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.”

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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



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.

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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.

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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



Best Philippines Beaches to Visit Right Now

May 17, 2008
Summer is quickly ending and soon we'll all have to hide under the shade, waiting for the rains to stop. Before that happens, it might be a good idea to head over to the nearest beach and enjoy it while you can. If you have some time on your hands, you might opt to take a beach weekend getaway to one of the nicest beaches in the Philippines.

The “Camsur” Experience (Caramoan)

April 24, 2008
Jack Kerouac wrote a book called “Big Sur”, about his stay in a populated coastal part in California that faces the Pacific Ocean. “Camsur” is a shortened term for Camarines Sur in the province of Bicol where the Caramoan Peninsula is located.


It was my first time to travel to the Bicol region and as expected the trip to Caramoan took very long, from the 8 hour bus ride from Manila to Naga, an hour trip to Sabang port and the two hour boat ride to Caramoan. The whole trip almost took almost half a day.


But it was all worth it, as Friday morning we started the island hopping part of our trip, some islands were closed down due to the shooting of a French Survivor reality TV series, but still, some of the islands that we visited has some of the finest white/golden sand beaches that i’ve ever seen in my life.


Crystal green and blue waters under the shimmery hot sun, the pretty visible coral reefs and other sea creatures, rock formations all contribute to the appeal of the islands scattered all over the Caramoan Peninsula.


If ever I’d become a castaway I won't have any problem getting stuck in one of those islands. “No man is an island” but i think i can be an exception. If I were to get lost from this mad society when I get old, this would be one of the few places I’ll consider spending my retirement years.


The boat ride sometimes took very long, hopping from one island to the next took 30 minutes to an hour, sometimes i feel like going to sleep while sitting on the boat. However, strong waves will time to time, batter the boat bringing along some sea water to rain down on me. I was loving it, although at one point I thought the boat will roll over and under the sea.


Good thing, although the waves are bigger than normal, our boatman was cool and relaxed knowing just what to do in handling the boat quite well in sailing along the strong waves.


For two days we visited four or five islands, took hundreds of pictures, posed for photographs with a starfish, climbed up a hill where a giant Mama Mary statue was erected, went caving, lost both of my slippers in a mini “kumunoy”, went swimming in the beach, in an underground river and enjoyed the company of some of my former workmates and old and new friends as well.


Most of all, during this trip, I realized how beautiful the Philippines is, a year ago i was pissed off at my life here and would do anything just to get out of here, I envy those who are living in America and Europe, thinking the Philippines is a place where everything was lost.

Now, I am realizing slowly, that amidst all political screw-ups, turmoils, economic uncertainty, all of which are normal in every nation, I have developed a new-found zest and appreciation for the Philippines. I’ll make it a vow to at least visit half of the Philippines before i reach the age of 35 years old, or before i start my own family.

There’s lots of places to see, lots of people to meet and make friends with. Reminds me of a Rancid song detailing their life on the road “all these (places) all these people, all these friends we were equall”.

In the end, i now know that, there are these places that will make one’s zest for life burn for more and to quote good ole Jack Kerouac “burn burn burn like fabulous roman candles” , these friends that you travel with will make the experience more joyful and the equality of everyone of us in times of discovering and learning a new place makes it even better than what we normally do on our everyday lives. How i wish i could just pack up my bags tomorrow and go on another sojourn with my friends in a new destination.




But in real life, there’s work that we all have to do, but in between those times, we should start planning for that next great adventure…..so who’s with us next time?
Palawan, Bohol, Davao, Cebu, iloilo, Batanes, Albay, Camiguin, CDO, damn and the list justgoes on and on….


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Camsur Watersports Complex (CWC)

April 22, 2008
As part of our sidetrip to Caramoan, we dropped by Camsur Watersports Complex (CWC) to give wakeboarding a try.  The place was filled with both experienced and newbie wakeboarders, I put myself in the newbie category as I haven’t experienced wakeboarding before.

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I was too eager to try it that I ditched listening to the instructions of one of the staff there, I thought by watching closely at the form and style of those experienced wakeboarders I will give myself a better chance at pulling it off at first try.

Alas, I crashed during my first 3 or 4 tries to the embarassment of picking myself and swimming out of the water into safety and back again to fall in line. After that i stopped by to listen to the instructions for the kneeboard, a much easier position, instead of standing on a wakeboard, you have to kneel on the board and strap your lower body.

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I pulled it off during my first try, crashing on the turn, swimming back, falling in line and giving it a try again. After I was able to complete one lap of kneeboard I went back to give wakeboarding a try.

To sum it up, I crashed half a dozen times, lasted for half a lap once, completed one lap one time and after that i decided to rest as it also takes a beating on your body.
Will definitely come back someday and hoping, I’d get it all right next time.

