Let’s Get Lost in Zambales

In the most literal sense, our escapade last weekend was indeed a nature trip. We were far from civilization. There were no cellphone signals. No electricity. It was an escape to find more about life. To discover who you are in this vast world, perhaps. To see more of what life has to offer. To watch a falling star–catch it in your hands if you could. To talk with your friends underneath the moonlight. To feel the cool wind of the night on your skin and let the cricket’s lullaby hum you to sleep. To stretch out your hands closer to the fire and warm your body as the temperature went down early morning. All these things and the memory it brings. A trip like no other. Let’s get lost in Zambales. It’s a beautiful place.

 

DESTINATION 1: MOUNT PINATUBO

Going there…
1. From Cubao/Manila, take any bus that will pass by Capas, Tarlac. There are tons of them out there. There’s always a trip every twenty minutes. Get off at Capas Junction (look for McDo and Caltex). (around 3 hours)
2. From Capas Junction, ride a tricycle to Sta. Juliana. Trike’s terminal just across the street from McDonalds. (30 minutes)
3. Coordinate with the tourism office and book a 4×4 ride. In our case, we took a package tour, including lunch, 4×4, guide, and all the fees.

Honestly, the ride from Laguna to Cubao took longer than the one from Cubao to Capas, Tarlac hahaha. Or that was how it felt. We were stuck in traffic for hours. We arrived at Cubao at around past 11 in the evening. We stayed in a budget hotel for a while to get an hour or two of sleep (which I didn’t).

Then at around 3 in the morning, we went to have a quick breakfast. And then around 4, we were on our way to Capas, Tarlac.


What we did right: nothing… haha just kidding. We were so good at running and begging the tourism office/coordinator to please let us climb that day lol.

What we did wrong: Eat breakfast at 3 in the morning in Cubao. We should have gone straight to Tarlac and ate breakfast at the McDo there.

Friendly advice: leave Cubao at around 3 in the morning. Without traffic, you will get to Capas, Tarlac at around 6 or 7. Just enough time for the 30 mins. tricycle ride to Sta. Juliana.

Anyway… it was fun and it turned out to be for the better. Because there was a slight rainfall that day–ulambon, as we call it. The covered 4×4 ride (last one that was available for that day) really came out to be handy.

Yes, our bags were all packed up and ready to go. We were up to climb Mount Pinatubo… without a reservation. LOL. Okay, so here’s the deal. When it’s peak season or a long weekend (totally forgot this one), it’s better to make a reservation. It was almost a miracle that we were able to climb that day, as almost all of the 4×4 trucks were already on their way to Mount Pinatubo when we arrived.

Here are the contact details of this very generous person who accommodated us despite everything:
Alvin’s Mount Pinatubo Guest House and Tours
Sir Alvin
09198614102

Take note: leave Manila early. Cut off time for the climb is around 7:30 am to 8:00 am. We arrived at Sta. Juliana a few minutes before 8:00. See? We were good at running. And pleading.

We got the last 4×4 ride available. It wasn’t open, like the others. Instead, the 4×4 had a roof and all. Which also turned out to be a good thing, because the weather was unpredictable. Everything works out for the better, aye? 🙂

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After some briefing and filling out the forms, we were on our way to Mount Pinatubo.

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The 4×4 ride was bumpy… of course. But so fun. It took us around one hour to get to the starting point of the trek.
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beforehike2beforehike3Still looking fresh. Don’t ask what we looked like a few minutes later.

As we kept on walking…

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walking…

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um, walking…hike10

Look! We were still walking…hike2

The scenery changed, but yeah, still walking…hike3

The hike’s literally three hours of walking to and three more down (for us, anyway). But it’s more or less the same for the others. Or for those who were not interested on taking pictures all the time hahaha.

But very important thing: Don’t forget your bottled water and sports drink. At least three liters for one person. This is not a joke. Drink water and sports drink as you go. Your body will thank you for that. And of course, bring chocolates. It’s your easiest source of glucose/sugar for the hike.

And slather sunblock all over your arms and face and legs.

Don’t forget your malong. Come rain or sunshine. It’s very helpful.

The weather during our hike was favorable to the point of we couldn’t imagine it otherwise. It was raining a bit, but not a downpour. The sun was barely out there. Or if it was, the clouds would cover it after several minutes. And with that, all five hundred or so of us who climbed that day experienced a very favorable weather to climb Mount Pinatubo.

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Just a bit of Wikipedia excerpt:
Mount Pinatubo (Filipino: Bundok Pinatubo) is an active stratovolcano in the Cabusilan Mountains on the island of Luzon, near the tripoint of the Philippine provinces of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga.Before the volcanic activities of 1991, its eruptive history was unknown to most people. It was heavily eroded, inconspicuous and obscured from view. It was covered with dense forest which supported a population of several thousand indigenous people, the Aetas, who fled to the mountains during the Spanish conquest of the Philippines.

