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If all else fails, there’s always the Pinatubo Diet. c”,)

WARNING: This is a looooooong read, just like the hike. 😉

Paperdolls and tea parties. Barbie-Ken duo and Play-Doh.

These are to name a few of the toys I grew up with. Rather than spending too much time outside playing rough games with other kids, I preferred to stay at home and host tea parties with my lifeless friends. It was too easy a task, but at least I’m assured of not having heavy ink or mud stains when playing with clay, nor getting smelly after the rounds of fake tea. (My sister and I used water and milk most of the time.)

With the kind of activities I had back then, sports and adventure tripping caught my attention in the least manner. No one could make me play basketball nor volleyball, not unless required. Even in college, I always dragged myself to the court just to receive a decent mark. I was boxed in the belief that such rough ventures fit only the male. I’m sure a lot of you out there share with me the kind of childhood I had.

Sports, hiking, running, trekking. These are the words which never made meanings in my life.

That is why I cannot help but stifle a chuckle whenever I recall that fine Monday morning when I said “yes” to a good friend’s invitation to go trekking that coming weekend. 😉

Just Say Yes!”

After the Musical Pyrolympics last March 12, Santino told me of his plans to join some friends in going to Mt. Pinatubo the following weekend.He then asked me to tag along so we could come up with our very first “cover-it-together” composition. I was really up for it, but since the day hike would fall on a Sunday, I did not jump in right away.

Since my resident photographer < it’s official mga brah. haha. thanks Santi! 😉 >possess great convincing power, I said yes. More than just writing a feature of the place, I knew that this would be a big challenge for me. The Pinatubo hike would test my agility and endurance from the physical factors which could dampen my drive to finish the trek. With myself as the greatest competition, I had the urge to prove that even if I’m no sporty girl, still I’d be able to outlast all the pressures.

I informed Santino to count me in. Passed the debate whether to join or not, I was now ready to face my next worry: getting along with people whom I’ve never heard of.

Pulling a Gracie Lou Freebush and the Blogger-Photographer Connection

I met up with Santino and his photographer friends around 12mn of March 20 at Starbucks Imperial. We were leaving for Capas, Tarlac at a much later time,4 am. I guess excitement kicked in too early. Sans the sleep for most of us, we still managed to put on a smile from time to time.

Being the newbie in everything (blogging, trekking, meeting friends of friends for an adventure of the lifetime), I had to give all my best efforts to get to know the company I was with. Talk about being Gracie Lou Freebush for a day. Ms. Congeniality goes face to face with total strangers. 🙂

Part of the adventure for me was meeting the different people coming from different walks of life.

But what brings them together?

Just like me, they also have the drive to tell the colorful stories of life through pictures and words.

What the words cannot express, the pictures can. What pictures can’t communicate are covered by words. The whole lot was a mixture of young photographers and bloggers who wish to rediscover the art of providing good reads and sights to the audience.

Sorry, excited lang po. 🙂 (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

Aboard the Victory Liner bus going to Capas, Tarlac were 12 of us, ready to bask under the sun.

Anton, Teresa, Mel, Lheann, Von, Derick, Santi, Cai, Karlo, Alvin, Bernard and me.

12 souls in search of the perfect adventure.

Destination: Mt. Pinatubo! 😀

Pinatubo Spa Town

Most of us were asleep in the bus ride going to Capas, Tarlac. (Well there was this one guy who kept singing Victims of Love. 😀 ) Since not all were able to sleep well the night before, we just needed to recharge to be fit enough for the day’s hurdles. Who said getting to the volcano’s crater would be easy?

So after grabbing a quick bite at McDonald’s, the group rode the 4x4s waiting outside. Riding the 4×4 made me feel like I was in an action film of some sort, as each rider’s face was wrapped in improvised dustbuster cloths. Little did I know that the trip to Spa Town was just a teaser of the kind of ride we would be experiencing soon.

Pinatubo Spa Town (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

After Anton gave the itinerary for the day, the groupings in the 4×4 ride, and some pointers to remember, I explored the place just like any other curious tourist. The photographers brought out their DSLRs and poised themselves in different spots to take good pictures. As for the bloggers… well, we settled for the “point and shoot” manner of capturing images.

