Cagsawa Ruins (Daraga, Albay)

From Lignon Hill Nature Park, we next drove down to the nearby town of Daraga.  About 3.5 kms. northwest of the town, 500 m. north of the highway, we entered the Cagsawa Ruins, a place I first visited 7 years ago during a stopover on our way to Naga City (Camarines Sur).  Much has happened since my first visit.  In 2006, mud flows from Mayon Volcano, triggered by typhoon Reming (international name: Durian) buried 8 villages in the town (killing at least 1,266 people) and we passed many ruined and buried homes.

The Cagsawa Ruins

Still, the Cagsawa Ruins, the most visited and photographed site in all of Albay, remains as it seemed during my last visit, the big difference being my classic, postcard view of Mt. Mayon’s perfect cone wasn’t obstructed by swirling afternoon clouds. The blackened church bell tower (or belfry), as well as the broken down walls of the priest’s house and municipal building (all destroyed during the February 1, 1814 eruption that killed 1,200 townspeople), have still withstood the test of time and the elements.  

Other ruins at the site

Something I never noticed before was a mini-resort with rental cottages  and 2 modest-size swimming pools (adult and kiddie) to the right of the ruins. This begs the questions “Why build a resort at  the very site where thousands have died while escaping the wrath of the volcano?”  “Did they dig up skeletons when they dug the pools?” The resort owner who built it was somehow unmindful of the sacredness of the place.

The swimming pool beside the ruins.  “What were they thinking?”

Right outside the ruins were a chain of souvenir shops selling a colorful assortment of locally produced products such as bags and baskets; Tiwi ceramic ware;  furniture (wicker chairs, sala and dining sets, etc.); Tabaco cutlery items (bolos, knives, grass cutters, etc.), arts and crafts made from Mayon’s ashes, hardwood, abaca and shells; exotic flowers and orchids; T-shirts with different designs; and native food delicacies such as kuyog, pili nut confections (salted, sugar-coated, etc.), canned pinangat, and sweet pineapple wine. Restaurants on the site also offer bicol express (a spicy shrimp dish with coconut cream), inasal na sira (grilled fish) among other dishes. 

Cagsawa Ruins: Brgy. Busay, Daraga. Admssion: PhP10. Parking fees: trucks and buses (PhP20); cars (PhP15) and motorcycles and tricycles (PhP5). 

Pinatubo: Scratch This from my Bucket List (Zambales)

Our 4 x 4s  traversing dry lahar fields and small streams

Mt. Pinatubo was prominent in my Bucket List of places to visit and I readily joined the 5-day, North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB) and Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC)-sponsored Lakbay Norte 2 Tour as it figured prominently in the itinerary.  We were now in the third day of the tour and we left Microtel Inn & Suites Luisita  (Tarlac) very early in the morning, eating our packed breakfast on our special Victory Liner bus along the way.  By 7 AM, we arrived at our jump-off point for the trek to Mt. Pinatubo’s 2.5-km. wide Crater Lake – P.D.C. (Pull Travel Destination Corp.)  Spa Town in Brgy. Sta. Juliana in Capas in Tarlac.

The Trek Begins….

Normally, trekking via the Capas Trail (the easiest route to Mt. Pinatubo), passing by lahar deserts, would have taken us a grueling 6-8 hours on foot. However, five 4 x 4, 5-pax (including our driver) all-terrain vehicles, a mix of short wheelbase land cruisers and homemade jeeps, were made available for our use.  These were to negotiate some of the watery and rocky paths across Crow Valley, unreachable by other kinds of vehicles.  The drive through the valley, though at times bumpy, was exhilarating, with spectacular views of the Cabusilan Mountain Range.   After an hour, we arrived at the base of the mountain, the jump-off point of our trek.  From here, it was to be all 2-3 hours (dependent on our fitness and ability and the size of our group) of footwork, through the valley and up a mountain path, to the Crater Lake. Normally, a very hot trek, especially during the summer months (when the light gray volcanic ash reflect the rays of the sun), we were fortunate this day as it obviously rained the day before and it was quite windy.  Just the same I applied sun block lotion and wore a cap, shorts, sturdy rubber  sandals, plus my a comfortable light blue and white MNTC-supplied T-shirt.  