The volcano’s Plinian / Ultra-Plinian eruption on 15 June 1991 produced the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century after the 1912 eruption of Novarupta in the Alaska Peninsula. Complicating the eruption was the arrival of Typhoon Yunya (Diding), bringing a lethal mix of ash and rain to areas surrounding the volcano. Successful predictions at the onset of the climactic eruption led to the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from the surrounding areas, saving many lives, but the surrounding areas were severely damaged by pyroclastic flows, ash deposits, and subsequently, by the lahars caused by rainwaters re-mobilizing earlier volcanic deposits causing extensive destruction to infrastructure and changing the river systems months to years after the eruption.

~~~~~

Our driver/tour guide pointed out to us the original parts of the volcano and the ones that were formed from the lahar. At first, we didn’t notice it. It was hard to tell, as everything appeared to be white (lahar).

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I was only two years old when it erupted. I’d only heard stories from my mom, lola and other relatives. Seeing the aftermath of a tragedy decades ago, I couldn’t help but wonder how it must have felt when it happened.

And now, here it was–a hundred 4×4 rides parked at the start of the trail.
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Back to our hiking story…

Of course, after an hour of walking, we already wanted to have a short stop over in the middle of nowhere.

More or less, this was what we all looked like.

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But our guide urged us that we were only a few minutes away from the first stop or middle stop or the stop before going to the crater. He did say that it was only a few minutes away. Almost an hour later (again), we started thinking that maybe our guide had a different timeframe. We were definitely not there yet. Haha! But either way, we pushed on until we–finally–arrived at the said stop.

1st stop

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Yes, we ate McDo here (our supposedly take-out breakfast/second breakfast; yes, we’re very much hungry). We kept on joking how it would have been if we had asked McDo to deliver the food here. The deliveryman had to walk for hours before even doing the trek, or he would have ridden/rented a 4×4 and that would be more costly than the actual price of the meals that we were eating. We pretty much had fun imagining the McDo’s delivery guy what ifs, out there in the middle of Pinatubo. Blame our tiredness or lack of sleep or really, us being us.

And so after eating the legendary McDo breakfast out here in Pinatubo, we went along and headed to the crater. EEEEEEEP! *breathe in and out* *excitement and, well, exhaustion lol*

20 minutes to crater. They said.

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Um, okay… let’s see… I was not raising my hopes up or anything.

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After five hours–oops! Just kidding. Just an hour, probably, we finally arrived at the crater. There was traffic on our way. Of course, out here in the mountain, why not blame it, too? Hahaha! But yes, slightly traffic because of the other climbers going down and we had to stop for a while and give way and vice versa.


And here’s the crater!

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or that was more like us… anyway.

After having a great time laughing around at the viewing deck, we went down to the crater itself.

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An aftermath of a tragedy.
But here I stood, amazed on how breathtaking you could be.

Some more things we did there…


Goofing around! This will always be part of any trips with them.
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And the water on the crater’s lake. No filter.

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I actually have a vlog down below. See it for more behind the scenes moments and fooling around–here, there, and everywhere.

Costing of Pinatubo escapade:
⦁ Manila to Capas, Tarlac Bus Fare – Php 200.00 *one way
⦁ Trike from Capas, Tarlac to Sta. Juliana – Php 300.00 (good for 3-4) *one way
⦁ Tour (including all the fees and 4×4 ride and lunch and water) – Php 1,650.00/person
Rough breakdown of the tour package:
Local Guide Fee – Php 100.00/person
Conservation Fee – Php 300.00/person
Shower after trek – Php 50.00/person
Note: There were other fees, but I lost my cheat sheet. Hahaha! All in all, it was almost the same price + lunch and no hassle. I recommend that you book a tour with them. Worth it.

What to wear:
-light clothes
-keep your backpack light as well
-comfortable shoes that easily gets dried. There are lot of streams that you will have to pass. In fact, streams probably composed one third of the trek. Or sturdy slippers (Islander or Sandugo).

Our second lunch before going back to our 4×4 ride:

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This was the lunch that was included in the tour package. Yum!

And we were on our way back…

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After one tiring adventure, if like us, you couldn’t move an inch of your body anymore, I recommend booking a room beforehand. Our original plan was to head straight to Zambales and look for a room there. But as tired as we were, we could barely think straight. We all wanted one thing–sleep.

So we had no choice but to look for a room in Capas, Tarlac. After our futile search (fully-booked hotels/inns to another), we ended up at Ves Food Resort and Villas.

Okay, it was costly for a backpacking trip, but we had no choice. We badly wanted to sleep and call it a night. Their family room was already booked, so we had no choice but to get two separate rooms. Thankfully, the receptionist was kind enough to understand the tiredness in our entire beings, us on a budget trip, and gave us a bit of discount.

Aftermath of Pinatubo hike:
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I’m so tempted to post the picture of the one lurking around in our room while we were dead sleep. So here goes. Look who was awake… and who were not hahaha.


Room cost for the night with free breakfast – Php 600.00

But that was really a good sleep. Did you know that we were all fighting (to a certain degree; mundane quarrels between friends) the night before while we were eating at Chowking? We really didn’t know if we were going to Zambales, go home, and with the room being so costly hahaha. Until we’d all gave up and called it a night.

