beauty and madness

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots and spring rain.

~t.s. eliot, the waste land


It was late afternoon in 1991, when I noticed that the window in my room is covered with what seemed to be like a thin layer of flour. I went out to find out what’s happening. It was like snowing, but the falling specks was dry and not cold. I also noticed that the car parked outside was covered with what looked like confectioner sugar. I wiped a portion using my finger, and tasted it–ASH!

For more than a month it was all over the global news–a dormant volcano erupted about 160 kilometers away from where I was. Ejecting ash clouds reaching neighboring countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and even as far as Mainland China. The colossal eruption is second to the largest terrestrial volcanic activity preceding Novarupta Alaska in 1912.

In 2008, I was flying over Zambales from Hong Kong. It was a clear day and I can see the sedimented pyroplastic flow path from above, like a gray snake slithering to the vast sea. Then, right at the middle of vast grayed-out terrain a bright turquoise lake is gleaming in contrast. That’s when I told myself that I want to climb up the mouth of that sleeping monster.


Monette and I agreed to finally see the crater and take the day trip up Mount Pinatubo. It was a Saturday, and unfortunately I was working until 7 in the morning. The hike starts at 6 AM, that means we have to leave Manila by 3 AM to reach the meeting point in Tarlac. That’s pretty impossible since I am still at work and I was doing something really important that my boss tied me on my chair.

But Monette was able to pull-off an OSCAR worthy performance that morning.

Let’s fast forward this portion and skip the part where it has DRAMA, MONETTE CRYING ON THE PHONE, ME PUNCHING THE WALL, RUNNING TO MY CAR, LEAVING ALL MY THINGS BEHIND TO CREATE A SCENE OF GENUINE URGENCY… (Kids, don’t do this at home! The stunt was performed by professionals)

To cut the story short, we were at the Victory liner terminal in Quezon City at three in the morning. Jeff Rios a balikbayan friend from Canada and “The” Erick Dantoc a travel photographer joined us in this one-day escapade.


And then the great voice shift… This time it’s me, Monette…

Unfortunately, we had to wait as there was a long line of people and we really didn’t want to wait.  We went directly to FiveStar and decided to take the ordinary bus to Tarlac. Everything was a blur after sitting because it was just too damn early to enjoy the ride. Yes, yes… we slept.

We were woken up by the conductor in Tarlac. We dropped off of Caltex Station and took a very very long and painstaking trike ride to Sta. Juliana. From there, we met our contact Wendell and hopped on to our kick ass 4X4.


The terrain was vicious as we cut our way across the land. It’s hard to imagine that there used to be fields there before.

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We had to go down the clearing and started walking towards the crater. The place was just surreal with the mix of lahar mountains and rippling rivulets plus the greens that appear here and there. The trek was actually pretty easy. I mean, we had the worst experience hiking Kinabalu and the time we had to spend walking in Pinatubo was nothing compared to 11 hours of agony. The boys and I were practically racing trying to beat the 20-minute mark the sign says we should be able to get to the crater. My foot! Jeff and I did it under 15.

RON’S SIDE NOTE: Excuse me! It took me 30 minutes ‘coz I’m stopping every once in a while to take pictures. hmpf!


And then we saw this… We were breathless (I mean literally and figuratively). The water was unbelievably turqoise. I was keeping an eye just in case Nessie decided to show herself down there…


We sat down and enjoyed our pre packed lunch of adobo courtesy of Wendell and we decided to rent a boat to take us to the other side of the lake. The water was literally boiling. You can actually bring an egg and bury it under the sand to cook.




It is truly amazing how mother earth builds and tears this land. This place was a wasteland 20 years ago… Who would’ve thought something beautiful can emerge in violence and destruction. This place is a miracle, a testament that something great out there moves us closer to understanding life and death. War and creation. Beauty and madness…



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  • Nomadic Pinoy

    September 26, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Nice shots.
    I wonder how your boss would react if he reads this story on that Oscar-worthy performance – oops!

  • flip'n travels

    September 28, 2010 at 9:09 am

    shhh! i hope he’d forgive me… (NO make that) …I hope he’s not reading our blog. hehehe.

    thanks sir!


  • chyng

    September 28, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    haha, may “hysteria” pero ready ang backpacker at trekking shoes! Ü

    hail the most beautiful!
    this is still the best spot for me (kabog yung angkor wat o grand palace) it’s hard to imagine a place as majestic as this is destructive at the same time. =)

  • flip'n travels

    October 2, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    chyng… that’s true… sana nga lang nakapag overnight kami, kaso the guide was telling stories of like those climbers who died because of bad weather condition. tsk! SAYANG! maybe next time. hehehe

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