A surreal but serene landscape

The trek, though very tiring, was truly exhilarating as we traversed sometimes fairly flat and dry lahar riverbeds and oftentimes rocky ground and crossed numerous small creeks and rivers by jumping from boulder to boulder or, in my case, I just getting my feet wet under the cold water (truly a different kind of experience).  After a short, final hurdle up paved steps, we reached our destination – viewpoint for observing the magnificent crater and it turquoise-colored lake created during the 1991 Pinatubo eruption.  The viewpoint was developed to cater to us tourists.

Boating at the Crater Lake

After a few minutes of rest and quietly admiring the beautiful scenery set before us, most of us went down the paved steps down to the lake where a number of us rode boats, in two trips, and were rowed to the other side of the lake by an Aeta boatman.  The others, including me, contented themselves with dipping our feet in the cool lake waters while two others (Karlo de Leon and Melissa Dizon) took to swimming its deep water. Upon the arrival of the second boat load, we all made our way back up to the rest area, bade farewell to this magnificent creation of nature’s fury and made our way back to our respective vehicles.  The return hike was easier and done in half the time it took to get there as it was mostly downhill. The uphill climb to our vehicle’s parking area was the most strenuous.  As soon as everyone was accounted for, we all returned to our assigned 4 x 4s, too tired to even take pictures, and made our way back to P.D.C. Spa Town.

A Morning Trek to Taal Volcano (Talisay, Batangas)

Taal Volcano’s crater lake and Vulcan Point

After a delightful Filipino breakfast at Balai Isabel’s restaurant, Bernard, George (Bernard’s son), Bernard’s niece and I made ready for our scheduled hike up, via the Daang Kastila Trail, to the view point of Taal Volcano. Aside from other resort guests, we were traveling with distinguished company, as joining our trek to the volcano were members of the Mt. Everest team including the 3 Pinay ladies who conquered Mt. Everest just a year ago – Ms. Janet Belarmino, Ms. Carina Dayondon and Ms. Noelle Wenceslao – plus Mr. Fred Jamili, member of the First Philippine Mt. Everest Expedition Team’s technical and support group.  The four, together with Mr. Erwin “Pastor” Emata and Dr. Ted “Omar” Esguerra, were slated to join the 2008 6th Hillary-Tenzing Mt. Everest Marathon in Nepal, tagged as the highest marathon in the world.  This 42-km., basically downhill race starts from the Mt. Everest base camp at the Nepal or south side (altitude: 17,149 ft.), to the town of Namche Bazar (altitude: 11,300 ft.).  The volcano trek will serve as a warmup to that event.

The Welcome Center

This was to be my third visit to the volcano and my second to the viewpoint (the other was a trek to the crater lake itself).  To get to Volcano Island, we used a number of the resort’s 32 accredited motorized bancas. Our 30-min. trip again took us around the island, past the 311-m. high Mt. Binintiang Malaki, the island’s highest point seemingly featured on most Taal Volcano postcards like an island but actually connected to the real Volcano Island.  We soon arrived at the open-air Welcome Center and rested for a while prior to our hike.   

From here, it was all 45 mins. (1.7 kms.) of hiking, first along the beach, then into a shady forest and, on our last leg, up a steep, dusty and treeless trail up to the Crater Lake viewpoint.   Steam vents, emitting a sulfurous odor, can be encountered along the way.  The viewpoint, actually just a makeshift hut, was a cool welcome relief for its shade and its magnificent bird’s eye view of the beautifully azure and seemingly peaceful, 2-km. wide crater lake with its small island called Vulcan Point, a view not seen in any view point in Tagaytay City.  At the northeast edge of the lake are vents that effuse volcanic steam.  Mt. Makulot, the highest mountain in Batangas, can be seen in the distance.  The trek back, to the Welcome Center and our boats, was faster but very slippery.  Back at our boats, we were soon on our way back to the resort where a welcome lunch awaited us.

