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It’s not crazy to trek to beautiful Mount Pinatubo |

Health And Family

It’s not crazy to trek to beautiful Mount Pinatubo

WELL-BEING - Mylene Mendoza-Dayrit - The Philippine Star

Sometime mid-January, my family and some friends from Star Trac (makers of commercial gym equipment) braved the chilly morning to trek to the crater of Mount Pinatubo. My husband Mark has done it three times and cannot stop talking of how breathtaking it is on top.

Climbing mountains is not something I do, so there was a little bit of hesitation. Friends who have tried it before say it is an easy climb, but they do trek regularly. The warning on the forms was explicit “Please note that Mount Pinatubo trekking is not for everybody. This is only for people who are physically fit. Don’t book if you have heart ailment, asthma, walking difficulty, foot brace or any illness that may be triggered by dust and exhaustion.”

I assured myself that this is where I will put my thrice-a-week strength training to the test. The rest of our group also worked out regularly. My husband made sure we had lots of duct tape. I said what for? He said he has seen a lot of branded shoes give in and had to be secured by duct tape.

Our group was with the best guide we could ever imagine getting. Our trek was organized by Indra “Guy” Hilbero, an environmentalist and a tourism officer of Mabalacat, Pampanga, who knew the terrain at heart since he’s a marker for the American Air Force when they do their practice bombings in Crow Valley. On that particular day we did our climb, he declared it was his 43rd!

He has discovered five trails of various levels of intensity, and he assured me that we would take the most gentle one. That said, I braced myself for a two-hour climb.

There were too many local and foreign tourists going up that morning. All the 4x4 vehicles were fully booked. We were lucky to be with Guy as our group of 12 went on an army truck instead! My husband earned points immediately as a cool dad for that. Our Israeli friend said the only next best thing was a helicopter. 

Though very rugged and dusty, the view is amazing. It’s like being transported to outer space. There’s a vast expanse of lahar formation everywhere. It feels like you’re a tiny being inside those sand castles. There’s always the thought of those walls of sand collapsing on you. 

Before reaching Lipit station or GMA, where all the 4x4 jeeps park, we stopped by an Aeta community to drop off bags of old clothes and sacks of rice. They welcomed us with such warmth and friendliness, ever so eager to share the beauty of their natural kingdom. That was where we also fetched the guides who would help carry our water and food.

We were told that Lipit station is seven kilometers away from the crater lake. Guy said that it takes two hours for an average trekker, add an hour more if with children, beginners or the elderly. 

The terrain slopes gently for most part of the climb although there are a lot of rocky streams to cross. The Aetas are just wearing rubber slippers, but I would suppose it could be difficult for others to do that since some of the rocks are jagged. It is best to wear hiking shoes that are water resistant though almost all of us were just wearing our gym shoes.

On the day of our climb, there were almost a total of 300 people from different groups. There were a few groups ahead of us, which stalled us in portions were access was a narrow path. The increasing number of visitors is now higher than the 1,000-a-month registered in the early years after the eruption.

That’s expected to grow more with the blockbuster movie of Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla dubbed Crazy Beautiful You, which shows the beauty of the crater lake and the Aetas who own it as their ancestral land. This hottest love tandem promised support for the Aetas who captured their hearts because of their simplicity, sincerity, and purity.

Hilbero claims to be the first to trek to the crater lake two years after the 1991 eruption. Shortly after, he organized treks for a few friends and outsiders, gradually drawing back interest to the volcano as word spread about its postcard-perfect beauty.

The best months for climbing Mount Pinatubo is January to March. April and May are warmer and drier months, so while it is still okay, there is the added danger of faster exhaustion due to the heat.

Despite the light congestion due to the number of trekkers, we made it to the summit in one hour and 30 minutes. The descent was even faster, without any shoe casualty. 

I was very proud of myself. This is when you take pride in pushing yourself to work out even when you are too lazy to do so.

More than that, I was happy to have relented to my husband’s nagging to join him in the Mount Pinatubo trek. It was, indeed, a crazy (in a good way) and beautiful experience!

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