Last week, I had the chance to travel and experience Mt. Pinatubo together with fellow bloggers for Dermplus’ Sunventure Event. It was actually a last minute thing, and I signed up for it just a day before we left Manila. I was feeling all crappy and didn’t have anything to do on that Saturday, so I decided to just go and try going in for a hike at Pinatubo, because WHY NOT? I have seen a lot of photos on Instagram before and I felt like the place was too majestic to pass up. True enough, Pinatubo did not disappoint because the view from the crater was nothing but splendid. It was mesmerizing and the hike under the scorching heat of the sun was definitely worth it. The scenic view as you traverse along its trails was also one for the books and it felt like wherever you look at, you can still capture something that’s picture perfect.
For this trip, the Dermplus team requested to meet us at 1:00 AM on a McDonald’s Branch near SM North EDSA. Since Mt. Pinatubo is located in Tarlac, it was more convenient for us to meet somewhere in the north as it would give us a quicker access to NLEX. We left Quezon City at 2:00 AM and reached Tarlac by 4:00 AM. It’s a relatively quick drive if you’re traveling on the wee hours of the night, but in case you decided to travel in the afternoon or in the morning, it can take you around 3-4 hours to reach this destination.
When we arrived, we went straight to Alvin’s Guest House to have breakfast. We met with the rest of the Dermplus team before heading out to the 4×4 parking area, which was just a couple of meters away from where we stayed. We were already at the jump off point before 5:30 AM, but weren’t able to leave until 6. Since we went there on a Saturday, there was an influx of visitors, and the guides and coordinators had to accommodate more or less 1,000 people on that same day. We stalled for a bit and was unable to catch the sunrise on the road and eventually ended up trekking later than expected. At first it was okay, but on our way back when we could finally hear our tummies rumble and we could feel the sun burning our skin, we realized that it reallt could’ve been better if only we were able to leave on an earlier time.
Tip: Want to skip the heat of the sun? You can opt to leave as early as 4:00 AM, and get to the crater just in time for the sunrise. By the time that you would have to go down, the heat would still be manageable.
The whole travel time for you to reach the crater is around 3 1/2 hours: 1 1/2 hours for the 4×4 ride, and 2 hours (or more) for the trek itself. The 4×4 ride was pretty scenic, making you feel like you’re a part of that chasing scene on Mad Max. If you’re adventurous enough, you can even stand up from the back of the truck and take photographs from above. I was able to take pictures and videos, but a lot of them are shaky and blurry because of the rough roads. Some parts were very dusty (as you can see above), so I suggest that you bring a bandana or handkerchief to cover your nose. Don’t forget to wear a cap as well, as your hair might end up extra stiff because of the dust.
There are two stop overs before you reach the crater, but no restrooms will be made available until you reach the second stop over, located 1km. before the crater area. Don’t forget to bring tons of water (especially if you’re the type who likes to drink a lot!) because the available drinks on the trail are worth at least a hundred pesos. You will be walking for 1 1/2 hour up to 2 hours, depending on your pace. It took us 2 hours to reach the crater because we’ve been taking a bunch of photos, but going back, it took us 1 hour and 15 minutes. By this time, we’re already trying to walk extra quick because the sun is already at its peak (around 12PM). The total distance of the trek is at 10 kilometers (back and forth)
The trek is relatively easy, no ascends or hard to climb areas. There are some rocky parts but it’s very minimal, and the only challenge is the heat of the sun. If you’re going in for the climb, I suggest that you wear sandals over rubber shoes, as you’ll be passing by some creeks. Going back to the parking area, I had my shoes wet and it was quite disappointing, as I’ve been trying to avoid it the whole time.
So what is really for you at the end of the long hike? Well, you’ll be able to witness the picturesque crater of Mt. Pinatubo and take gorgeous photographs… and selfies, if you’re into that. The management doesn’t allow guests to take a dip in the water because it’s crazy deep (around 30 feet on the sides) and is pretty dangerous for the people to swim at. However, on the other side of the crater lies a hot spring, which you can visit if you take the other route.
QUICK HISTORY LESSON
For the longest time, Mt. Pinatubo was thought to be a mountain, as the name suggests. Before, the mountain has a summit, which is at 1,745 meters above the sea. However, in 1991, the volcano finally woke up from its deep sleep (600 years), and when the scientists found out about its activity, it was already on the brink of erupting.
The blast happened in March 1991. It was so powerful that the ashes scattered across the whole Philippines and even neighboring countries as far as Vietnam, Singapore, and Cambodia. Most people living near the volcano were able to evacuate. However, more than 800 people still died during the blast and thousands of people were displaced from their homes. The lahar and ash deposits were just too much that villages surrounding the area were buried up to 200 feet.
As the volcano erupted, ‘Mount’ Pinatubo’s summit collapsed and this created the crater, which was later on filled with rain water. The lake is a home for algae and it really affects the color of the water. Because of this, the water’s shade became unpredictable, and no one knows when the lake would change its color (some days its deep blue, other times the lake can go as bright as turquoise).
PS: Mt. Pinatubo is inhabited by Aetas, and legally, they are also the owners of the mountain. So during your trek, you’ll see some of their living conditions. Some kids would even ask for spare coins. I felt bad because during our ascend, I didn’t bring any food / snacks, so I wasn’t able to give them anything. Just to be clear, I don’t want to give them things because I felt bad for them. I just wanted to show my gratitude to them, the owners of the land, by giving them a small token that they can enjoy. I plan to go back next time and bring some cookies, though. 🙂
Most people would relax and eat lunch at the crater park after surviving the long walk. I highly suggest that you bring your lunch with you, have a picnic by the lake, and enjoy the serenity of the crater. Although there is a crowd gathering around, I think that you can still find peace by just looking through the gorgeous waters of the lake and taking in this beautiful blessing. If you are not going to eat lunch, at least bring in snacks because you’ll need some energy to hike back to the 4×4 area.
According to our guides, the 4×4 parking lot used to be near the resting area that you can find 20 minutes before you reach the crater. However, during rainy season, most of the areas are being flooded and this forces them to change routes from time to time.
As most parts of the route turns into a ‘river’ during rainy days, the tours would usually close down to ensure everyone’s safety.
All in all, I really enjoyed my Mt. Pinatubo experience. I was never really the type who goes on hikes, but I did have fun with this activity. Will I do it again? Sure, although I’m not quite sure if I wanted to take it to the next level (a.k.a. conquering mountain summits).
During the trip, I took a bunch of random footages on my point and shoot. As I browsed through my files, I realized that I took enough to create a short video, and decided to edit it instead. Most of the clips were shaky, so please forgive my amateur skills. It’s very hard to film while you’re riding a 4×4, as well as when you’re walking and skipping rocks. Anyway, lesson learned (I promise to try harder next time). Here’s my first ever attempt on creating a travel video! Would probably do this for the next trips as well because it’s actually fun. Hehe. 🙂
I’d like to thank the beautiful people from Dermplus for bringing us to our Sunventure in Mt. Pinatubo. I’m so grateful that they partnered with us during this trip. Dermplus’ products were really effective that I didn’t have any sunburn even if I was walking for a long time under the sun! 🙂
Want to go to a Dermplus Sunventure? They have more upcoming trips to destinations in the Philippines! Also, they are going to giveaway trips for lucky Dermplus users. Follow them on Instagram for more details!
How about you? Where is your Sunventure this coming summer? Would love to hear from you!