Majestic Mayon Volcano (Albay)

The Cagsawa Ruins and cloud-shrouded Mayon

Our Roll-On Roll Off (RORO) ferry from Allen (Northern Samar) finally arrived at Matnog (Sorsogon) by 12:15 PM and as soon as the ferry ramp was down, Charlie and I were soon on our way to Naga City (Camarines Sur), hoping to make it there by evening.  At Legaspi City, we had a late lunch at Waway Restaurant along Penaranda St., famous for its Bicolano fare such as laing, Bicol Express and chicharon bulaklak. This done, it was back to our Ford Explorer but, just out of the city, we just could resist making a stopover at the Cagsawa Ruins in nearby Daraga town, with its panoramic backdrop of Mayon Volcano, one of the Bicol Region’s 2 great landmarks (the other is Naga City’s Penafrancia Shrine, home of the Virgin of Penafrancia).

The swirling clouds around Mayon Volcano

Though we can not see its cloud-shrouded perfect cone, the view wasn’t quite disappointing as the swirling clouds covering the volcano halfway up the cone were a spectacle in itself.   Most pictures of Mayon Volcano (including ours) are taken with the Cagsawa Ruins in the foreground.  Many people doing so within the ruins do not know that they are standing on a mass grave.   

Ruin’s of priest’s house

During that dreadful morning (8 AM) of February 1, 1814, the volcano erupted, forming giant cauliflower-shaped gray clouds and spewing red-hot boulders and a river of boiling lava  from the volcano’s crater. It became dangerous for people living around the volcano to stay at home as the huge, hot rocks fell on their roofs and spread fires.   About 1,200 people fled their homes for the seeming safety of the church.  Here, they were buried alive when 40 m. of mud and ash engulfed them.  By 10 AM, the large stones had stop falling, raining sand instead, and by 1:30 PM, the skies began to clear and only clouds of smoke and ash spewed out of the volcano.  Mayon’s short-lived, 6-hr. eruption was over but so were the lives of the people trapped in the church.  

Today, only the blackened top section of the church steeple and some walls of the priests’ house and the municipal building remain.  Stores within the area are now doing brisk business selling souvenirs (T-shirts, postcards and actual photos of the latest eruption) and foodstuff (pili nuts, etc.).  Only the ruins and a historical marker installed in 1940 tell the story of that dreadful day nearly 2 centuries ago.

Mystical Mt. Makiling (Los Banos, Laguna)

It was field trip time for my daughter Cheska’s Colegio San Agustin class and Lakbay Kalikasan, Southeast Asia’s first and premier outbound education outfitter, was tasked to organize it.    Mt. Makiling was the selected destination.  Upon invitation by Mr. Ramon Jocson, Lakbay’s Corps Director, I decided to tag along.

Mt. Makiling
This 1,090-m. high, 3-peaked mountain, located 65 kms. southeast of Manila, is, owing to its natural history, the most biologically well-known of Philippine mountain and a favorite for field trips.  The slopes of the mountain form a 4,244-hectare national park covering portions of Bay, Calamba City and Los Baños; all in Laguna, and Sto. Tomas in Batangas.  These places depend on the watershed of the mountain for their domestic water requirements and irrigation while Los Baños’ and Calamba’s resorts and tourism industries depend on it for their hot springs.

 

Most field trips, including this one, enter via U.P. Los Baños (UPLB) which is halfway up the summit.  The mountain is also accessible from Alaminos (Laguna) and, for the extreme adventurer, from the more difficult and barely passable (due to the thick jungle) Sto. Tomas route, on the other side of the mountain.   Makiling is said to be the legendary home of the beautiful local goddess, Mariang Makiling.

According to folklore, she was the beautiful young daughter of two deities: Dayang Makiling and Gat Panahon.  Half goddess, half spirit of the air, she was tall, svelte, sweet, with big black tantalizing eyes, long, black, abundant hair reaching to her ankles, pure brown skin, and enchanting smile and a captivating, melodic voice.  She was born of the rays of the moon and lived in the beautiful mountain, roaming the forest and protecting its wild boars and other animals.

