about a bunch of photographs

September 26, 2008

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.

Mt. Pinatubo: Then and Now

September 09, 2008
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.”


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.”

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.

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.

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.

Who would have thought that from this:

(photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Pinatubo would transform to this:

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.

(Creedence Clearwater Revival...not!)

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

4x4 ride and Trek to Mt. Pinatubo

September 08, 2008
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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

La Union Redux

August 31, 2008
I went to the beach again in La Union the past weekend with my friend Jandeska. She wanted to try surfing so I suggested that we go to San Juan, La Union. It was the off season for surfers as the waves were kind of small and comes in spurts only, nonetheless it was an ideal situation for Jandeska to learn the sport. Our trip took about 6 hours from Manila to San Juan, La Union on a bus trip that showed a Steven Seagal DvD marathon to my amusement and we arrived at the Surf Camp resort just before lunch time.

In the afternoon, Jandeska took her first surfing lesson with a very friendly surf instructor whom we met earlier the day named Danzig. He took Jan under his surfing wing by showing her the balancing moves aboard a surfboard. During her actual surfing, the waves kind of coordinated by bringing in some acceptable swell for surfing beginners. Jandeska pulled off her surfing lesson by getting the hang of it quite quickly. Something I never did during my first surfing lesson – I still suck at it until now.

Jan and her surf instructor
While Jandeska was learning how to surf I was busy capturing some sunset pictures.

There was this golden Labrador retriever at the Surf Camp resort and was friendly with the guests. I always wanted to have a Labrador retriever as a pet dog since they are known as very friendly, loyal and sweet.

guest relation doggie

It was a great weekend learning to surf – bonding with Jandeska and drinking during the night and just wander around the area watching the sun goes off and paved the way for the night and watch it again rise the next day.




This was my second time in this place and for sure I’d be delighted to plan more surf trips in the near future.

“The Rum Diary” at San Juan, La Union

May 24, 2008
HST’s “Rum Diary” was set in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The bus ride started at 8:00 PM Friday night, alighted at Olongapo about 11PM, waited for Kristina then proceeded to down a few bottles of beer at a bar called Apozaga, staring at some girl dancing crazily to the beat of “Soulja Boy”, the DJ playing hip-hop music that were new to my ears, a cover band singing pop songs on the small stage.

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Oh right before that we had dinner at the “biggest Andok’s branch in the whole world”, Grace took a pass, while me and Kristina feasted on a liempo in what she calls “Survivor:eating on a wobbly table”.

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At 4:00 am we took the second bus for Baguio, so we could get off at Dau to hop to another bus to San Juan, La Union.
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Two top of the line bus lines that take the San Juan route was late, so we ended up on a third tier bus line called Sta Lucia Lines all the way to San Juan. What i initially thought to be just a mere 2 hour trip (I was thinking La Union on the way to Baguio), became a 5 hour trip because San Juan is located at the far bending part of La Union, just a few more towns and it will be the Ilocos province already.
On the bus Kristina became “Cranked Up Tina” – she’s got a new nickname to add to the “Spartan” nickname she earned in Pundaquit a month ago.

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We passed by Tarlac, Pangasinan and many towns in La Union before we arrived at San Juan Surf Camp Resort at about 12:15 PM.

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Evey, who lives a mere walking distance from the resort dropped by and brought us a hearty lunch of Calamares, Sinigang na hipon and Fried Rice. Walked around the resort, then took a nap after Evey left for San Fernando because she’ll accompany her friend to CSI (not Crime Scene…its CSI Mall). We Hit the beact at about 4:00 PM, played with the “bigger than usual waves”. Kristina and Grace goofed around the resort, I was looking at women in Bikinis and Tina was like “Marky mga babies pa yan”. Well not really babies, 17-19 years old methinks.

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“Mga babies pala ha” but Kristina gets distracted when one of the girls in two piece passed by. By the way Kristina gets distracted by both girls and boys  , but oftentimes she gets distracted by me (she just wouldn’t admit it, and will say “Marky you’re my Brother from another mother” haha).

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Porkchop Jr. (Tina’s cam) got spilled over by Tina’s San Mig Light during the night, it is currently recovering in an ICU (if there’s no improvement, then its off to the nearest Cannon Service center).

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The next day we went kayaking, swimming then after Grace and Tina took surfing lessons with “Snoop Dog”, too bad the big waves just comes once in a while because surfing season are only until March, it will be on the months of July-August (for hardcore surfers) then normal surfing season will continue on October – February or March. (that would be the best time to learn to surf).

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While Kayaking, Cranked up Kristina surfaces yet again, barking at me because we are both paddelling at the opposite direction, she wants to go further into the ocean while i keep trying to turn it back nearer to the shore.

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(galing ni Grace naks)
We rode the waves while kayaking, hoping that it will turn the kayak upside down. Afterwards we experimented with the long blonde hair look, like Maui surfer dudes.

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Lot was supposed to go with us but she got stranded in CDO.
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(Something to piss Kristina)
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Then we packed up by lunchtime, had lunch in San Fernando, La Union then headed back to our daily lives once again., Well to quote Lot Balot “There will be many isa pang wanmortaym”, hope next time, many will be able to join us. 

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