As always I’m going on a new trip unprepared. Barely awake I hailed a taxi going to Gateway the final pick-up point of the van that’ll take us to Tarlac. To my utmost delight this is a trip that’ll require at least a 3hr trek through the lahar ravished wonder that is called the Mt. Pinatubo.

Speeding through the red lights, no cop bothered to flag us down. For the first time ever I was being driven by a female driver and from my window the glare of the passing streetlights glared and linger on my seat. I got to Gateway in about 5 minutes. Good because I was the last to arrive.

There’s a total of 30 participants in this trip. That means 5 bad-ass 4×4 vehicles. 30+ cameras. Endless quips and long photoshoot moments.

Our trail this time was a little bit longer than if we used the Skyway which was unfortunately broken during our trip. But this also means that we get more picturesque views.

I tried to walk fast, most of the trail was on flat terrain hence, no strain on my legs. Although the sand did annoy me and I have this habit of wandering out of tangent to create a newer and more difficult trail.

That habit of getting lost comes innate with the Epic Potato good thing Ian was there, constantly reeling me in and making me notice that i’m 10 feet away from him with no way to get back on the trail aside from jumping, submerging on the water or accepting defeat and walking back to the point where I started to first wander off mark.

Ian sang a myriad of songs like a psychotic version of walking in the deep. Or must’ve been rolling. I just remembered how he synced it with Gospel rock songs.

3 hours. I painstakingly counted the minutes. 2:35…….. 2:24…… Time wouldn’t go faster but my energy was waning. Good thing my inherent hatred of those impossibly fit kimchi-eating Koreans ahead of me kept me from stopping. The least I could do for my pride is to get ahead from these coke bottle bottoms wearing dudes who continuously defeated me at every RPG game I got interested in back in High school.

One look in the mirror now and I see myself wearing the same Potter-esque spectacles I hated so much on them. So it’s funny now how everything turned out looking back, Ian and I were leading by a margin. Maybe by a few meters even. It was hard to measure distances in the Pinatubo, Land of Mordor. My eyes played tricks on my by drawing the clouds closer and displacing the mountains making me think that I haven’t moved at all and I’m circumnavigating the perimeter, doomed to spend eternity lost because I was too stubborn to follow my guide. Oh and suddenly I see a sign. I’m at the trek point now. Yay!

From the comically insane sign claiming that an arthritic senior citizen could climb uphill on muddy and uneven terrain in 20 minutes. I did it in about 25minutes, thankyouverymuch. You could see the wonder that is the Pinatubo crater lake. Made after the devastation of the 1991 eruption that displaced the Aeta population, it is hard to imagine that something so destructive became so beautiful over a few year’s time.

After lunch in one of the driest afternoon I had to endure, some of us decided on renting a small boat to the other side of the valley to better appreciate the tumbling peaks of Mordor.

Expensive as it was, priced firmly at 350 pesos per person and the ride only lasted for 15minutes. They fully utilized dragon boat rowing power too, so I could only hope that all their earnings go to the Aeta’s themselves. Was the 23.333Php/minute boat ride worth it? I would say a resounding yes! The waters there has this ominous steam rising above the ground effectively starting the doomsday theorist in me. And the view is just fantastic! Unfortunately the use of a panoramic lens wasn’t included in out boat rental fee so we just did a well directed window shot….

30 of us. Took on the challenge of a gruelling hike. And why? I can’t fathom why people would subject themselves to such torture trying to climb a mountain only to have to make their way down again. But those thoughts only pollute my mind during the task going up. The moment I step on the summit all my thoughts are laid rest and I happily collapse to take a well deserved rest, breathing in the success along with my fresh mountain breeze, and the pepper-like lahar.

When going down my only thought is how I’d like to do it all over again. I’m more than willing to subject myself to another round of torture just for the fleeting euphoria. The fast fading sense of achievement.

Another hour into my hike going back I settled into a pensive groove, I’ll ask God for just enough. Not too much, just enough food to keep me from being hungry, just enough friends so
I’ll never be lonely. I wish for just enough strength to go on. But never too much that I don’t appreciate how blessed I am. Maybe I turned philosophical because we were trailing at the very last of the pack.

And Ian starts to sing his Gospel rock songs again…….

I really had fun in this trek. Nothing but the best bunch of people randomly chosen out of the sheer love of travel, with representatives hailing from Cebu to Davao

The title of this could be misleading. I have no idea how to tell you our budget…. Because I wasn’t really paying attention. Here’s Dong Ho the sacrificial lamb, our kuya guide for the day. Or babysitter… If you think it’s a more fitting adjective. :)