Visible to, and loved and respected by the townspeople, she had a generous heart, scattering golden ginger in the yards of every house in her domain and never turning down a request for help or assistance.  She rewarded hunters, who, at her request, spared the animals.

Her kindness, sympathy and acts of benevolence were often forgotten and disregarded by the people.  To punish them, she denied permission to pick fruits in the forest and prohibited hunting of wild animals. For those who disobeyed, she would cause the sky to grow dark and the heavy rain to fall.  To hunters, she assumes a frightful form and sends them to their death.  She fell in love with a mortal man who proposed to her but backed out before their wedding day and later married a mortal woman.  Despondent, she disappeared into the forest and was never seen again.  Her presence, however, is still felt as she continues to watch over the mountain’s natural bounty.

Makiling is one of the few mountains in Luzon that still has some primary forests.  It originally had lowland dipterocarp forests up to the 600 m. mark but the western and southern flanks are now denuded due to kaingin (slash and burn) farming and logging while the eastern slopes are covered with coconut, banana, coffee and other crops.  However, exotic lowland type dipterocarp forest trees and orchards have been introduced for reforestation at its lower slope, transforming the forest below 300 m. into a “parang” type of vegetation.  Above 900 m. are some montane forest and, at the summit, a dwarf mossy forest.  Makiling is a dormant volcanic massif but remnants of its north wall crater no longer exist.  However, heat still escapes from it in the form of mud springs and hot sulphur springs.       Makiling is also a field laboratory for many environmental and biological researches in UPLB.   Aside from being a favorite for school field trips, Makiling is also a popular camping and hiking area for Boys and Girls Scouts, as well as other camping enthusiasts.  The 10th World Boy Scout Jamboree was held on the mountain from June 17 to 26, 1959 and camping is still done at the BSP Wood Badge Area.

Camping, however, wasn’t in the field trip agenda.  They were here to learn. This outdoor classroom showcases the rich biodiversity of the country, being home to 2,038 species of vascular flora (85% of Philippine flora spread out in 949 genera, 19 sub-species and 167 varieties), 24 species of mammals (10 families and 19 genera) and 21 species of amphibians (4 families and 8 genera), 10 of which are endemic. Bryoflora includes giant ferns, 34 species of mosses and 42 species of liverworts.   About 60% of all known fungi have also been found here.     Popular with bird watchers, the mountain is home to 163 species of birds (spread out in 110 genera and 16 families).

Museum of Natural History
A repository for all these biological specimens is the Museum of Natural History, located immediately to the left of the archway going into the College of Forestry and Natural Resources. Housed in a former student dormitory of UPLB, here students are awed by its collection of more than 200,000 Philippine plants, animals, microorganisms and other bioda.  Most of the late Prof. Dioscoro Rabor’s priceless collections are also housed here. Its exhibits feature, among others, the Philippine eagle, tamaraw, tarsier; snails in Mt. Makiling and Laguna de Bay; Philippine plants, forests, shells; Philippine cobras, marine turtles and mammals; and a Philippine map made of 4,012 locusts and lahar from Mt. Pinatubo. A visit here is the piece de resistance for any Makiling field trip.

Taal Volcano: Hike to the Crater Lake (Talisay, Batangas)

Mt. Binintiang Malaki

This Holy Week, I availed of a standing invitation from Ms. Lily Rodrigo-Canlas, president and C.E.O. of Jesu-Mariae School, my son’s school, to stay at the Jesu-Mariae Center in Tagaytay City.  This retreat/seminar center could comfortably accommodate 80 people in dorm-style facilities.  With this center as a jump-off point, I planned to revisit Taal Volcano via the Kayabok Trail on the other side of Volcano Island.  Joining me were my son Jandy and daughter Cheska who’s been egging me to include her in my escapades.  Joining us were 5 of Jandy’s teachers: Mr. Robert Castaneda, Ms. Veneriza “Vener” Trillo, Ms. Theresa “Thet” Quieta, Mr. Joel Fatlaunag and Mr. Erwin Vizcarra.  All, except Robert, are jittery first-timers at the volcano.     

