Where: Mt. Pinatubo, Zambales, Central Luzon, Philippines
Who: Mr & Mrs Wanderlust
When: October 2015
What: Trekking Mt. Pinatubo to see the lake inside its crater
Mount Pinatubo is a volcano located in the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The volcano is located in the provincial territory of Zambales which is around 55 miles from the capital city, Manila. Pinatubo was covered with tropical vegetation and was home to more than 30,000 people who lived in villages on its slopes, mostly the indigenous Aeta / Ita who were hunter-gatherer people who fled to the mountains to escape persecution of the Spanish back in 16th century. They are successful in surviving in the dense jungles of the area and they also grew crops like rice, barley, wheat, sweet potato, and raised livestock.
After lying dormant for around 500 years, Mt. Pinatubo's eruption in 1991 resulted in one of the most destructive volcanic eruptions of the 20th century. The volcano ejected millions even billions of tons of different materials such as sulfur dioxide, mercury, zinc, copper, and other toxic metals. There were also earthquakes.
The eruption blocked the sun which also caused darkness, ashes landed even from the far flung provinces in the country, official reports even say that ash fall caused by the volcano reached Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia.
Now, more than 20 years has passed the volcano is now a safe place to visit. Plants and landscape has formed, and due to constant rain being trapped in the crater, it has become a beautiful lake that has made Pinatubo another popular activity for tourists and locals alike.
Do note that the volcano is still active, and is very closely monitored and any activity will most likely be predicted, thus trekking there is a safe activity, especially when it is done in the presence of local guides who know the area.
The province where Mt. Pinatubo is located may be in Zambales, however the preferred route if planning to see the crater lake is through Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac.
***Note: If you plan to do a day hike, leave very early 3:AM as the tourism office has a policy regarding cut-off time for those planning to go up Mt. Pinatubo which is around 8 - 9AM.
Via Public Transport:
Take the Victory liner bus bound to Baguio,Dagupan,Urdaneta. Take a bus ticket until Mcdo Capas,Tarlac. Go down infront of McDo Capas. Once you get down the bus, take a tricycle ride from Capas to Sta.Juliana Capas Pinatubo jump off. Ask the driver to drop you infront of the tourism office for waiver signing.
Via Private Transport:
1. Take NLEX and Sta Ines Mabalacat exit.
2. Turn right to McArthur Highway (mercury drug) going Bamban direction all the way to Capas, Tarlac.
3. In Capas,after the NEW 2 WAY bridge and just before 711 and Jolibee, turn left at the first stoplight
(to villa sto rosario) then turn right.
4. Drive ahead passing Brgy. Aranguren.
5. 1.5 km, take a TURN LEFT at the sharp curved road on your right TRRJ Merchandize and INC church.
6. Drive for about 18 kms till you reach Brgy Sta. Juliana, Capas- pinatubo jump off.
7. You will be passing by Jayson's Garden Inn, Capas National Shrine, Brgy Sta. Lucia, Camp O'Donnell,
8. You will be entering the check point-AIRFORCE CROW VALLEY. To enter Brgy. Sta. Juliana.
9. Drop by at the Tourism Office for the waiver signing.
The trail to Mt. Pinatubo's crater lake is under the province of Zambales. However, the best and recommended jumpoff point would be to start in Brgy. Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac. If you are from coming from Manila or nearby provinces, there is no need for you to stay for a night as the whole trek to Pinatubo's crater lake will just take you a whole day tour. But if you insist to stay the night before or after in the area, there are a couple of places to stay in Capas, Tarlac.
We did not stay on any of accommodations in the area as we are only to do a whole day tour. If we are to recommend anything, it will be Alvin Bognot's Guesthouse. We had everything organized by the guesthouse owners from 4x4 ride, guide, fees and everything to packed lunch ready to eat at the crater. At the lowest price for Mt. Pinatubo packages that you can see, but still a quality tour, and no hassle.
Since we did not stay overnight, we won't be able to give any ratings, but check out their website to see photos of their rooms, facilities and surroundings. But if you went there for Mt. Pinatubo tour, then definitely they are the closest and good guesthouse / homestay in the jumpoff for the trek.
1. 4x4 and ATV rides
If you want to see Mt. Pinatubo crater, it will be at least an hour ride of 4x4 from the jumpoff point in Brgy. Sta. Juliana in Capas. When the road ends, it will then be a very rocky and offroad terrain, pass by a few streams and rivers. A year ago, the trek was just an hour, but due to the recent typhoons and landslides, huge boulders of rocks blocks the road and even 4x4s cannot get to them and only have to trek it by foot. As a result the time to go up to the crater lake has been doubled about 2 hours or so depending on pace.
2. Have a picnic in Mt. Pinatubo crater lake
After walking and trekking the rocky terrain, crossing a few rivers and streams, it is best to have a picnic once you get to the crater lake. Usually tour organizers would have packed lunch options so make sure to avail yours, or if on a tight budget, just make sure you bring your preferred snacks.
3. Try Pinatubo Spa Town
Try to experience the famous spa in Pinatubo, that offers volcanic ash massage and mud pack.
4. Check out Capas Shrine
A shrine in memorial of the Filipino and American soldiers who died during the Bataan Death March during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in World War II.
5. Museo de Tarlac in Capas
Might as well check out the local museum in Capas to learn more about its history.
6. Check out Japanese tunnels and caves
Back in World War II, the invading Japanese forces used these tunnels and caves in the Burog Mountain Ranges to protect themselves from surrounding enemy fire. And there are still a few in town hidden in plain sight just a few km of trek from the jungle.
Tour Package - 1,550 PHP (inclusive of 4x4, fees, guide, and packed lunch)
Accommodation - Homestay - family room - 500 - 2000 PHP
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