Friday, September 20, 2013

Mt. Pinatubo: Things that Matter

Location Matters
Mt. Pinatubo, a volcano located in Luzon, is bordered by the provinces of Tarlac, Pampanga, and Zambales. If you were born before the 90s, then you know that it erupted in 1991. Before the eruption, its summit was at 1745 meters (5725 feet). Now it's at 1486 meters (4875 feet) above sea level.

Mt Pinatubo before the 1991 eruption (Source)

To get there:
1. Take a bus to Capas, Tarlac (buses from Cubao going to Baguio, Alaminos, and Lingayen will pass by Capas) and ask to be dropped at Capas Junction. From Cubao: Five Star Bus schedule every 30 minutes. Travel time: 2 hours. Fare: Php 172
2. At Capas Junction, hire a tricycle to take you to the tourism office in Sta Juliana. Travel time: 45 minutes. Fare: Php 300/tricycle/3 pax

If you need to fly in, the closest airport to Tarlac would be Clark Airport in Pampanga. From Clark, take a taxi or any public transportation to Mabalacat bus terminal. At the terminal, take a bus bound for Dagupan or Pangasinan and tell the bus conductor you will be getting off at Capas, Tarlac. The bus ride will just be an hour.

Mt. Pinatubo's Crater Lake, May 2013

Time Matters
How this trip actually went...
0100 Left Cubao Terminal (bus)
0300 Reached McDonald's Capas Junction, Tarlac; breakfast at 3AM
0400 Left McDonald's Capas Junction (tricycle)
0445 Reached Tourism Office in Sta Juliana
0500 Tourism Office opens
0530 And we're off on a 4x4
0630 ETA 7km from crater lake
0730 ETA 1km from crater lake
0800 Crater lake! Take photos, eat, snooze
1000 Started walking back to where we left our 4x4
1030 Drove back to the tourism office
1130 Reached the tourism office in an hour since we didn't make any stops
1200 Went back to Capas Junction (tricycle)
1245 Reached McDonald's Capas Junction; lunch
1400 Caught a bus to Cubao
1600 Arrived in Cubao bus terminal

Money Matters
Five Star Bus from Cubao to Capas, Tarlac Php 172
Tricycle from Capas Junction to tourism office in Sta Juliana Php 300/tricycle/3 pax
4x4 vehicle (can fit up to five passengers) Php 3000/vehicle
Guide per 4x4 Php 500
Conservation fee Php 300/person
Packed lunch Php 200/person
Aeta community Php 150/person
Bus from Capas to Cubao Php 167

A parade of 4x4s

Other Things that Might Matter
♦ Check the weather. Have a Plan B. Your trip to Mt. Pinatubo could get cancelled a day or two before your schedule, depending on the weather and the condition of the area (heavy rains can cause landslides, rendering the way impassable).
♦ Book your 4x4 ahead through Wendell Mercado (former president of the 4x4 association in Tarlac) at 0919 608 4313. You can also check out his website for more information.
♦ Avail of a packed lunch (also thru Wendell Mercado) for Php 200. Pricey, yes, but it exceeded my expectation. It was a complete lunch! It had rice, fish, pork, eggplant, tomato and salted egg salad, and a banana. It also included a 500ml bottle of water.
♦ Tourism office opens at 5AM. If you go on a weekend or on a holiday, it is best to be at the tourism office as soon as it opens so you can start ahead of the others.
♦ Go pee before you get on your 4x4. Toilets (fee of Php 10) are available at the store across the tourism office. Once you get on the 4x4, the next available toilet is still 24 km (or two to four hours) away.
♦ Bring something to cover your nose. It's going to be a long and dusty ride (one to two hours per way).
♦ Bring a hat. It'll be a long ride under the heat of the sun. Lucky if it's cloudy.
♦ If you're a lazy bum like us, pray for really good weather and pray that the 4x4 can make it all the way to a kilometer from the crater. Then you'd only have to do an easy 20– to 30–minute walk to the crater.
♦ There will be times when the last stop of the 4x4 is 7 km from the crater lake. Prepare to walk for two to three hours across streams, loose rocks, and boulders, with no trees to give respite from the heat. Best to wear hiking sandals.
♦ Bring a liter of water (or half a liter if you avail of the packed lunch) and some trail food in case you have to do the 7 km hike.
♦ Nothing doing at the crater. No swimming. No boating. Just eating—there's a store selling drinks and snacks—and snoozing.
♦ Locals say it usually rains in the afternoon and heavy rains could be dangerous. Listen to your driver and guide. They know best when to leave.
♦ You might want to wash away the thick layer of dust on your skin after the trip. Bring towel, toiletries, and extra clothes. You can use the shower room at the store across the tourism office for a fee of Php 50.
♦ Lastly, get enough sleep before the trip. Do not be like us—just two hours of sleep...on the bus!

Mt. Pinatubo:
Good News/Bad News
Things that Matter (you're here!)


  1. Whoa, toilet fee of P10. Hehehe. Whatta short and sweet trip! :)

    1. Yup, daghan naman na, mag charge for use of the toilet :D

  2. I love the Crater Lake photo! it's like a postcard. =)

    1. Thank you Fred. Picturesque sad gyud ang Pinatubo crater lake...