Picnic Grove with Taal Volcano behind us

We left Manila on the morning of March 27 and arrived at the center in time for preparation of a delicious barbecue lunch.  After customary visits to the city’s Picnic Grove (where we went horseback riding) and People’s Park in the Sky (now in a sorry state of disrepair), we returned to the center for a delicious supper and retired early as we had to leave very early in the morning for the volcano trek. 

Cheska horseback riding with Thet

The next day, Holy Thursday, we all awoke by 5 AM, had breakfast, pack our provisions of bottled water, sandwiches and bananas (good trail food) and left the center by 6:30 AM.  From Tagaytay City, we went down to Talisay (Batangas) via the treacherous concrete zigzag road called Ligaya Drive, down to Brgy. Caloocan.  As soon as we arrived at the boat landing station, we were swamped by boatmen hoping for an early kill, this day being a holiday.   Soon, they were trying to pluck our feathers by charging us a cutthroat rate of PhP3,200 just for the trip (with 6 passengers only).  It was soon watered down and we settled at the still horrendous price of PhP2,400 to bring all 8 of us to our destination.

On our way, by boat, to Volcano Island

We left the station by 7 AM on board a big motorized banca.   The trip was smooth all the way as the waters were calm. As we went around the island, the 311-m. high (the island’s highest point) Mt. Binintiang Malaki (translated as “giant leg”), soon hove into view.   This northwest cone, seemingly featured on most Taal Volcano postcards like an island (actually connected to the real Volcano Island), emerged overnight during the 1707 eruption but is now dormant. A dismal sight during the voyage was the presence of numerous fishpens which our boat had to negotiate to get to the other side.

Nearing the homestretch

We landed on the island’s western shore at Brgy. Kayabok by 7:30 AM.  All throughout the trip, the boatman kept egging me to get a guide (at extra cost of course) but we have decided even before the trip to do without one as the Kayabok Trail was definitely well-trodden.  We also refused a lady islander’s rather steep offer to guide us for PhP500.  Anyway, we had all the time in the world even if it meant getting lost in a small island.   Our seemingly concerned boatmen seem to have other things in their minds.  I wonder why.

The Crater Lake seen from a distance

We began the trek on a happy note, following the well-trodden trail up a hill. The sun soon rose brightly on the sky and we began to feel the effects of the intense heat from the morning sun.   As we soon reached the top of the hill, the trail began to fork, leaving us in a dilemma.  All the while, we somehow had a feeling that we were being followed and, soon enough, our boatmen were hollering for us to come back.  We ignored them.  Later, we encountered our huffing and puffing boatmen along the trail.  We were told that we took the wrong turn and they, in all kindness, offered to guide us in the right direction.  Or were they?    It soon dawned upon me that these boatmen were concerned, not with the guide fee (which I consistently refused), but with the fact that they may lose their first big meal ticket (or buena mano) of the day among the winding trails.  We could just as easily have taken our boat ride back to Talisay from the other coastal villages.  With this in mind, they never left us out of their sights after that.

Finally, at the Crater Lake

Vegetation on the island is sparse, consisting mostly of short grass, tall, nettled spear grass (cogon) and thorny brambles.  The treeless trail we trekked was all loose volcanic ash and the ground underfoot was also hot as volcanic rock retains heat both from the sun and the hot magma trapped deep within its bowels.  This, coupled with the sweltering heat of the sun, soon made our tongues hang out.  Our party was soon divided into two as our neophyte mountaineers Vener and Thet began to lag behind.  Cheska, however, proved to be tough and resilient as she kept up with the guys. 

