When Strangers Met at Mount Pinatubo Part I

When my sister and I left Donsol, Sorsogon after our Butanding interaction third week of March this year, I promised myself that I will "conquer" Mount Pinatubo - not because I want to prove that "I can do it" but because of the following reasons: (1) I was inspired by my fellow bloggers Endette and Kaiye story on how they conquered Mount Pinatubo for the first time; (2) I want to unwind somewhere in the lowlands and experience a different kind of "heat" we rarely experience here in Baguio; (3) I want to experience a rowdy "4x4" ride and witness the majestic Mount Pinatubo crater and (4) of course, I want to meet other travelers.

A quick stop from a rowdy 4x4 ride. In this photo (l-r): Lily, Theresa, Mommy Elsa, Yours Truly and the rest of Travel Factor Conquer Mount Pinatubo travelers. Special thanks to Leah for the photo.
I booked with Travel Factor as early as last week of March, and when I informed my fellow Quality Analysts Leah and Theresa about my plan, they asked me to book for them too. It was only first week of April that Mommy Elsa confirmed that she will join but I still managed to book for her. Good thing she was able to join us despite her pretty busy schedule. She just came from Guimaras a day before the scheduled Mount Pinatubo escapade.

The Preparation
My "lady buddies" and I met at Victory Liner Baguio past ten in the evening and we boarded a Pasay-bound bus at exactly eleven (we paid Php275.00 each for the fare.) I told the driver to drop us at the Capas Tourism Office because I made an agreement with the Travel Factor team that we will meet the rest of the travelers there instead of going to Cubao. Travel time from Baguio to Cubao is approximately six hours so it's a lot better if we will just meet the team in Tarlac. Capas is more or less four hours travel time from Baguio.

My "lady travel buddies:" Theresa, Leah and Mommy Elsa. Photo taken at Victory Liner Baguio a few minutes before we board a Pasay-bound bus. Special thanks to Carlo for this awesome shot. 
We were already in Gerona, Tarlac when I got a call from Maan, our trip coordinator. She told me to meet her and the team at the Capas Caltex station instead of going directly to the tourism office.

We arrived at the Capas Caltex station around four in the morning, and because we were all hungry we dropped by at McDonald's nearby. After our breakfast, I got another call from Maan, and she informed me that they were already at Caltex, waiting for us. We left McDo as quickly as we can because we don't to keep her waiting and the rest of the "adventourers."

When we reached Caltex, Maan was outside and she warmly welcomed us with her "hellos" and "handshakes." At exactly 4:25 am, we boarded the special trip and we joined the rest of the "adventourers" who were probably as excited as I am. We seated at the back.

From Capas Caltex station, we traveled for approximately twenty-five minutes going to the Capas Tourism Office.

Prelude to the Climb
We arrived at the Capas Tourism Office around five in the morning. After signing the waiver and paying Php130.00 as donation to our indigenous Aeta brothers and sisters, Maan announced the "subteams" and our "4 x 4" assignment. Luckily, my "lady buddies" and I were team mates which means that we will be at the same 4 x 4. Because each 4 x 4 can accommodate maximum of five passengers, Lily from Manila was assigned to join us.

Our "bagtags." Our subteam includes yours truly, Mommy Elsa, Leah, Lily from Manila and Theresa. We rode 4x4 #4. 
 The 4 x 4 Ride
Bumpy? Yes? Rocky? Yes! Exciting? Yes! Scary! Absolutely not!("not" in my British accent...lol!)  One of the most important rules that I've "implemented" when I'm traveling is "Never be scared because you will never enjoy." A rowdy, rough, rocky....you name it....4 x 4 ride might scare someone but for an "adventourer," it shouldn't be the case.

Stop-over for a photo-shoot. In this photo: Yours truly on top and my lady travel buddies plus a new found travel-buddy-friend: Theresa, Leah, Mommy Elsa and Lily. 
Because of too much excitement and fun, I was not able to track how long it took us to reach our destination. What I can clearly remember is the bumpy ride which, to my great surprise, didn't hurt my butt and my back. Fact is, I even told my lady buddies that the ride was "detoxifying."

Guess who is that girl wearing "Ask me about adventure?" Her name is Maan and she's from Travel Factor and she's our trip coordinator. In this photo: Theresa, Mommy Elsa, Maan, Yours Truly and Leah. 

That's me, Leah and Mommy Elsa going back to our 4 x 4. Also in this photo are the other "adventourers." 
Just the four of us: Yours truly, Mommy Elsa, Theresa, Leah and Lily. Special thanks to Outdoors by Fila for my sandals. 