Sulfur Sand Shower (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

Branded by most visitors as the best place to get a shiatsu massage after the long Pinatubo trek, Spa Town also offers various services to its guests such as the Sulfur Sand Shower and the Sulfur Mud Pack. Though the fee is quite pricey (starts at Php600), satisfaction is said to be very much guaranteed.

I did not try any of their services, since I did not have the luxury of time as well. (Hehe, lusot!)

We were told that lunch would be served in the Spa Town after the trek. This gave us the drive to start the walk in high hopes that the food to be served that afternoon would definitely be scrumptious.

Pinatubo Spa Town (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

We Be Rough Riders!

On with the plan of climbing Mt. Pinatubo, we were then ushered to the 4x4s which would bring us to the starting point of the trek. I rode in the backseat of the vehicle along with Derick and Von. Lheann called shotgun, since I had my share of the seat on the way to the Spa Town. Our tour guide, Kuya Leck, joined us in the almost 2-hour trip to the foot of the mountain.

May problema ka, Derick? 🙂 (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

As what I have mentioned earlier, riding the 4×4 made me feel like I’m in a star-studded bandit movie. Yeah, that’s me wrapped in a purple dustbuster cloth. You could not just imagine the amount of dust our eyes, noses and mouths endured. Picture this: life-sized espasols in colorful wrappings. Or, hair set in a high do without much effort, thanks to all the dust and wind your crowning glory has collected.

"Biyaheng Langit" (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

Despite the inconvenience which the rough ride and dust gave us, we cannot help but be amazed with the vast land that surrounded us. Yes, the lahar-covered soil sure brings back the horror on that fateful day of June 15, 1991; but the view of what remains today can be likened to a slice of heaven on earth.

White. Surreal. Peaceful. Calm.

It felt as though I was transported in a different country. Familiar with the film Jumper? Yep, just like that.

We stopped for a moment in a place where everyone had the chance to take pictures. One thing I really enjoyed about this trip was the company of these young photographers who really knew how to make people comfortable in front of the camera. Cam-whores should definitely befriend photo-enthusiasts. 🙂

"It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll." (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

The Blind, the Deaf and the Tour Guide

We sure did enjoy the jaw-dropping views on our left, right and peripheral views, but we were not able to prevent boredom from consuming us. Derick interviewed me about the nature of my job as a Special Education teacher. I even taught him, Von and Kuya Leck some basic sign languages of common words/phrases (Thank you/You’re welcome, What is your name?).

I usually get common questions whenever people ask me on what it’s like to be a SpEd teacher, but that day, Derick asked me a very interesting question. He asked if what the blind could possibly see when he is dreaming. For four years of studying the ins and outs of Special Education, I have never come across with that thought! 🙂 Quite a shocker, we were able to generate ideas based on our imaginations to at least suffice our curiosity. With Derick’s crazy antics and Von’s follow-ups, Kuya Leck and I were able to laugh the boredom away. Still, the question whether what the blind sees when he is dreaming still remains hanging and unclear. (Any takers to give answers? Leave a comment, then. Haha.)

After several bumps on the head, lashes of heat on the skin, still we were on the road. What Kuya Leck did was to entertain us with the most gruesome tragedies he has witnessed as a Pinatubo tour guide. Stories of 4×4 doing topsy-turvy acts, ankles twisting, butts slipping on rocks covered in heavy green moss – made us smile in the most absurd way. Kuya Leck let us imagine how the trip could turn into a nightmare.

Perfect stories for starters, eh? 😉

“Where We Go We Don’t Need Roads…”

At last! We arrived at the starting point of the trek. Almost 10am on my watch, we took the strides to reach the summit of Mount Pinatubo.

MMMAAAAAAAAAHHHHHAAAAAAAAABBBBBBAAAAAANGGG TREK. (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

A college friend told me days before this trip that the trek would only take us about 20-30 minutes to reach the crater of the volcano. This got me excited that I even told Santino we really should not worry about getting sunburn and all. That is why I really did not apply sunscreen right away. My bad, because only 15 minutes after starting the walk, my skin was turning red already. However, I barely had time to focus on that much because the sight was too beautiful to miss.

