Tough ride, trek leads to a Jewel-Blue Crater Lake
Smart, DoT open easy route to Pinatubo
Manila Bulletin - 12/23/2001

Mount Pinatubo in Zambales has long hogged headlines for being one of the most destructive volcanoes in the 21st century. But after all its tumultuous episodes, the country’s Department of Tourism (DoT) for Region III has decided it’s high time to promote the volcano as a tourist destination.

Behind the violent history of the mountain, or most probably, because of this, Mt. Pinatubo is now a scenic natural attraction ideal for ecotourism.

Recently, a group of trekkers participated in the 3rd Pinatubo anniversary climb, which was sponsored by Smart Communications, DoT-Region III and the municipality of Capas, Tarlac.

The ecotour adventure involved more than an hour’s ride on rough terrain and a tiring trek through a long bed of rocks and hot and cold streams. However, the highlight of the experience is the chance to swim in the crater’s jewel-blue lake.

Not even the danger of the crater lake overflowing could stop some 200 people – including a 70-year-old engineer – to take the long and arduous six-kilometer commemorative climb towards the top of Mt. Pinatubo. They felt safe since the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) had painstakingly created a small canal for the caldera lake.

“I’ve traveled all over the world to climb mountains during my youth. It’s but time for me to climb Mt. Pinatubo and see its beauty before I die,” said 70-year-old engineer and photo hobbyist Nestor P. Datu.

Datu, a handful of forty- to fifty-year-olds, government officials, a few foreigners and adventurers bravely endured an hour of rough and tumble 4x4 ride along the O’Donnell River channel. After which, they trekked through the spectacular lahar formations.

At the top, the trekkers paid homage to Apo Namalyari, the Aeta’s indigenous deity, and quietly said a prayer for the deliverance of mankind from all evil. After another religious ritual and a quick dip at the mouth of the volcano, all the participants trekked back — exhausted but victorious.

The Department of Tourism in Region III has been promoting Mt. Pinatubo as a tourist destination and Brgy. Sta. Juliana in Capas, Tarlac, as an easy route to the crater of the once-destructive volcano. This ecotourism project already has a significant number of visitors and has generated economic activity for the benefit of the host population.

The project is so successful that it has been recently adjudged as the best ecotourism project in the whole Asia-Pacific by the Pacific Asia Travel Association.