Back in high school, I remembered having new classmates join us in the middle of the school year – they were previously living in Pampanga where their school was devastated by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, burying whole towns, villages and rivers. Years later I would be assigned in Camp O’Donnell Capas, Tarlac. One of the places where we have our training exercises was the Crow Valley in Bgy Juliana, where there was this wide expanse of sandy plains suited for maneuvers of armored vehicles. Crow Valley was once a US Naval Communications base with its own runway now all buried by the debris of Pinatubo.
This cataclysmic event last 15 June 1991 was considered the one of the two most powerful volcanic eruptions of the 20th century.
Who can believe that this place of beauty now was a turbulent maw of a once-dormant volcano that became suddenly active. Once the devastation has subsided and the people began to rebuild their lives, they discovered the riches Pinatubo has left them – the lahar where high quality sand is presently quarried earning significant revenues for the local government and this scenic crater lake where the maw of the volcano used to be.
Most people come here via the tour companies who offer 4×4 rides either coming from Sapang Bato, Angeles City or Bgry Sta Juliana, Capas, Tarlac.
At the time of this post, I was assigned with the 3rd Mech Battalion and the area where visitors come in to the Pinatubo was part of our unit’s area of responsibility. VIPs were slated to visit that day. So I joined our security team of soldiers that were deploying early in the area and rode with them. Our home was in Bgy Sta Lucia, roughly and hour and a half ride away from the trek’s start point. The security team came by our quarters to fetch us early before 6am. My group includes my son Matt, sister Joy, her then-fiance-now-husband Jhun and my friend Jen.
We were early at the venue which was good. It was not that hot for trekking. During this time, the Skyway was still open and the trek was only a brisk 15-30 minutes to the crater depending on your stamina. (Now the Skyway was not repaired and most of it was destroyed by landslides years ago so the trek today would take some 2-3hrs trek.)
As we ascent the stairs to the crater, we were greeted by this wondrous view.
My son was really excited to come here, though it was his second time.
We were the first visitors at the scene so we immediately took our places in the picnic hut. We ate breakfast first as we jumped off early in the day.
Then picture-taking galore!
We went down the stairs going to the lakeside…
Other visitors began arriving after us. Some brought their dog…
The manongs who facilitate the boat rides came. They offered to ferry us across the lake for 250php/head (at lakwatsero’s blogpost, they paid 350php last Jan 2011). And so across we rode and explored the other side…
..rowing towards that shore…
We arrived – like conquerors on a new island haha!
The views from the other side…
The water in this side was quite hot and there were steam vents coming out from under those sulfuric waters.
Time to go back – happy campers we were once again!
Matt ventured a swim but only near the shore as the waters of the lake were never charted as to how deep the bottom really was.
Time to back track and head home. One last shot for the road…
There were a lot of 4x4s parked at the start point when we got there.
We headed home with huge smiles and a beautiful memory of this place just right in our backyard. I know I would keep coming back here just like an old friend we want to see time and again.
Acknowledgements: The photos here are from my personal collection and that of my sister Maria Jennifer Joy Blancaflor-Repas (of Creative Booze Photography) and my friend Jennee S Oliveros.