Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mt. Pinatubo: Trek for a Cause

Update: for more pictures, check out my gallery at Picasa Web Albums Mt. Pinatubo: Trek for a Cause

Photo: The Expedition Team
Taken by Mr. Tripod before going home.

The main objective was to distribute goods (food and clothing) to an Aeta village in the Pinatubo region. These are the people who we consider our neighbors - those who truly need our help. They are lucky to receive these kinds of blessings once a year.

With the Society of Active Volunteers and Explorers (SAVE), I tugged along for this experience. We left Friday afternoon, August 22, 2008, in a van of the Southern-Asia Pacific Division (SSD) of Seventh-day Adventists loaded with sacks of clothes and 10 people headed for Capas, Tarlac. The rest of the 19 went by bus from Manila.

Reaching Capas later in the afternoon, 3 sacks of rice was purchased as well as foodstock for the weekend. We, then, continued the journey to Barangay Sta. Juliana where we were to stay the night. After settling down in the rented house, all the baon popped up. It was definitely supper time! An event we all enjoyed. There was a lot of everything -- rice, fish, fish and fish... and some bread and corned beef. After the feast, we started packing the rice into plastic bags for easy distribution. Still only the first ten that arrived, but we had enough man (and women) power for the job. It was a simple task that was soon finished and put out of the way. When the rest arrived, we gathered for worship lead by the team leader sir Jerson Paican before we went to bed. He gave a talk and mentioned something like this:
"Before we give sermons about 666 we should first learn how to give 555."
Meaning: Before we tell the people about the devil and hell and dying and redemption (really scary stuff), we should first learn to give 555. 555 is a known Filipino brand of canned sardines. Really wise words I will remember for a long time.

Together with paragraph: kuya Ken buying rice.
Left: Supper Time
Right: kuya Pikes leading worship.

Giving 555

Top Carrying goods up to the village.
Bottom: Not afraid of cameras anymore. Kuya Ken poses with the village kids.

Waking up at 0415 the next day (Saturday), I started preparing myself and cooked rice for lunch. It was going to be a long day. After breakfast, all goods were loaded onto four 4x4 vehicles and we were ready to start our mission.

It was about an hour or so of off road fun before we reached the Aeta village. The path was no joke! It was a river valley filled with volcanic debris and rock from the June 1991 eruption which is considered the 2nd largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. Walls of on each side rising to more that 100ft. There was no permanent path to pass. the valley was kilometers wide and water was running everywhere. The terrain in this parts constantly change. The 4x4s may need to look for a new path the next day.

Reaching the small Aeta village, we were greeted and the goods were unloaded from from 4x4s. Aeta people are strong! One person carried a sack of rice, weighing around 32 kgs, all the way up to their village all by himself. Amazing!!

It was nice seeing the reaction of the village people. They were excited especially the children. You could see the big smiles on their faces. At first the children didn't like the digital cameras. But after kuya Ken showed them the picture, they were so excited to see themselves captured on the screen!! Oh the simple joys of life -- it just makes me smile.

Queues where made for food, another for clothing and another for children's foods and clothes. The children actually got so excited that the line couldn't be stilled. They were shoving and pushing each other but everything went well. Sir Jerson Paican had an interview with the chief who gave his gratitudes and thanks for the goods. He said it wasn't everytime that people come to give goods and that they were lucky if they got it once a year. This tribe was relocated after the eruption but they decided to come back because this was their land so they have been back there since then. After distributing the goods we made our way back down to the waiting 4x4s to start the next stage of our trip -- the cause was done, now for the trek.

Top-Left: Strong Man. An aeta villager carries a 32kg sack of rice.
Top-Right: Relief. A mother with a smile on her face.
Bottom-Left: Community Outreach Program.
Bottom-Right: Ate Gai in front of Emilia School Building. The school was donated by the British embassy.

The Expedition
Photo: Valley of Death.
This beautiful scene was a result of a terrifying past.

Mounting the 4x4s again, we went on another hour of ride to the jump off of Mt. Pinatubo -- the point were the 4x4s couldn't go any more and we had to go on feet. This time, the valley was narrower. We had to make our way crossing the same stream now and again. I loved my Arnuva 100s. They were Gortex and waterproof...until the ankles. I was "trying" not to get my feet went but that was quite impossible. I finally got my feet wet and resorted to using sleepers the rest of the hike. Most everyone were wearing sandals. The hike took more than 2 hours. It was a very different landscape then I was used too. This land would have been a desert if it weren't the stream that ran there. A good thing it wasn't that hot. A cool breeze was blowing which I think would blow on other days. We were just fortunate it was blowing for us.

