I love zombies. I adore those ghoulish monsters. I relish their appetite for brains. I love zombies so much that I kept imagining them slumbering throughout the Mount Pinatubo Trek. Scratch Bonifacio Global. Mount Pinatubo is the perfect setting for a zombie movie. It is an utmost desire of mine that the Philippines produce a proper zombie film and used to think that the high-rise condominiums provide a fantastic backdrop to such impending horror. Scratch the ideas for it is Pinatubo or bust. Unless another trek comes along, though not in the near future for a pair of torpid thighs still ache.
Tour guide Robin told us that the first group to ever climb Pinatubo are the UP Mountaineers. That is climbing without the aid of these mean four-wheel driving machines. Trailblazers make life easier for the rest of us. I do not know how long it took us from the parking area to the start of the trek. Riding these vehicles is equivalent to volunteering one’s self as the human punch bag of the National Fist. Getting there in one piece is the first concern. The roads indeed put the “rough” on rough roads. It is recommended to bring clinical masks and hoodies to protect from dust and other elements. If you have steady hands and above average balance, whip that digital camera out!
That is smoke dust. I can imagine a frenetic chase scene between hapless humans and voracious zombies. Since I am at this zombie zone, let me share the movie plot I have in mind. Goes something like this: five college students finishing their term paper. Topic of their paper is the unusual growth of bananas and aratiles in the Pinatubo area. Briefer: Robin told us that before the eruption, Pinatubo is a forested area but after the devastating eruption, most of the plants that propagated are bananas (Musa acuminata) and aratiles (Ara mina). Yep. That is the scientific name of aratiles. Another interesting factoid: before the 1991 volcanic eruption, the area was malaria-infested. The infestation disappeared after. You get the drift? The general symptoms of malaria include headache, fever and vomitting – the same manifestations during the first stage of a zombie epidemic. Here is the big what if: what if a more vicious malaria strain has evolved after the erruption that has cause humans to exhibit zombie-like tendencies.
Passing the lahar wall had me thinking, were there living things trapped when the mud flowed on this side of the mountain? I avoided “humans” and chose “living things” as it is less morbid. Speaking of morbid, Pinatubo has equal amount of morbidness and magnificence. Just like Mother Nature. The driver stopped in this area to check the vehicle for the road ahead is more difficult thus more dangerous. There is a ravine. Spell that aloud. R-A-V-I-N-E.
Yes. There are aetas living near the area. Our still nomadic ancestors are more than willing to pose for the cameras. Giving them food is also acceptable. Most of them are kids who have mastered the kawaii pose of our Japanese neighbors. Just a brief review: H. Otley Beyer classified the negritos as the first group of the three-ethnic wave that came to the Philippines. That kid in the red shirt has millions of histories behind him. I cannot imagine the vastness of the idea. Incorporating them to our bubbling zombie movie, think of the aetas as the keepers of knowledge - knowledge on surviving malaria. There must be something in their ancient practices that has kept their race alive throughout centuries. Fortunately, the eldest member of the remaining nomadic tribe of Aetas, possessed the singular solution to this mess. Reaching to the farthest ends of her memory, the tribe elder explained to the students that boiling bananas and aratiles using Pinatubo lake water and heated stones is the lone cure for the ruthless malaria variant. Off to the crater then.
The ride ends and the trekking begins. This huge lahar wall welcomes adventure seekers. I can imagine zombies rolling down as a result of debilitating motor skills. Trekkers are reminded to watch their steps to avoid falling, slipping or stepping on snakes. You read that right. I did not see one but the tourist guides swear snakes make cameo appearances on the trail. Speaking of trail, this is not the start of the official trail. Ravaging storms has altered the landscape and restricted vehicles to reach the start of the trail. So instead of having the benefit of riding, trekkers need to do a lot of walking. After all, isn’t trekking all about walking?
Notice the rust? One of our guides explained that these rust-like substance appear in areas where there is a high concentration of heat. There is a monotonous parade of dusts, rocks and streams so patience will be tested. To quote a prolific scriptwriter, “I have seen enough rocks to last me a lifetime.” Breaks are allowed. I’ll be damned if otherwise. So do not forget to bring a bottle of water and some trail food. Emphasis on some. Put on a headgear as the sun is a cruel mistress. Headgear does not include hard hat. Under the sweltering heat, five college students run against time and zombies with little source of food to reach the top of a volcanic crater. This is the real deal.