"Lost" (Photo and caption by Santino del Castillo)

The next time I go hiking, I would no longer forget to wear long-sleeved clothes. Let this be a reminder to everyone: if you do not want to end up like your favorite breakfast, only toasted, then wear clothing which could protect you from the harmful rays of the sun.

Never ever forget to bring bottles of water as well. Oh, and also, if ever the tour guide offers to carry your bag, give in. Just make sure he stays close to you or else you might end up begging for water from your co-hikers.

The looooooong walk going to the crater made me think that by the end of the day, I would lose weight. I was pretty hyped up to step on the weighing scale and see if my activity could actually beat the Machete Diet. Haha. 😀

“There’s A World Out There That We Should See!”

At the start of the trek, I was already praying that hopefully, my spirits won’t drop. I am much used to running and brisk walking, since I do these activities back here in Batangas; then again the hike in Mt. Pinatubo is just extremely challenging.

After 48 years: Summit! (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

But after seeing the crater of the volcano that made headlines in the world’s history, do I still have the right to complain?

You're worth all the pagod. *blush* 😉 (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

Days before the Mt. Pinatubo adventure, I googled some pictures of the crater on the internet. I thought the images were too post-processed because the shots were just so beautiful. I was finally convinced when I saw the crater myself – the sight just left me breathless. I double checked by checking Santino’s shot of the crater right after he took this one. Oh boy, the pic looked like it was photoshopped for quite a time, when in fact it’s not! 🙂

All the efforts exerted during the hike toward the summit were worth it. Every sweat which came out of the body, each kiss pressed by the sun on my nose and cheeks were nothing compared to the dreamy feeling I had upon laying eyes on this wonderful scenery.

"Life Saver" (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

As I sat under the shade facing the landscape before me, flashbacks of sad stories about the Pinatubo eruption flooded my mind. My dad is a native of Iba, Zambales, and I knew the struggles his family and relatives had to face during that unforgettable moment.

When life gives you the downs, there’s no option left but to look up to the sky and ask for help from the Great Savior who makes all things possible.

The person who took this photo (left) even had an original caption to communicate what this image says:

“Ito ang rason kung bakit hindi pumutok ang pinatubo. =)”

We rode the boat (which was kinda pricey by the way, at Php350 each – pero okay lang! Hehe.) to cross the crater lake. Karlo, Alvin and Cai plunged for less than an hour, just to experience how it felt to be in the waters of the once-deadly volcano. I was enjoying the view of the things around me at first, but inside I knew that if I stayed under the sun for another hour or two, I’d collapse. Good thing we did not stay that long.

Heliophobia. Nyahahaha. (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

Pinatubo Crater Lake (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

While the others took a nap under the shade by the lake, I chatted with Santino and Karlo. Santi said that there is actually a Pinatubo Run for those who wish to ultimately conquer the trails of this volcano. Of course, Karlo and I did not buy his story, so I made a bet with Santi for Php500. I just knew it would be impossible for such run to be true.

(Result of the bet? Later. 😉 )

Since it was time to head back to Spa Town, we readied ourselves for the afternoon hike. Descending the high lands of Pinatubo required more energy from us – you would not feel that going down is much easier. The road to the start of the trek did not feel that different – it was like doing it all over again!

“But You’ll Never See the End of the Road While You’re Traveling With Me.”

I am very much thankful to Kuya Leck. He was responsible for the ease I had during the hike. He volunteered to carry my backpack all throughout the trip, as well as Santino’s tripod. He was even game to pose a shot with me. (But my hair wasn’t that prepared. 😀 )

Code Eight tour guide (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

I was starting to feel low because the walk was just dragging. We were not that noisy anymore, compared to what we were that morning. Thanks to Santi, Derick and Von who kept on throwing jokes at each other, we somehow managed to keep our sanity intact.

Afternoon’s trek was like hell. Literally, ang init! I could already hear myself cursing under my breath, thinking how come I even gave in to this invitation… but like a lightbulb that popped on the side of my head, I remembered why I was there in the first place. I wanted to prove something, for myself.