The island within the Crater Lake

We took solace under the small shade of occasional thorny aroma trees (most of the large trees have been blown away by previous eruptions) where we quenched our parched throats and munched bananas as we waited for the stragglers to arrive.  Along the trail we passed by one of Taal’s 47 craters.  This seemingly dormant crater had a flat, cogon-covered bottom.  We also encountered makeshift refreshment stalls selling canned softdrinks (PhP30) and bottled water (PhP20).  After a tiring uphill hike, the shimmering blue-green waters of the crater lake made its appearance like a mirage on the horizon.  It was all downhill after that and, soon enough, we reached the crater lake’s rim.  It was 9 AM and the hike took all of one and a half hours.    It could have been longer.  Our socks and shoes were soon off as we couldn’t wait to dip our tired feet in those inviting waters.  However, the lake’s waters deepen just a few feet from the shore. About 30 m.  offshore is the small, crescent-shaped island.  The lake’s waters are actually dilute sulfuric acid with salts and other minerals such as sodium, boron, magnesium and aluminum added in.   Acidity in the water, measured in pH (the lower the pH, the higher the acidity), is a “whopping” 2.7 (neutral pH is 7.0) with about 3% sulfur.   Sulfurous waters have medicinal qualities and it did wonders for my mosquito-bitten legs.  Our boatmen also took home 1.5-liter bottles filled with this salty and bitter water.  Also as a result of the sulfur deposits, the stones at the lakeshore are coated yellow.

L-R, Vener, the author, Jandy, Thet, Robert, Erwin and Joel

After lolling about the waters, taking our lunch of sandwiches and photo shoots for posterity, we left the lake and retraced our way back to our boat and left the island by 11:30 AM.  Any notions of being in Tagaytay for an early lunch were dashed when our boat engine conked out (obviously out of gas) just a kilometer off the shore of Brgy. Caloocan.   We had to wait for half a hour for a relief boat to ignominiously tow us back to shore.  After paying our boatmen (they had the gall to ask for a “tip”), it was back to our car for the uphill drive back to Tagaytay and a well-deserved lunch.  Back at the Jesu-Mariae Center, we collapsed, dead-tired, on our beds. 

Surviving Mt. Hibok-Hibok (Mambajao, Camiguin)

Mt. Hibok-Hibok

We were now on our fourth day, April 11,  in Camiguin and we felt that our stay here would not be complete without climbing one of Camiguin’s 7 volcanoes (there are more volcanoes than towns in Camiguin).  The king of them all is the 1,250-m.  high Mt. Hibok-Hibok, the island’s only active volcano which, on December 5, 1951, erupted without warning, issuing steaming hot gases and killing 3,000 people who were asphyxiated when huge amounts of oxygen were absorbed in the air.  A glowing avalanche of lava devastated many villages and covered about 10 sq. kms..  More than 30,000 people left the island after the eruption.  

Now, almost half a century later, we were going to test our mettle by climbing this volcano.  Making the climb were  ladies Lulu Siguenza and Rosevie Sevilla and guys Carl Allen, Nubbin Beldia, Henry Chua, Jake San Diego, Randy Ypon, Jandy and I.  We woke up by 7 AM, had our usual Filipino breakfast, dressed up in casual shorts (the ladies wore pants), T-shirts, caps, sunglasses and rubber shoes and sandals, brought our cameras  and were picked up by our usual hired passenger jeepney driven by the ever reliable and friendly Camiguinons Charlie and Rico). We left at 8 AM and arrived, 20 mins. later, at Ardent Hot Spring Resort in Brgy. Esperanza, the take-off point for the climb. 

