Approximately 20 years ago, just after I was born, a majestic mountain in Capas, Tarlac erupted. This eruption was heard throughout the world and the aftereffects of this event had been major. Major, that up to now, more than 20 years after, the effects are still visible – not only in the people it affected but in the place where it all began.

After constantly battling asthma for more than 20 years, this 2012, I was brave enough to start fresh of all the new possibilities coming into my life. I was ready to take on a new challenge. And this meant going beyond my limits.

Being an asthmatic has lengthened my limitations. I’m not allowed to climb (or so they say until I climbed Mt. Makiling and Mt. Tagapo). I’m not allowed to stress myself (and yet I have a night time job and 2 other solo projects, plus my blogs, plus my OJT). I’m not allowed to sweat too much (but hey, I live in Rizal and go to OJT in Makati, what would you expect?). I’m not allowed to do so many things. I am especially careful not to go anywhere I know will send me into asthmatic attacks every once in awhile.

What I meant? Volcanoes. Being too close to volcanoes will get me into attacks that will eventually develop into full blown asthma attack. Just smelling sulfur already gets me hearing my wheezes.

However stupid you may think I am for testing my own health, a friend once told me that asthma may just be psychological. I needed to battle it harder – if I wanted to.

This is where my challenge to go to Mt. Pinatubo began. I wanted to conquer that mountain that gave me my limits when I was younger. I wanted to go beyond what I could or what I should.

On January 28, 2012, my year opened with an inspiring trek to Mt. Pinatubo.

Along with 29 other travel bloggers, I finally conquered this challenge and reached Mt. Pinatubo.

Having been arranged by Robbie Bautista of the Travelling Dork and idol Dong Ho of Escape Islands, we were lucky enough to score a complete Pinatubo package of P1600 inclusive of van to Capas from Manila, 4×4, lunch and guides.

Lucky for me, I was ready to go on tour – finally, Pinatubo!

I was more scared, however, of trekking Pinatubo because in fact, I am asthmatic and I really didn’t want to cause any drama suffering from a bad asthma attack.

Still, confident as I was, I went on the trek like it was just about any mountain nearby.

At 2am, we met at Shell Mckinley. I had met with the other bloggers already in Robbie’s crib so we weren’t alone when we arrived at Shell. By 3am, I was already feeling the excitement with over 15 of us there. It was going to be an epic experience!

The ride to Capas felt a little long and we didn’t reach the jump off until around 6am. When we arrived at the jump off, we were able to change clothes and go to the bathroom before setting off to the 2 – 3 hour trek.

Although we did have a seating arrangement for the 4×4, everything turned upside down when we realized that not everyone would get to sit in an open 4×4. Instead, the rest of us had to settle for a closed van – which ended up being a better choice because the path along the way was very, very dusty and reeked of sulfur.

The path to Mt. Pinatubo

The path to Mt. Pinatubo

The ride on the 4×4 was also quite long because it took us approximately over an hour before we got to the place where the hike will begin. In that hour, we were amazed by the landscape that dawned on us. No matter how sad or bad the tragedy may have been once upon a time, there is always a rainbow and in Pinatubo, its exquisite landscape is enough to captivate just about anyone. We went through dusty roads, beautiful streams accentuated by rocks and stones, wonderfully crafted and almost artistically looking mountain-sides that we initially thought was made out of natural mountains, but was in fact, made out of the lava that once came from the mighty Mt. Pinatubo.

Trekking to Mt. Pinatubo

Trekking to Mt. Pinatubo

I had to cover my nose the whole time because I knew just a little more dust in my nose and I’d be blowing a fit.

Before we were able to reach the jump off point for the trek, we got stuck in a heavy crossing over the stream. As dangerous as it may seem, it was definitely thrilling.

Stuck at a Crossing

Stuck at a Crossing

When we finally reached the jump off point for the trek, everyone was already haggard.

 

Since Robbie and the other guys had made sandwiches for the road, we ate them before we began the trek. I didn’t get to eat though, I thought I’d save it up for eating at the crater.

Scenic Trail to Mt. Pinatubo

Scenic Trail to Mt. Pinatubo

The 2-3 hour trek along Pinatubo was filled with sulfuric atmosphere, a rewarding scenic view and an easy walk along the trail. Unfortunately, unlike other hikes, when you trek Mt. Pinatubo, you can never find out how far you’ve come. In a mountain, you are inspired to move on because when you look back and see the view, you are amazed by what you see and you know you’ve made a progress. On the other hand, trekking a slightly rising terrain with no scenic overlooking view to measure your progress can be very frustrating. I didn’t have any inspiration to hang onto except for the photos of Mt. Pinatubo that I’ve fallen in love with.

 

However, when I saw some of my friends in front of the line of trekkers, I suddenly got a little more competitive than I usually am. I was inspired to beat them. The competitive me used this as a way to hang onto the very long and very hot trek.

Trekking to Mt. Pinatubo

Trekking to Mt. Pinatubo

Soon enough, we reached the end of the trek. Yes, the end of the trek. But not the end of the hike. If the skyway had been open, the 4×4 would end here (after the 3 hour hot trek) and the hike to the viewing deck at the top of Mt. Pinatubo would begin.

