Philippines: Mt. Pinatubo

Mount Pinatubo is an active stratovolcano located on the island of Luzon, near the tripoint of the Philippine provinces of ZambalesTarlac, and Pampanga. It is located in the Cabusilan Mountains separating the west coast of Luzon from the central plains. Before the volcanic activities of 1991, its eruptive history was unknown to most people. It was heavily eroded, inconspicuous and obscured from view. It was covered with dense forest which supported a population of several thousand indigenous people, the Aetas, who fled to the mountains during the Spanish conquest of the Philippines.

The volcano'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. Complicating the eruption was the arrival of Typhoon Yunya bringing a lethal mix of ash and rain. Successful predictions at the onset of the climactic eruption led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from the surrounding areas, saving many lives, but the surrounding areas were severely damaged by pyroclastic flows, ash deposits, and subsequently, by the lahars caused by rainwaters re-mobilizing earlier volcanic deposits causing extensive destruction to infrastructure and altering the river systems months to years after the eruption.

-source: Wikipedia (of course)

Having come from the south and only ever heard or read about this place in our history books, of course it was just about right I say yes to my friend Katrina's invitation to trek and have a day picnic (which mostly consisted of endless photo sessions) with her, and our other friends Elyne, Ryan and Zyra up the crater.

The travel from Manila took about 2 hours by bus to a city in Pampanga. There, we were greeted by a swarm of tricycle drivers offering us their rates to the 4x4 ride station like hot pandesals in the morning.

Before that, I had to share that a few minutes before we got off the bus, the most glorious sunrise,  silhouetting a mountain (was it the volcano? I couldn't quite tell) greeted my sleepy eyes in the warmest hue that made my heart went all aflutter. I'm a sucker for these things, really. Just like most of you.

Kat took a video of me loading my film, my face bathing in sunlight from the bus window, and viewed it afterwards. I loved it! When that will be edited and posted though, I have no idea.

We trekked for about 5-6 km up the crater after the bumpy (to say the least) ride and I was a little disappointed to see that the water wasn't in its gorgeous turquoise blue tone. I should really keep my hopes low sometimes. It's February and the water color normally turns to a pale blue, often slate grey-ish combination, we were told. Our guide added that it turns turquoise in the summertime (April and May). 

To say that we (my friends mostly) took a lot of pictures would be an understatement. Our guide and our 4x4 driver were probably annoyed by us because we were like hungry hyenas when it comes to beautiful landscapes and light, we kept insisting on stopping in every turn, photographing endlessly, making our 4x4 ride longer than it was supposed to. Thus, we came in last on the tour schedule which was actually awesome because we had the whole crater to ourselves upon reaching.

The trek was what my lungs had been craving for at that time. They needed their fair share of zen after having been stuck in Metro Manila and its hell of air for quite a time.

 The clouds were ever changing almost the entire time, giving us sunburn and the occasional rain scare but that didn't bother us much. We were far too distracted by the loveliness of the surroundings to care. I, myself, felt detached. Like, I was blissfully lost in a Tolkien universe.
 For the most part, I raised my camera only to drop it again because I don't know, some things– moments– often felt like they're better off lived then committed to memory than photographed, you know? 

Kat and Elyne took a heap amount of photos and I only took a few because I was led to believe  earlier on that Mt. Pinatubo wasn't that spectacular and so I only brought my spare expired films. Nonetheless, I had a crazy amount of fun and these day trips should definitely happen often. This will help my self-imposed country arrest this 2014 and also, I have an excuse to explore more of my home country as there are still a bazillion beautiful, majestic places to discover around here. The quote below by Katja Michael basically sums up my thoughts.