Friday, January 24, 2014

Mt. Pinatubo Climb, December 1994

Mt. Pinatubo explosion in 1991 was the biggest volcanic eruption of the last century in the whole planet. Some 10 or 11 (or more?) cubic kilometers of earth materials were thrown into the sky and fell down as ashfall, hot rocks, sand, dust, etc. Instant destruction then was huge, hundreds of thousands of hectares of farm lands, residential and commercial areas, were covered by ashfall. Many houses and structures were knocked down by the heavy ashfall that came back to the ground.

Another destruction followed months and years later, via lahar (mud, sand + water) that came down the slope of the mountain-volcano, the various rivers in Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales provinces.

I belonged to the Congress Mountaineers then, formed in 1993 when I was still working at the House of Representatives. We have climbed many mountains in the country then -- Mt. Apo in Davao, (higher mountain in the Philippines), Mt. Pulag in Benguet-Ifugao (2nd highest mountain), Mt. Halcon in Mindoro, Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon, Mt. Hibok-hibok in Camiguin, Mt. Banahaw in Quezon, Mt. Makiling in Laguna, Mr. Maculot in Batangas, Mt. Arayat in Pampanga, etc.

Climbing Mt. Pinatubo's crater was a cool and challenging idea then, thought by our team leader, Jules. Around October 1994, a Pinatubo climb was co-sponsored by the Department of Tourism (DOT) Region 3 office, to promote adventure tourism of the volcano. It was billed to be the "First human expedition to reach Pinatubo by foot".

Jules, me, Gene Penas and Calmar Palma, four of us, set out to climb one day ahead of the scheduled climb by a big group of the DOT team. We wanted to surprise them that we were there in the summit by the time they arrive.

Day 1 alone, we got lost, we could not configure our location based on the maps we had. The trails were very tricky, it was like a monster maze. We decided to camp out for the evening and wait for the big group the next day. There were plenty of them, about 16 climbers + 17 Aeta porters with lots of ropes, food, water. The Philippine Air Force (PAF) also supported via air drop of additional food and water. It was also ready to provide assistance should there be a need for an airlift in case of serious injuries among the expedition team members.

It took the big team + four of us 3 days 2 nights to reach the crater summit, then 1 day and 1 night to go back, total of 4D/3N. For us though, it was 5D/4N.

Since we already knew the basic route to the crater summit, Jules dreamed of a "Pinatubo crater traverse" expedition. We would climb from Pampanga side, and go out at Zambales side. There were eight of us then: Jules Calagui, Uly Veloso, Noel Mercado, Rap Rios, Coco Rosa, Gene Penas, Raymond Azanza, and me.

We don't have any of the photos in Pinatubo. It's only this week that Noel posted in facebook some of the hundreds of photos, most of which went to Coco, Jules' ex-wife, and I heard that Coco is not in the mood to share the photos to anyone of us. I hope this is not true.

The beach of the crater lake, Pampanga side. We brought tire interiors, a rubber boat, inflator, etc. so we can go to the other side. Uly being a swimmer, swam the lake from Pampanga to Zambales side.

Our plan was 3D/2N to reach the crater summit, Pampanga side, then 2D/2N to go down and exit at Botolan, Zambales, total 5D/4N. But things were more complicated, more dangerous than what we anticipated. Especially the descent on the crater, going down on a wall of semi-hard surface, it was very dangerous. So we climbed December 27, and hoped that we would be in Botolan town proper December 31 evening, we could take the bus back to Manila and be home for the New Year 1995.

We ended up spending 6D/5N in the mountain-volcano. We arrived Botolan evening of January 1, 1995.

Going down a portion of the crater summit.

From left: Raymond, me, Noel, Gene.

I was very thin then. And dark too, agh!  Well in 1993-94, I was cycling about 100 kms a week, running about 7 kms. a week, and climbing a mountain about once a month.

I was more of a follower than a leader and technical climber. I was lousy in map reading, but I had very strong endurance and could carry heavy loads. About 20 kgs of load carried for 6 days that time, no problem.

Below, Noel Mercado. Always coool meyn.

Uly Veloso.

Jules and Noel.

Gene Penas.

The rubber boat traverse of the lake.

Our camp site, I think Zambales side of the lake's beach.

Planning and meetings at Jules' apartment. Our climb-traverse expedition was sponsored by 3 companies, Fuji film I think, which gave us possibly a hundred rolls of films, no digicam at that time, Then Sony which lent us one or two videocams, then a food manufacturer which gave us 20 boxes of canned food. Thanks to all of them.

Fuji then developed the photos to huge sizes, for public exhibits. We held photo exhibits at SM megamall, Glorieta Ayala, Robinsons Galleria, Holy Angels University in Angeles City, and several other places.

Those were the days.

See also:

Mt. Pinatubo, 1994 and 2006, March 08, 2006

The DOT in Mt. Pinatubo, March 10, 2006


pinaytunay said...

oh there you go. this is the story of your pinatubo expedition. is there one of your traverse?

cycloturista said...

Those were the days... Kamusta pare? Email ko sa iyo mga scanned high res pictures. Noel

Anonymous said...

Missing a lot of great and funny photos in this post. And the video of a huge section of the crater crashing! I remember asking one of you, “Buti hindi gumuho yung campsite nyo?” And one of you replied, “Di namin alam kung guguho sha o hindi.” 😵‍💫😵😳