At the end of the trek, there was a shed and a bathroom for some resting time before the hardest part of the trek. According to the guides, the hike up would only take 15 minutes or so.

15 MINUTES? SERIOUSLY?

Before the hike began, there was a sign:

I was determined to prove myself at a young age of 15 minutes, but as it turns out, the guide only meant people who were truly experts in these stuff. It probably took me around 30 minutes or so to get to the top – with traffic involved because there were so many people along the way. The hike up involved no overlooking views, a forest, rocky terrains and even streams. It got really tiring – up to the point that I no longer wanted to take part in any competition – with myself and my imaginary competition with my friends.

Then there came the really, really steep stairs.

I climbed up, grudgingly and I could feel the strain in my muscles. I could feel the pain working its way up to my hips and my thighs. I was tired.

And then I saw a clearing.

OMG. I was there. No matter how much pain I had to suffer to get my feet up to those steps, I was willing to sacrifice. I climbed up, fast, almost running and the pain in my muscles seemed to fade as I built up the strength to get to the top.

When I reached the top:

“P*T*N* *N*”

I said aloud and I didn’t really care who heard.

P*T*N* *N* it was worth it. All the pain, the heat, the sulfur. Everything was worth it. Every drop of sweat, every pang of pain was worth it.

 

I was speechless. No matter how tired I was, how painful my muscles felt, I was amazed by what I saw at the top.

Mt. Pinatubo

Mt. Pinatubo

Mt. Pinatubo’s crater was picture perfect. Those pictures you see online? They are real. You don’t even need Photoshop to make it look good because every snap of picture you take will be beautiful. Once you’re at the top of the viewing deck, every detail you see in the pictures is the same as you see in reality. Seriously. The gorgeous landscapes, the beautiful aqua green waters, the shape of the crater. It was amazing to see it in person. It was amazing to feel that every drop of sweat I encountered along the trek would lead up to this beauty. It was amazing how gorgeous Mt. Pinatubo actually is despite the tragedy it caused over 2 decades ago.

Mt. Pinatubo

Mt. Pinatubo

In these moments, I truly feel that I am blessed to have this opportunity. I am blessed to be living this life.

 

After lunch at the viewdeck (lunch involved 2 dishes, rice and water – care of the guides), we spent some time taking pictures before we descended to the actual crater. Mind you, when you descend, you’ll definitely feel the pain of your trek. The area near the crater is only small and if crowded, it starts to feel like you’re at the beach – except for the fact that the sand is too coarse to be actually sand and very hot. Since my shoes were wet (from the trek) I took it off to have it dry out in the sun and risked going barefoot in the sand. The water at the crater was cool, but it deepened quickly.

Kuya Dong asked us if we wanted to go boating to the other end of the lake. I agreed because I knew it was part of the plan originally. There is an additional P350 if you want to get to the other side of the lake.

Boy, was I glad I took up the opportunity.

the other side of the lake

On the other side of the lake, you’ll find an empty shore with a rock-filled beach and a background of picturesque landscape. And the view of the lake… was absolutely breath taking. The greenish lake from the other side was divided into two sides. One side of the lake had warm waters and when I reached out to feel it, it felt really nice, almost like you’re in a spa or Jacuzzi. On the other end, however, on the farther end, the water began to boil. Amazing how Mother Nature could be so cool!

On the other side of the lake

On the other side of the lake

 

The water boiled and we could even see the steam. From here on, even if the skies were blue on the other side, the steam from the volcano precipitated to the point that it looked as if it was going to rain on this side of the lake. The steam clouded the views, but it ended up being a pretty cool background for the pretty greenish blue lake.

Photo by Renz of the Travelling Nomad

Only a few of us took the opportunity to get to the other side of the lake. We ended up setting up our own Survivor picture before we took the boat and raced back to the other side of the lake. I honestly could’ve stayed longer. Made me actually want to try the Delta 5 Trail which features waterfalls but according to even the best mountaineers, was actually really challenging and hard. Maybe someday.

 

After several group pictures, we started our trek back. And because we are competitive people, Robbie and I raced to the front of the line where Chino was leading us. Pretending we were on Amazing Race, we ran, made alliances and left people behind just to get to the finish line first.

When we finally saw the first bridge we crossed from where we began our trek, we were ecstatic to be the first to return…

Until we caught sight of Heiz of Journeying Pinay and Oman of Lawstude who had actually been the first to arrive.

And…the race to the Top 5 position failed.

We still took a picture together as the first group of people to arrive.

Even if I didn’t win my imaginary Amazing Race, I went home, still feeling like I just won a million dollars.

Mt. Pinatubo Crater Lake

Cheers to a Fresh  Start of New Possibilities!

Brenna is the sole owner of The Philippine Travelogue, an online journal of her travel adventures and experiences. Brenna is a freelance writer, online marketing and social media specialist and a blogger with a constant itch for adventure and thrill. For inquiries, suggestions and invitations please send a message.

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