Trek. Tired. Trek. Tired. Trek. Then this. Behold the grandeur of the historic Mount Pinatubo.
Sun is almost setting.
Boat rides cost Php350 for each person. A designated boatman and a guide will tour trekkers in some parts of the lake. Not all because the other areas are quite dangerous. The last thing one needs is free-falling at the other side of a volcano. Make sure to take the first trip that starts around 9:00 in the morning to avoid the cruelness of the sun. Do not be afraid of water creatures for none of such kind lives in the crater lake. Monsters though, I am not sure. Kidding. But it would be nice to know that a Nessie-like monster of Loch Ness fame exists in the depths of this sulfuric lake. Imagine the tourism that such a news drives! Measuring a mind-boggling 300 feet, it will not come as a surprise if a Kraken has managed to live here peacefully, gigantic snout, tentacles and all. Our zombie film though will not involved creatures of the deep. Instead this lake will simply serve as another natural barrier for their mission of reaching the Path of the Incandescent Sand. Bring on the drama.
Roommate Mrs. Squidworth Tentacles remarked that this look like something out of Narnia. Emerald waters and serene mountain peaks, makes one expect that indeed Aslan is in the midst. Now, if the majestic lion is indeed real, then zombies are peanuts. Hell, this venerable cat made the Snow Queen looki like Tinkerbell. The usual comment is that this photo looks something from a foreign place. Yes it is. Still is foreign from human destruction.
Tranquil blue water blankets the far end of the crater. There no are tree canopies in the area so that accounts for the color difference.
Mordor. Better bring a friend who looks like Gollum and make him hiss “precious” on a regular basis. Remember that Gollum was once Smeagol, a hobbit who lived near a stream, eating fishes and other normal stuff. Craziness if there are some Smeagol-like creatures hiding behind those rocks. But because fishes cannot flourish in the lake, the imaginary Pinatubo Smeagols hunt in the night, opening backpacks for trail foods. Did I just rouse nightmares? Wait a minute, what happened to the zombies? They’re still running after the students. Am in Gollum-mode so screw zombies. Just a fair instruction: if you intend to swim, make sure to put on a life-saving jacket and stay for the tourist guides are not kidding that the crater has a steep 300 ft. down-slide to freaking oblivion. Be reminded also that the sand is hot. Never sit or stand on it for a long time because it burns. Trust me.
Five students looking for answers. Hundreds of zombies looking for fresh brains. The equation cannot be simpler. Armed with knowledge that a mixture of banana and aratiles boiled in a cauldron of lake water using specific heated rocks can cure the new malaria strain, our potential heroes has reached the deserted part of the crater. The zombies are drowning but a few still manage to boat and paddle, for the prospect of fresh flesh and blood is too hard to resist. Time is on the side of humans. The mixture is complete and a lone unfortunate dead tasted his second demise. Filling plastic bottles and other portable containers with the miracle concoction, our heroes forge to eliminate the rest of of nature’s latest abomination. A great portion of the mixture were poured to the natural water system of Mount Pinatubo, hoping that rain cycle will finally eradicate the menace.
As hope emerges throughout the land, blue skies greeted the five heroic students. So am seriously into this zombie thing. At this point, am sure you are dying to know how to get to Mount Pinatubo. Officemate, Mistress of Mountain organized the whole thing. So it’ll be better to check out the site of Pinaykeypoint Team: http://pinatubotrek.blogspot.com/p/pinaykeypoint-team.html The team made it possible for us to remain alive and breathing. Seriously, they set up all the tents, prepared the meals and even carried bags for us. (I do believe that the Php4000 trek is worth it.) Talk about spoiled trekkers!
Littered throughout the trail are different configurations of balanced rocks. There seems to be no significance at all. Must be some bored trekker passing his time or entertaining himself. Must be some artistic tourist guide developing a hidden talent. Rock balancing is both an art and a devotion where a practicing rock balancer create rock structures that are seem physically impossible. There are four styles of balancing rocks: 1) pure balance (each rock in a near point balance) 2) counter balance (lower rocks depend on the weight of upper rocks to maintain balance 3) balanced stacking (rocks lain flat upon each other to great height) and 4) free style (mixture of pure balance and counter balance). More or less, we can assume that balanced rocks in Pinatubo fall under the free style category. For cinematic purposes, let us just assume that these rock structures are some kind of ancient rituals used to ward off malevolent spirits.
The zombies are dead. The heroes survived. The sun settles.
Next Tripping Point Episode: The Macau Tower Connection