For provisions we each brought bottled water  (Jandy and I each brought a 1-liter bottle) and 2 loaves of sliced bread and chicken spread bought at the public market. At the resort, we hired the services of Camiguinon guides Hamilton and RV (for the fee of PhP350 each, they also carried our provisions). After about 10 mins. of stretching exercises, we  began out climb at 8:30 A.M..  Hamilton took point while RV took the rear.  We walked through a light forest and a hamlet of two houses and went past a coconut plantation before entering another light forest. The cheerful banter soon gave way to subdued silence as we  made our way up loose soil and  blackened volcanic rocks, grasping at trees and  oftentimes sharp, meter-high spear grass (cogon) for support.  Soon scratches appeared on our hands, arms and legs.  We were also consuming our water at an alarming rate, and I had Jandy to just wet his lips instead and I had to impose water discipline on Jandy, asking him to just wet his lips instead.  Our rest periods were frequent. Carl suggested 2-min. rest period after a 10-min. hike.  Nubbin, on the other hand, suggested the reverse, drawing laughter from all of us.  There’s nothing like a touch of laughter (the best medicine) to make us forget, albeit temporarily, our sore muscles and flagging spirits.

View of White Island

As we went higher up the mountain, the panorama of clear blue sky above, Mt. Tres Marias below, and C-shaped White Island far out into the sea came into view.   An ideal photo opportunity.  We hiked for 2 hrs. and were relieved to enter a gently sloping  light forest.  The tip of volcano still loomed far, far ahead.  From here to the summit it would be a tough scramble on  a steeper, 40-45 degree section over loose rocks, boulders, scree, lava and rock faces.   It was now noon and we decided to have our lunch of bread and chicken spread. We had difficulty washing it down because of our alarmingly low water supply.  We realized how inadequate our provisions were.  Soon they were all gone.   It was also during this rest period that I began to feel pain in my legs.

At the peak of Mt. Hibok-Hibok

We decided to get going at 1 PM in order to make it to the peak by 2 PM.  We estimated a return trip of 3 to 4 hrs., and we didn’t want to be caught by nightfall.  Nobody had thought to bring flashlights.  I was bringing up the rear and, my legs bothered me all too frequently.   When I saw that I was slowing the group down, I told the others to go on ahead and leave me with Jandy.   However, Jandy wanted to join the others so I let him go after getting assurances from the rest that he would be watched and guided carefully.   Soon they disappeared up the trail. 

Nubbin exploring the crater’s rim

During the long wait, I fell into a fitful sleep and was only awakened when they were on their way down the volcano.  Jandy  was accompanied by Lulu, Vi and Henry. According to the group, Jandy was third up the summit, followed by Randy, Carl and Henry.  The women brought up the rear.  All perched precariously on the barely 5-ft. wide knife’s edge on the crater’s rim. After a 30-mins. rest and photo shoot, Jandy, Henry, RV and the women started their descent.  The other guys decided to stay and explore the crater’s rim. It was getting very late and we had to go down as fast as we could before sundown.  Our water supply was now exhausted and we would have to go down the mountain thirsty.

As  the soil  was loose, the descent was slippery all the way and we had to watch our step on loose rocks.  There was also the need to cling to something, but it was painful to just cling to the sharp cogon grass.  Vi made the mistake of grasping at prickly ground ferns.  No one in the group was exempt from bleeding cuts and scratches.   It was also hard on the joints as we sometimes have to slide down the very steep slopes. My knees soon began to ache.  We also had to combat our hunger and thirst.  Jandy wanted to stop and rest, but I had to goad him on as it was getting dark.   RV and V were soon out of sight as Henry, Lulu and Jandy and I  rested, and Carl, Randy and Jake, left behind earlier, soon caught up with us and passed us by.

Relief came in the form of RV bringing our bottles refilled with spring water from the hamlet we passed on our way up.   Our spirits were somehow revived.   It was still a long way off, but now we did not have to contend with thirst.  We reached the Ardent Hot Spring Resort at 6 PM, bedraggled, hungry, thirsty, scarred and weak. It had taken all of 6 hrs. to reach the top and another 3.5 hrs. to make it down.  For 30 mins., we lolled in the therapeutic, but scalding hot, mineral spring waters that gushes forth from the bowels of Mt. Hibok-Hibok into beautifully-designed natural stone swimming pools.  Water temperature reaches as much as 50 degrees and picnickers here boil fresh eggs on the shallow portions. Later, remembering our hunger, we hied off to the restaurant for a well-deserved dinner.  After dinner, we returned to the resort and were all in bed by 8 PM.