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Friday, September 26, 2008

about a bunch of photographs


It feels like walking along a deserted hallway, flickering lights with rabid air conditioning and all with just the exit sign to guide where you' wanna go. Your bare feet rubbing the carpeted flooring, attracting electricity in the process you wish would go unto your own body and provide a flowing that will ebb all of your miseries by midnight.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Mt. Pinatubo: Then and Now

Brought upon by my recent trip to the crater of Mount Pinatubo. I figured i’d write something about it.

From Wikipedia:
“Before the catastrophic eruption of 1991, Pinatubo was an inconspicuous volcano, unknown to most people in the surrounding areas. Its summit was 1,745 m (5,725 ft) above sea level, but only about 600 m above nearby plains, and about 200 m higher than surrounding peaks, which largely obscured it from view. Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay, a native of Zambales, named his C-47 presidential plane “Mt. Pinatubo”. The plane crashed in 1957, killing the President and 24 others onboard.”

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There it was, a sleeping giant until it woke up again in 1991. I remember it clearly waking up one fine day and seeing all these dust particles falling from the sky, i remember going out of our house and along with our neighbors, we all looked up at the sky like an impending apocalypse was about to happen. The sky was darkened and covered by these seemingly ashes which according to news reports was ashes injected by Mount Pinatubo.

The damage it wrought upon us was astounding, 10 times the magnitude of Mount Saint Helens and its effect on our environment and the ozone layer reaches unbelievable magnitude.

“The effects of the eruption were felt worldwide. It ejected roughly 10 billion metric tons of magma, and 20 million tons of SO2, bringing vast quantities of minerals and metals to the surface environment. It injected large amounts of aerosols into the stratosphere—more than any eruption since that of Krakatoa in 1883.”

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It was the image of Pinatubo that was forever etched in my memory, vicious, violent and unfriendly. Thousands of people were displaced including many Aetas who have lived in the mountainous region of Zambales for many hundred of years after they fled from the lowlands to escape the Spanish persecution.

I remember seeing many Aetas in Metro Manila, wandering without a place to stay, that’s how far they were displaced from their peaceful communities in the mountainside. The fleeing people living in towns that surrounds the Pinatubo area reaches as far as Amoranto Stadium which became this big evacuation camp. It was bittersweet just thinking about that period of time, when you compare and see with your own eyes the Mount Pinatubo as it looks like today.

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Yes, this is the Mount Pinatubo of today, the beautiful crater lake is definitely a feast for the eyes.

I’d been planning on making a trip to Pinatubo for the longest time, I’m glad that i was able to do it last weekend with some of my closest friends. I’ve never seen a lake that beautiful, I thought i’d only see those kinds in movies and in travel magazines.

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The 2 hour hike was all worth it (we started on the longer trail because the so called “skyway” was impassable to 4×4’s). Crossing miniature river beds, rocky trails and sand filled lands was all worth the wait. The scenery leading to the crater does not disappoint anybody, everywhere you looked, the once ravaged lahar areas, the surrounding towns once abandoned are now thriving and has survived one of the most violent eruption in history.

We arrived at the crater at about 10:00 AM, a group of German Geology students was also there touring and probably studying the geography of the volcano. I can see in their eyes the awe of what they are seeing as well.

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Who would have thought that from this:

(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Pinatubo would transform to this:

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and yes! one can actually swim in the lake:

DSC_3567( Mark M, Don and Me )

I wish Pinatubo would remain asleep again for the next hundred years. So we could enjoy a nice afternoon and a short trek to that beautiful place, and give us experiences that will always reminds us that our country is one big place waiting for us to explore.

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(Creedence Clearwater Revival...not!)

Part 1: 4x4 Ride and Hike to Mt. Pinatubo



Monday, September 8, 2008

4x4 ride and Trek to Mt. Pinatubo

Going to the crater lake of Mount Pinatubo, visitors will have to ride a 4x4 vehicle to drive through difficult terrain of mud, sand and rocky trail. It's like being inside a salt shaker but the scenery along the way makes the ride a one excellent experience.

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It takes about 45 minutes to reach the jump off trail for the trek itself. There used to be a so called "Sky Way" that takes visitors much nearer to the crater but at that time it was unpassable because of landslides caused by the rain the previous week. The trucks fits 4 people for reasons of convenience but could fit more if maximized. It was really my first time to ride over a truck in a terrain like the ones leading to the jump off of Mount Pinatubo - a real dirt and off road where the truck will pass through small streams of water, muddy soil and treacherous trail that it takes really skilled driving to avoid having the wheels of the truck get stuck in the most unsteady soil formation.

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The 4x4 trucks are driven by certified drivers who have a lot of experiences in maneuvering in this kind of trickery slopes, they have an organization of 4x4 drivers in Mount Pinatubo and ours was driven by their President so we were like secured that we won't roll over during some point on our trip. After 45 minutes we reached the start off point for another 2 hour trek to the crater. Going to Mt. Pinatubo is safe as long as you make sure the weather will be fine for a few days, because strong rains brings lahar, mud slides and deadly flash flood. 


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The hike isn't much difficult compared to my hiking days, the hike itself takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes, where you'll pass through what was once a thick forested area, which according to our guide was where hundreds of Aeta's used to live before the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.

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The eruption totally changed all that, as the path leading to the crater are now covered with sands, small riverbeds, rocks and traces of lahar.

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But eventually, you'll reach a place before the crater that is typical of any mountains in the Philippines where it is covered with green vegetation and trees.

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While walking you'll see the aftermath of the gigantic eruption of Mt. Pinatubo and you cant help but wonder that the very same spot your feet threads on was once a place of utter destruction with massive lahar, lava, mud plowing through like a battering ram unmindful of whatever lays ahead of them.

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It gives you now a sense of bittersweet feeling, the scenic aftermath, the ruins of never more forested area now covered by a deluge of random elements of Earth. Water flowing along small river crossing that can grow big with heavy rains. All of it conspires to make it a very unique place and that's about along the way, come and wait for the grand attraction, the Mount Pinatubo crater lake.

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Mt. Pinatubo, definitely a place I'd love to come back again.