"Everything happens for a reason."

It was in the year 1991, when the Philippines was again placed in the headlines all over the world.  At that time, it was an unfortunate event which devastated millions worth of properties, left thousands of familes homeless and unexpectedly decreased the number of our populace, specifically the Aetas, one of the indigenous communities in the country.  This was the Mt. Pinatubo volcanic eruption, whose previous eruption was estimated to be 400 years ago.

From the said eruption, a crater lake was formed, which now turned out to be one of the most visited tourist attractions in the country.  Exemplifying a Filipino trait, the said unfortunate event was used by the Filipinos to venture into a promising opportunity, that is, the development of eco-tourism in the country. 

Pinatubo Spa, Capas, Tarlac
I have always wanted to witness the natural beauty of Mt. Pinatubo crater lake but not too soon. 

When the year 2011 came, I had no plans of including it in my list of destinations nor was it forecasted.  While browsing over a  social network site (Facebook), a friend of mine from Tacloban City left a message inviting me to join them in their Pinatubo adventure.   Since she was the organizer, all I have to do is to be physically present on that scheduled day. Without any hesitation, I heeded and even invited other friends as well.  Thus, the discovery of the Mt. Pinatubo crater lake marked the finale of my January 2011 adventure.

McDonalds, Capas, Tarlac

January 31, 2011 at 3 in the morning - We were bound to Brgy. Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac, the jump-off point of our discovery.  It was a 2- hour ride to Tarlac.  We stopped by at McDonalds-Capas, Tarlac for breakfast while we waited for the tour manager from Pinatubo Spa to take us to the Spa itself for registration.  My other friends rode the rented van to Pinatubo Spa while we opted for a private car.  Parking spaces are available infront of the Pinatubo Spa, so no need to worry for those who wanted to bring their private vehicles. It was a 30-minute ride from McDonalds, Capas Tarlac to Pinatubo Spa.  After registration at the Spa, the adventure then begun.

the trail of the 4x4 adventure

The discovery begun on a four-wheel adventure drive.  It was a bumpy yet thrilling ride.  The usual trip takes an hour to the foot of the mountain where the trekking starts, however, with our very skilled driver, it took less than that.  On board the 4x4 vehicle, expect a lot of breathtaking views and a feeling of excitement as to what lies behind the mountains.  

There are two options of disembarkation to trek towards the Mt. Pinatubo crater lake and cliche as it may sound, it would either be the short or the long way.  The short way is what they call the skyway with extended 4x4 trip and less trekking.  We opted for the long way - the two hour trek.  It is advisable to go in groups of five as the capacity of the 4x4 vehicle is 5 persons, excluding the guide and driver.

the Mt. Pinatubo team
friends from Tacloban City with tour manager of Pinatubo Spa, Ms. Mallari

After the 4x4 adventure, two-hour trekking commences.  The trail was not that easy - stepping on rivers, passed by sulfuric rocks, felt both the hot and cold waters of the rivers, stepped on the sand and various rock formations - all created by the flow of lahar in that fateful 1991 eruption under the scorching heat of the sun.  The consolation for this choice was the fact that we were able to control our pace not to mention the too many photo opportunities with the panoramic natural landscape.

Wear the most comfortable hiking clothes and footwear that you have.  This is not about how you would look on photographs but on how convenient the trail will be on your part.  I recommend you wear sandals or slippers, or whichever you will be comfortable if you will opt for the 2-hour trekking, as you will pass by rivers.

left: dark color is hot water
right: cold water

border of Tarlac and Zambales

sulfur carved on the rocks


After the hours of trekking, you will be greeted by the sign below.

Trekking will start here? So what were we doing for the past hours? 

The following signs will be visible during the trail.

Then the majestic view will appear in less than 20 minutes, which makes us not senior citizens right?

Packed lunch is included in our tour and we had our lunch at the vicinity of the crater lake.  Air was fresh and comforting after the tedious trek.

comfort rooms in the mountain

Finally, the discovery of the Mount Pinatubo crater lake.

the "Waray" gang at Mt. Pinatubo crater lake
Photo courtesy of Steven Banares

boating at Mt. Pinatubo crater lake

A close encounter with the crater lake it was.

The depth of the crater lake is uncertain.  Boats are available for rent at 350.00 pesos per head with life vest if you want to traverse the lake as the other side of the lake offers a hot spring.  As for our group, we opted to take a nap at one of the cottages near the crater lake.  It was midday so sun bathing or at least burning ourselves under the scorching heat of the sun was never an option.  There were foreigners swimming and others getting themselves a new skin color near the crater lake.

Thanks to Ms. Mallari from the Pinatubo Spa for the adventure and to Ms. Regina "Lader" Derla for organizing the event.

Proposed Itinerary: (courtesy of Lader Derla)

0300 Assembly at Cubao Victory Liner Terminal.  Depart from Manila.
0500 ETA Capas, Tarlac.  McDonalds for Breakfast
0600  ETA Brgy. Sta. Juliana, Pinatubo Spa Register
0700  Board 4x4 vehicles
0800  end of the 4x4 ride; start trek
1000  ETA crater of Mt. Pinatubo
1130  Lunch
1300  Start return trek
1500 Back to the parked 4x4
1545 Back to Pinatubo Spa
1600 Back to Manila
1800  ETA Manila

Budget:  1500 pesos
inclusive of:
4x4 vehicle rent
local guide
entrance fee/conservation fee/brgy. fees
skyway fees (shortcut to the crater) - we did not avail

- boating on top of the crater 350.00 pesos per head/with life vest. No boat during rainy season
- massage: 500.00 pesos per head...1 hour and 20 minutes Thai massage with combination of Shiatsu dry massage only
- volcanic ash spa: 500.00 pesos per head 30 minutes treatment to lessen your cholesterol
- volcanic mud pool: 500.00 pesos per head 30 minutes treatment to stretch your skin and make you look more younger.

Contact:  Mr. Angelito Mallari - Capas Tarlac Branch
Mobile# 09331352126/09287813556

certificate of completion with Tour Manager Ms. Mallari

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