The hike was far and it got tiring and then you see stairs heading up. You get to the top and you see the bluish-green lake from above. Phew!! It really worth it. The view is just spectacular; so peaceful; so calm. The contrast of the jagged cliffs forming the caldera and the lake itself was really rare... at least in the Philippines. And I loved every bit of it except for one thing. Some stayed up on the "view deck" while we went down to the lake and rested and ate lunch under some trees that had grown there. It was really relaxing to have the lake as a view. After a while, the guide told us we had to go back since rain was coming and it wasn't good if rain caught us there. 9 of us decided to make our way back to the 4x4s while the others decided to stay.

Now that's the thing I kinda missed. I wanted to take a swim. The water was so inviting! Kuya Lloyd, kuya Pikes and others explored the lake and I thought that was really cool and I should have gone with them but no use anymore.

Our way back was pretty fast but still over two hours of hiking. There were clouds gathering in the sky but no signs of rain. The others were already far ahead as I swept accompanying ate Joy at the back. A while later we were left far behind by ourselves. Near the end of the trip, we noticed a sudden increase in the volume and the speed of flow of the stream. I actually noticed the flood passing. Luckily we weren't in the water. But crossing was difficult. A point came that there was no more flat ground to walk on and we had to do some "rock climbing" climbing over rocks to get to a the other side. The flow of the water was quite frightening with rolling rocks also. We're glad we got back safe. I lost my shades. It dropped into the stream.

Back at the 4x4s we found out we couldn't leave without the others so we had to wait for some hours for the others to come down. Then, we saw rain at the distance coming towards us. We braced for the rain. It came in hard -- a sudden downpour. We took refuge in the 4x4s. We were worried about the rest still on the mountain specially with the swelling of the stream. Good thing the rain didn't last for very long but the sun was setting and still they weren't back. At dark, three got back with one injured at the ankle -- probably from the rocks rolling with the stream. At around 1900 the rest came in. What a relief. All accounted for. We could head back to the Barangay.

The trip back was an interesting one. The 4x4 we were riding was running really fast. I recon he was going around 60 kph except when we had to cross water and when there were big rocks around. Then at the flat grounds, the driver would push the vehicle to around 80kph, I would think. It was a really fast off road experience. Finally, we got back to the house safe and sound.

Top-most-Left: 4x4. This jeeps were ideal for the terrain.
Top-most-Right: Charge!
Middle-Left: Kuya Ken, Little Ken and Me.
Middle-Right: Cliffs of Hardened Volcanic Ash. 100+ feet wall of volcanic debris.
Bottom-Left: Kuya Lloyd stuck. Water is everywhere.
Bottom-Right: Ate Gai wades through the stream. There's no way of keeping your feet dry.

Death March Shrine

Photo: Capas National Shrine.
In memory of the brave American and Filipino soldiers who had to go through the cruel Death March.

The next day we were on our way home. Now there were 14 people in the SSD van and no more goods. On our way home, we passed by the Capas National Shrine. A shrine built to remember the soldiers in the famous Death March. In a wall surrounding a tall pointed tower were engraved the names of the soldiers. Instantly, everyone was searching for someone with the same family name although not necessarily related. We had some photos shoots and continued on our journey home.

What a fun weekend!! I don't even feel tired at all. Monday morning, I went for a 12km run under heavy rain and it was still good. The weekend trip was a retreat -- a recreational activity. It recharged my body with renewed strength. I'm looking forward to the next trip.

Photo: Circle within a circle.
Thanks guys for making the trip so much fun!


Gay said...

thanks aldz! for this nice write up! so, did you overhear about that trip to a beach next time?i want to have rock climbing!sa beach! kung may big rocks doon! i hope the pathfinder club will let us put their ropes and harnesses to the test!

Anonymous said...

BEAUUUUUTIFUL PICTURES...beautiful work done
you and the rest of the guys helped make the world a better place :)

Anonymous said...

Aldz, what a great writeup and photos!

aLdZ said...

Ate Gay, yup i overheard about that trip, just thought it was a bluff.. hehe.. totoo pala? :)

Coty, we didn't help make the world a better place, just that small part of the world. :) It was a great experience.

Sir Wayne, thanx. It was hard trying to keep it short. Still a lot more I can share.

Anonymous said...

aldz, when I get to the Philippines, when we meet, I'd be happy to hear more. As what Cotita, you and the guys help make this world a better place!

Gay said...

Caramoan in CamSur -- that's what Paiks mentioned. coz it's got a beach and massive rocks for climbing. i don't know when (but, well) why not! :)

www.pbase.com/pikes007 said...

here we go, we are doing this again, this time to the most remote part of palawan