And also, we were joking around that the Pinatubo trek would most likely be an effective way of losing weight. I wanted to test if this was true. 😉

Pinatubo Run, anyone? (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

When I finally reached the last push of the trek, I was already dead-tired. I was basically panting and running short of breath. I somehow looked forward to the 4×4 ride, because this meant that I would just be sitting down and enjoy the breeze, though still dusty.

At least I was able to finish the day hike without feeling the need to see a doctor right away. 😉

Code Eight 101

Though the 4×4 rides made us feel super macho, our tired bodies can’t help but complain about the bumpy and dusty roads. Once more, the trio (Santi, Derick and Von) pulled out their latest acts by jamming with Kuya Leck. They taught him the “Code Eight”, which according to Derick, is the latest evolution of the morse code used by military officials.

In layman’s term: Gay Lingo. Swardspeak. 🙂

Kuya Leck learned how to use Portugal, Gorafire, Truelaloo, Antokelly Clarkson and much more, in meaningful sentences. He was even able to coin his own term, the Gorabao. 🙂 The supposed-to-be-boring 2-hour ride turned out to be the most enjoyable moment for me in this trip. Laughtrip lang.

“I’m Lucky I know, but I wanna go home…”

Back in Spa Town for lunch (it was actually early dinner if you would ask me. The trek again is just sooooooo loooong. Haha.), traces of exhaustion were clearly evident in the faces of my groupmates. Well, exhaustion with a hint of happiness. Who wouldn’t be happy after conquering the challenges of Mt. Pinatubo?

Hello, goodbye. (Photo by Santino del Castillo)

Words are not enough to describe all the things that I saw in this majestic volcano. It would be best if you go visit together with your friends or family. The sights and sounds of Pinatubo would give you a friendlier way of thinking how a monster before could be a gentle giant today.

I survived Mt. Pinatubo and all its thrills and chills. I managed to make my way in a group of people whom I have never seen before. The experiences we carried back home created a bond that would allow us to look forward to more adventures together soon.

I now dare and dream to climb greater heights, thanks to this Pinatubo experience. I have learned to value and trust my capabilities that if other people can do it, so can I. You don’t have to be that person (who’s all sporty and athletic) just so you can try new things and test yourself to the limit.

Two-thumbs up for me and for the rest of the group. Yey to us.

“You’ll never know unless you try.” True enough. 😉

P.S., some reminders, and more…

1. I lost the bet. There’s a Pinatubo Run after all. Hoho. Check this out:

http://baldrunner.com/2010/10/12/official-result-1st-mt-pinatubo-50k-trail-challenge/

2. If you want to lose weight, try the Pinatubo Diet. Worked for me. Nuff said. 😉

3. Florida’s All-Natural Cranberry Juice is a must-bring for every hiker. (Right Karlo and Ate Cai?)

4. Make friends with photographers. Seriously. Best feeling evah! 😀

5. When hiking, always be ready to flash your best smile. Even when Direk focuses his spotlight too much on you.

6. A Sausage McMuffin comes handy, too.

7. Always carry your “friendly” button with you. You would be pushing it most of the time. 😉

TYVMs:

‘I count myself in nothing else so happy As in a soul remembering my good friends.’

-Richard II

You guys were just so wonderful!

>Anton Carranza Jr and his wife Teresa (’til next time po!)

>Mel and Lheann (nice to meet the two of you!)

>Von (I’d love to see your spidey collection sometime!)

>Derick (told ya bida ka dito hehe. thanks for the helping hand. or hands. haha!)

> Karlo (Pinatubo Run na! 😀 )

>Ate Cai (sayang if we had much time, I’d love to exchange stories with you!)

> Alvin Bautista (laughtrip ka.)

> Bernard (thanks for lending me the long sleeves. Effective!)

Final P.S. and TYVM:

“You are what you sing.”

The epic line by Santino del Castillo. And he kept singing Joe Lamont’s Victims of Love sa bus. 😀

Seriously, ikaw pa ang victim?? 😉

Anyway, thanks ng bonggang-bongga.

Until the next pressure, Beiber.

Tara na mag-Never Say Never. 😉

****

All photos by Santino del Castillo.

😀

WWJD: What Would Japan Do?

"Some will say we've gone too far. We're on the edge and in too deep. Some will say we're too far gone. You can't erase the tragedy." - "World's on Fire" (Hanson)

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