Mt. Pinatubo: Beauty in Destruction

THE first ever eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in June 15, 1991 was recorded in history as one of the strongest not only in the Philippines but also in the world.

But did you know that before that fateful day, Filipinos–especially those living in the provinces of Tarlac, Pampanga and Zambales where the mountain sprawls–did not know that there is actually a volcano sleeping underneath the earth surface? For 500 years it laid dormant until it finally awoke–dangerous and deadly.

Thankfully, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) predicted the eruption early enough to allow evacuations that saved thousands upon thousands of Filipinos living in the region.

For 500 years it laid dormant until it finally awoke–dangerous and deadly
Still, Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption was so strong that it spewed big amounts of lava and volcanic ash. The effects of volcanic spews was further intensified by a typhoon caused massive lahar flow. It also emitted millions of tons of sulfur dioxide that was even reported to have contributed to the depletion of ozone layer.

More than two decades later, the once destructive Mt. Pinatubo is now a beautiful destination in the country. The communities surrounding it have also fully recovered and more importantly, have been even benefitting to the industries that came after the eruption—one of them is a bustling eco-tourism.

Go on 4×4

With a number of beautiful and exciting mountains scattered all over the Philippines, Mt. Pinatubo is considered as one of the most accessible to local and foreign tourists alike.

Located at the Cabulisan Mountain Range that snakes the provinces of Tarlac, Zamblaes, and Pampanga, Mt. Pinatubo is only a three-hour drive from Metro Manila.

After registration at Brgy. Sta. Juliana in Capas, Tarlac, go on a 20-kilometer, 4×4 vehicle ride to get closer to Mt. Pinatubo
Take-off points are found in four towns in Tarlac namely Capas, San Jose, Bamban and Mayantoc. Among them, Barangay Sta. Juiliana in Capas is the most popular because it houses the Satellite Municipal Tourism Office where all tourists are required to register whenever going to Mt. Pinatubo.

Today’s reminder of the
powerful 1991 eruption
But to prove that it is still part of nature, herds of cows could be seen dotting the surrounding. There is also what the locals call as the “Crow Valley Canyon,” a combination of green valleys and grey canyons. There are also rocky rivers and terrains that make the ride even more exciting.

Climb to the top
After the ride, visitors will then embark on another five-kilometer trek this time by foot to finally reach the crater. Although quite long, the trail is considered friendly because it doesn’t require a steep climb. Most part of the trek is on even dried soil and rubble, as well as solid lahar.

(caption) The hike will make one understand how powerful the 1991 eruption was

Along the way, make sure to greet the children of the Aetas—an indigenous tribe that still thrive within Pinatubo.

Also, the surroundings will also make hikers understand how powerful the 1991 eruption was. What was once mountains peaks transformed into walls upon walls of dried lava.

The destination gets closer when the trail becomes smaller and more vegetated. Finally, a man-made staircase climbs up to crater. Once there, just let the beautiful scenery take your breath away.

The local tour guide 
At the peak of Mt. Pinatubo is a caldera lake that is 2.7 kilometers wide. It was formed during the 1991 eruption when the volcano collapsed forming a cauldron shape in the middle.

This submerged piece of land then catches water so it becomes a lake. However, mineral deposits of the volcano still reach the lake that is why swimming is prohibited no matter how clear or cool the water is.

A hub for eco-tourism

Besides the Mt. Pinatubo Lake, the province of Tarlac is promoting other tourist destinations that make up an eco-tourism hub.

Group shot with media friends and ECCO execs at the crater
Also in Brgy. Sta. Juiliana is the Mt. Telakawa, an alternative mountain destination for visitors who are up for a more extreme hiking challenge.

There are also scenic body of waters like the Duglo Falls in San Jose, the Siwako River in Bamban, and the Nambalan River in Mayantoc.


This story was originally published for The Manila Times. This trip was sponsored by ECCO shoes.


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