Accommodation at CWC consist of cottages and trailers which looks cool from the outside and from what i’ve heard cozy in the inside. It has amenities like a swimming pool, wakeboard shop, souvenir store and a place to eat. (try out the popular “Laing Pizza”).

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Plus you get to see the wonderful view of Mount Isarog on a clear day.

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travel buddies
travel buddies

Pundaquit Baquit!, The Great Barrier Reef, not so wild animals & the spartan laughing debate

April 14, 2008
I’d hit the road with these two anytime. Like what happened this weekend, albeit short (hope they created a 4 day weekend ), it was really fun, crazy, with endless spoofs and a lot more only a pair of cowgirls who have a striving connection with the great barrier “reef” could present.


Lot was wondering what i was thinking the whole time, my brain wasn’t cut out to process in real-time the endless barrage of fun ideas these two cowgirls presents ( was thinking “Even Cowgirls get the Blues”).

Lot and Tina could very well appear in a Tom Robbins’ novel. Lakwatsa to Zambales started on Friday morning at 6:00am, straight from my work (where i worked the night shift) i headed straight to Cubao terminal of the Victory Liner to meet up with Lot.

Me and Lot found time to talk to each other (yiheee) before we both fell asleep, (yihee I slept with Lotski), waking up in random moments and after a brief stop-over at a place called “Double Happiness Restaurant” we arrived in Olongapo City at about 9:30 am.

After a quick breakfast with Tina who met us there, we rode an ordinary bus to San Antonio, Zambales. Not after Tina asked the bus conductor at the Victory Liner if the bus with a sign “Caloocan” is going to Iba, Zambales twice.


An hour later we’re all under the bridge, taking a quick rest because TINA INSISTED ON WALKING TO PUNDAQUIT. “lapit lng dude, mga 5 mins walk lng cguro yon” 20 minutes into it. Tina: “try naten mg hitch?”, after half a dozen cars passed by an L-300 van stopped by offering to hitch us, Tina and Lot politely rejected it as Tina again insisted that we’re already near the beach. They later regretted declining the man’s offer of a ride.



But it was a fun walk actually, under the hot sun, visions not of Cody (Jack Kerouac), but white sands, the beach and a thirst for beer made us enjoy walking towards our destination.
On the way we saw:

- Frogstomp:
- Kids on a pedicab:
- And a goat who scared Lotski away:


Got into a small problem of looking for a place to stay as all the resorts are already fullybooked. Punta De Uian was also fullybooked plus running on a tight budget, Lot and Tina called the resorts one by one reading from the billboards posted around Pundaquit.

Tina: George? may available rooms pa?
George: available what?
Tina: I mean is this Megan’s resort?
George: Yes
Tina: as in now na, may rooms pa?
George: ewan ko!


After a few unsuccesful phone calls we ran into a place owned by Mrs. Ferriols, its a private property but also accepts guest during peak season, but beware! tresspassers are killed like wild animals. It is also where Stephen the Cat resides: whom according TO LOT LOOKS JUST LIKE ME.


After a brief rest, and a 15 minute nap (wherein i snored accdg to them) and Tina getting scared by Stephen the Cat and playing baby and posing for pictures at the Aztec Ruins:


Sunset came:


After dinner we went to the bar, played pool and smoke something (hehe di ko alam un eh, something about the great barrier reef) which was wrapped in a marshmallow flavored paper. Lot singing Ana’s version of a song which goes like this:

“I just wanna be on the beach..because i got high”

Also Guy Morales texted us: “May function pa kasi dito. Di ko alam kung anong oras matatapos.”
Tina’s reply was: “OO”
I wonder if Guy felt weirded out by Tina’s reply hehe.


So Tina went back to the room saying “She was already”….uhmm cge Sleepy na lng…
Here’s what happened after that., laughtrip galore…i was already snoring when i woke up to them laughing out loud.

The next day i woke up early, saw a man died on the beach too :( , he jumped into the shallow part of the beach hitting head first, hard enough to break his neck and losing consciouness, people tried to help him but he was carried on the shoulder of one of the men and probably worsened his neck injury more by getting his head to dangle more.

“wake up to the sound of (pouring rain) a camera flash”:


After a heavy breakfast its off to Capones Island to see the Lighthouse:


On the way up, Tina swore off smoking. On the way down, Tina (who quit smoking for less than 30 minutes) continued with his Yosi Break and a Crouching and Hidden Lot apparition:


At the lighthouse, Lot and Tina performed a duet of "Total Eclipse of the Heart"


Then afterward we took a swim at Capones Island.



Then we went back to Pundaquit and prepared to go back home.
Tina said: “Isa pang WanMorTaym”

There, it was a great two days. Our friend Guy from Punta De Uian in Pundaquit, Zambales offered us to ride with him to Olongapo, thanks again dude…
Guy’s text: “Daanan ko na lng kayo jan”
Tina’s text: “OO”

( This blog was written for a PG-13 rating, some parts deemed inappropriate for young readers are edited out )