The Climb
Our climb was relatively easy and it only took us maximum of thirty minutes to reach Mount Pinatubo's crater. If we didn't stop for some "photo-shoots," I'm pretty sure we've reached the lake in less than twenty minutes.
Guess where we belong? If we didn't stop for some "photo-shoots," I'm pretty sure we've reached the lake in less than twenty minutes.  
That's me and Theresa at the Rest Station  which is one kilometer away from the crater.  Behind us are our other companions from different subteams.
On our way to the crater. In this photo: Yours Truly, Theresa, Mommy Elsa  and Leah. Big thanks to our tour guide for taking this. 

My fellow Quality Analysts Leah and Theresa with Mario, our 4x4 drier and  tour guide.  I thought his name is Marvin. Leah called him Manuel. Theresa called him Marlo. Lily and Mommy Elsa thought his name is Marlon. His real name is actually Mario! How's that? Markdown on "active listening." Haha!
At the Crater
We reached the crater past nine in the morning and, needless to say, we were all amazed. Who would assume that the once most destructive volcano now hides one of the most beautiful lakes in the Philippines? The lake was carved from the explosive power of the eruption and it now acts as a reservoir for rain water.

At Mount Pinatubo's crater with my lady travel buddies Mommy Elsa, Theresa and Leah.  Who would assume that the once most destructive volcano now hides one of the most beautiful lakes in the Philippines? 
According to Wikipedia, Mount Pinatubo's "Plinian/Ultra-Plinian eruption on June 15, 1991 produced the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century after the 1912 eruption of Novarupta in the Alaska Peninsula and it injected large amounts of aerosol into the stratosphere – more than any eruption since that of Krakatoa in 1883. Over the following months, the aerosols formed a global layer of sulfuric acid haze. As a result, "global temperature dropped by about 0.5 °C (0.9 °F), and ozone depletion temporarily increased substantially." 

After lunch at the crater, we decided to have some photo-shoots first before going back to the tourism office. When we realized that we have already maximized our stay, we informed Mario, our driver and tour guide, that we're going back. We left the crater past ten in the morning and we arrived at the local tourism office after an hour and thirty minutes of a rowdy 4 x 4  jeep ride. After some rest, we had shower at the shower area near the tourism office.


Side Trip to Capas Shrine
Because we still have enough time for travel, our team still managed to drop by at the Capas National Shrine in Barangay Navy Capas, Tarlac. The Shrine was built as a memorial to the Filipino and American soldiers who died in Camp O'Donnell at the end of the Bataan Death March. It encompasses 54 hectares of parkland, 35 hectares of which have been planted with rows of trees to represent each of the deceased. On 9 April 2003, a new memorial wall and obelisk was unveiled. The 70-meter obelisk towers above the grounds of the former interment camp. 

At the Capas National Shrine in Tarlac. In this photo: Mommy Elsa, Theresa, Yours Truly and the rest of our  companions. Entrance fee at the Shrine is Php10.00 per head.
We only stayed at the Shrine for about twenty minutes and after some photo-shoots, we boarded our  bus again. Because we're based in Baguio, I informed Maan to drop us at the Capas Caltex station. After 30 minutes, we reached the gas station and we bid good bye to Maan and Lily. Before I went down, I told Maan, "Hope to see you again in our next escapade."

That's me and my "lady travel buddies"Theresa and Mommy Elsa with Travel Factor coordinator Maan. Photo taken before we leave the Shrine.
Dinner at Isdaan at Gerona Tarlac
Before anything else, I'd like to clarify that our dinner at Gerona is not part of Byaheng Victory's travel package. Haha!

For dinner at Isdaan Floating Restaurant in Gerona, Tarlac
Travel time from Capas to Gerona is approximately one hour (if my calculation is correct) so we literally starved to death before we arrived at Isdaan. When we entered, we were greeted by one of the crew members and she guided us to a vacant "hut." We ordered as quickly as we can and while eating we were serenaded by the restaurants performers.

I learned from Theresa that Isdaan is owned by Evangelista family which is no wonder why it has similarity with Bario Fiesta here in Baguio.

After dinner, we waited for a Baguio-bound bus near the Iglesia ni Kristo Church. We waited for approximately thirty minutes before we got a bus. We arrived in Baguio City past nine in the evening.

When Strangers Met at Mount Pinatubo
Now, going back to my article's title: When strangers met at Mount Pinatubo, what happens? Well, they became friends but some still remain strangers to each other. Haha! 

Special thanks to Byaheng Victory and Travel Factor for this awesome experience! Byaheng Victory CONQUER Mt. Pinatubo is part of the Byaheng Victory series, a collaboration between Travel Factor and Victory Liner. (More photos to follow.)

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