and everyone I was with that day. Reg who invited us the last minute and agreed to do the silly Ms. Universe-Pinatubo idea I had; Mont who brought his DSLR, made me use it practically all throughout the trip, and didn’t get mad when I kinda almost broke it; Nase who made us wait in Pampanga for 10 minutes being the diva that she is (haha joke!) and for being my test shot model when I was trying to figure out how to use the DSLR; The Aeta kids who were so enthusiastic to welcome us and strike a pose whenever I point the camera towards them; Our guide (I’ll always regret not getting his name) who was so accommodating and kind to us and entertained me with all his stories; All the other guides who I tried to follow because their speed challenged me; And of course, the gorgeous Crater Lake! You were so gorgeous, indeed the beautiful product of a disaster. I still look at you through the pictures I took and I think I’ll be looking at you for a long time.