I went to: Mt. Pinatubo

Mount Pinatubo became well known because of its destructive volcanic eruption back in 1991 and was the second largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century. In fact, its massive eruption contributed to ozone depletion and worldwide decrease in temperature. Affecting 30,000 lives and billions of properties, Mt. Pinatubo was really felt. Devastating as it may be, but Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption left us stunning sights to which most of the tourists are enjoying up to this day.

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Mt. Pinatubo is located in the middle of Zambales, Pampanga, and Tarlac. It is a two-hour drive from Manila to Capas, Tarlac town proper and another 30 minutes travel to Municipal Tourism Satellite Office of Sta. Juliana. Registration starts as early as 5 A.M. and cut off time is at 6 A.M. In the registration area, you have to fill up an information sheet and sign a waiver as well. This is where you have to pay for conservation and tour guide fees. Now, don’t get confused because there will be another fee that you are required to in Botolan area as you go your way to the crater since it’s a different municipal already.

You need to rent a 4×4 jeep to reach the drop-off point going to the crater and be ready for an hour bumpy ride! But worry not, because the sights along the way are stunning! Every view will capture your attention and you’ll get puzzled on where to look. It’s like you’re in a different world, seriously! While we were on our way, I kept telling to myself, “grabe, ang ganda!”.

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4×4 Jeeps parked at drop-off point

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From the drop-off point, you will start to trek for 2-3 hours depending on your pace. It’s better to start as early as 7 AM so that it’ll not be too hot to trek. There will be a lot of river crossing going to the trek but it’s not as hard as you imagine. There are some parts that are rocky road so you have to be extra careful to avoid tripping over.

Drop-off point

After an hour of trekking, you’ll reach the Botolan station, which is the boundary of Zambales and Tarlac. This is where you have to pay different conservation fees. There is a sari-sari store available in Botolan station and you can also rest your feet before proceeding to another one-hour trek to the crater.


After a short trek from Botolan station, you’ll reach the stop over area going to Mt. Pinatubo. There are rest rooms and cottages available where you can catch your breath before proceeding. This is also the area where you can spot the famous Mt. Pinatubo’s signage.

Which one are you?

The trail from here going to the crater itself is cooler since there are trees along the way and there will be more river crossings as well.

Ascending to the peak of Mt. Pinatubo is not that hard since there are already concrete stairs going up. You’re adrenaline rush will suddenly boost once you see the welcome sign of Mt. Pinatubo!

From that point, a breathtaking view will welcome you. When I got there, it was like I’m in a different place at all! It was a scenic view that you can’t take your eyes off once you laid on it. You’ll be amazed by what the eruption did to the place. It’ll take your worries away.

There are cottages in the area where you can have your lunch or you can do it under the shade of tree if you want. It’s free of charge, anyway. Just be mindful of your trashes and don’t litter anywhere. The tour guides bring their own plastic bags but still, you have to be responsible with your own trash. Also, don’t forget to share your packed lunch with your tour guide or whatever snacks you have.

Swimming is not allowed so don’t try to break this rule because your tour guide might get suspended if you do so. When we were there, some foreigner still broke the rule and it’s really disappointing since there is already signage saying “No Lifeguard. Swimming is not allowed”.

You can stay there long enough to recharge your energy for another 2-hour trek back to the drop-off point. You can take your photo ops or just enjoy the view since there is no cellular signal everywhere. Perfect time to spend your muni-muni time.

Pinatubo trekking fees:

3,000 – 4×4 vehicle rental (maximum of 5 passengers)

500 – local guide (group of 5 pax)

Fees charged per person:

300 – conservation/maintenance fee

700 – Botolan, Zambales Fee

Additional information:

Guests ages from 40 years old to 59 years old are required to present their proper identification such as passport or government issued IDs. For those who are 60 years and above, they have to present either medical certificate and health insurance or medical practitioner or travel insurance together with their identification cards.

Love at first sight, but never the second sight.

Love at first sight, but never the second sight.

A week ago, we visited our first hometown during our childhood days which was located at the southern part of Luzon, Bicol. My sister and I grew up with the beach just right behind our home. Our playground was the seashore, our toys were the seashells and the sand, and our pool was the sea. That is why maybe I have this intimate relationship with the ocean now that I am older.

Our itinerary was to visit the famous yet non-mainstream virgin island located at the Burias Island, the Sombrero Island. We had to cross the ocean for three hours with a boat ride from the locals. Before we decided to go there, I already did a little research about the island. Only few of travel enthusiasts and bloggers I am familiar with visited the island maybe because it’s too far and consume time. Anyway, the blogs about the island were convincing enough that anyone who reads it would itch to reach the island, even me! I went crazy convincing our parents to visit the island because of its beauty. And it never disappoint me as soon as we were just about to dock in the island. Just from far away, it was already capturing my “mermaid” heart. I can’t wait to dip into the water and drown myself with the crystal clear water of the island! White sand was covering the island shore and the coconut trees in the middle of the island made it even more beautiful. I was so astonished by the creation of our God! Plus, the sea water was not even salty and painful in the eyes. It was perfect. Every visitor could enjoy the peaceful, quiet, and serene island very far from those famous and mainstream islands I have known in the country. I got mesmerised by the beauty of the island. Untouchable. The sand was fine as powder and there were little rocks and pebbles that were white too.

It was our lucky day because it seems like we rented the whole island. No one except for us and the caretaker of the nipa hut houses was on the island which we enjoyed it even more. I fell in love with the island I may say. But as we were exploring the island, my father went in the middle of the sea (it was still low tide then) and spent for like 15 minutes there. As he went back to us, he told us that the resources in the island were gone. What he meant by that was the corals and fishes living around the island. He saw that the corals in the middle of the sea were already dead and destroyed. Disclaimer: My Father is a seaman for his entire life. And it was destroyed all because of dynamite fishing! For God’s sake, dynamite fishing is still alive? I cannot believe what I heard from my father. I felt like all my dreams and imaginations about the island just vanished because of what I heard. I have so much care for the nature especially the ocean and it broke my hear knowing that behind this magical and beautiful island, was brutally claimed and destroyed by human. I felt bad since then and now I see the island in a different way. An island with so much to give was only being abused by some of the fishermen. The stones that I thought were pebbles were the broken pieces of the corals. Heartbreaking it was. Then my sister recalled that she saw a smoke in the sea near the fisher boat while on our way to the island. Then it made me even more frustrated. How can these locals destroy their island’s own beauty? Who to blame for giving these fishermen the choice of bombing the sea’s prestigious possession? Is it the poverty? Is it the little knowledge of the fishermen regarding the proper fishing?  Or is it the government who didn’t make sure to guard the ocean and educate the people?

If they did not destroy the island’s hidden gift, maybe, just maybe, they could have profit more from it. Tourists could scuba dive or snorkel around the island which adds to attraction of the island and gain more visitors. From that, locals living near that island could make profit from the tourists.

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The island from afar is the Sombrero Island

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Sand bar of Sombrero island
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Coral pieces on the sand

Sad, but that’s the reality. We cannot bring back the corals that were destroyed. As the saying goes, “the damage has been done” and there’s no other way to prevent the abusing of the island but to stop these local fishermen using dynamite fishing. NO TO DYNAMITE FISHING! STOP DYNAMITE FISHING!