The morning after, we were all smiles again. As if nothing happened hahaha. Sometimes, all you need is a good night sleep and all is well.


Tip: search for a room around Capas, Tarlac if you have other plans like us; or you could also head straight home (best of luck, by the way). The tiredness I felt after the hike was incomparable. I couldn’t imagine if we didn’t have plans to go to Anawangin the day after and rather went straight home that day. I doubt if we could even make it back home all in one day. Or maybe that was just us hahahaha.

 

DESTINATION 2: ANAWANGIN

So yes, day 2 of our Zambales escapade. We went back to Dau, Angeles in order to ride a bus going to Olongapo. (not more than Php 200.00; sorry, I couldn’t remember the exact amounts anymore)

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Then in Olongapo, we rode a bus going to Iba, Zambales. (Php 58.00)

We got off at San Antonio Public Market, where we ate lunch and bought food and supplies for our camping trip. A little after lunch, we rode a tricycle to Pandaquit. (Php 30.00/person)

Sir Alvin (from our Pinatubo escapade) gave us the contact details of Ms. Precy before we left. We thank you so much for this little info, Sir Alvin. Ms. Precy was probably one of the nicest tour coordinators you’d ever meet. She gave us the tour for Php 1,500 (Php 300.00/person) and the tents for only Php 250.00 each (good for three person; we had to take two). As for the other things (caldero, butane burner, etc.), she rented them to us for free. 🙂

Ms. Precy’s contact details
09293832877

Tip: Rent a tent before going to the island. It’s much cheaper that way.

Other costing:
⦁ Overnight camping fee (Anawangin): Php 100.00
⦁ Bonfire sticks/kahoy/woods: Php 150.00/bundle
*We used this to cook our food and also as a way to stay warm and have a source of light. Really enjoyed the bonfire moments.

On our way to Anawangin Cove!

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And a very picturesque shot of Anawangin Cove. Nice one, Sida.

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Setting up the tent:

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Someone seemed to be enjoying it…

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But before the bonfire moments, we took another hike (’cause we couldn’t get enough hahaha *sarcasm* of it) to get a good view of the island, Anawangin Cove.
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anawangin4The blue, blue sky.

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As the sky was wrapped up in different hues, I stared at you.

The beach at sunset. Lovely.

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Back to campsite.

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Are we out of the woods yet?

12318332_10206948774671331_1146300560_oAnd then it’s almost nighttime. Time for the sun to go down and the darkness to fill the camping site. And it was so much fun. You don’t get to experience this kind of set-up often.

I loved the serenity of the night and the camp fires for each group. The sound of the guitar. The smoke taking care of the mosquitoes. Every single thing. It was so tranquil.

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And here was how we prepared our food.

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Truth: everything was so unplanned that we didn’t even think of bringing proper food like tilapia or bangus or barbeque, etc. But this was the best spicy sardines and hotdog and luncheon meat and rice we’d ever tasted. Sand toppings and all hahaha. But it was fun and our stomachs were full after a sumptuous meal. 😀

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Fun time!
So while they were suggesting that they should take a dip in the ocean that night, I wasn’t up for it and was suggesting to my other friend that we should do stargazing instead. I was able to convince her hahaha.

So we went to the beach to do just that–stargazing and they would take a dip in the ocean. But the waves were strong that the evening.

In the end, we all laid down on the beach, looking at stars. The night was so clear and the stars were so bright.

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The highlight of the night was when all saw shooting stars. Who would have thought? I was the last one to see a shooting star, because I was busy taking pictures (epic fail; need to learn how to take pictures of stars) when they all saw one. Funny thing was, an hour after, I saw a shooting star while all of them were fast asleep out there on the beach.

At ten in the evening–I woke them up–and we all went back to our campsite. After freshening up, we all got ready to call it a night and sleep in our tents.

Good to know: there were shower areas.

Before sleeping… there had been an ambush interview (they really didn’t let me off the hook) about things. After which, we all went to sleep. Or tried to. It was a cold morning.

And daybreak…

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Don’t tell anyone… but I was trying to find the sunrise from the same spot where the sunset had been last night. Even our bangkero laughed at my out of place way of thinking. Of course… the sun had risen on the other side of the hemisphere. Me and my thought process hahaha. Sorry. 😀

And then it’s time to leave.

Bye, bye Anawangin.

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DESTINATION 3: CAPONES

This was the unplanned part of the trip, but it was included in the package. We didn’t get to explore Capones because one of us had to make it to work that same day. So we only lingered on the beautiful island for about an hour before wrapping up our trip. The shortcut to the lighthouse in Capones was about fifteen to twenty minutes of hike. But since there were a lot of rocks on the shore that time, if we wanted to climb to the lighthouse, we had to trek for an hour to and an hour back. We didn’t have much time left. So Capones lighthouse, we’ll be back for sure.

But even at the shore, we really had a great time.

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Zambales has so much to offer. It was a good trip. Like all the others, it was unforgettable. The sheer laughters that resounded in the stillness of the night. The company of great friends. The warmth that fills your soul as you get closer to nature. This is our Mount Pinatubo and Anawangin trip–our Zambales escapade. Until next time! 🙂

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Mount Pinatubo ’15 vlog:

Anawangin and Capones ’15 vlog:

 

 

love lots,

Freesia

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