Saturday, May 13, 2017

Mount Pinatubo - May 8, 2017

President Clark and I finally made it to Mt. Pinatubo.  We were celebrating both of our birthdays.  It was fascinating!  Here is some information on Mt. Pinatubo.  
Before 1991, Mt. Pinatubo was an unremarkable and heavily eroded mountain.  It was covered in dense forest which supported a population of several thousand indigenous people, the Aeta.  The were a hunter-gathered people who were extremely successful in surviving in the dense jungles. 
In mid-March 1991, villagers around Mt. Pinatubo began feeling earthquakes and after several explosions a Level 5 alert was issued indicating an eruption was in progress.  On June 15th 1991, the second largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century took place when Mt. Pinatubo erupted at 1:42 p.m. local time.  The eruption lasted for nine hours and caused several large earthquakes which results in the collapse of the summit and the creation of a caldera. 
At the time of the eruption, Tropical Storm Yunya was passing to the northeast of Mt. Pinatubo, causing a large amount of rainfall in the region.  The ask that was ejected from the volcano mixed with the water in the air caused a rainfall of tephra that fell across almost the entire island of Luzon.  There was 10 cm of ash covering an area of 2000 square kilometers and most of the 800 people who died during the eruption died due to the weight of the ask collapsing roofs.  Had Tropical Storm Yunya not been nearby, the death toll from the volcano would have been much lower. 
The human impact of the disaster was staggering.  In addition to the 800 people who lost their lives, there was almost half a billion dollars in property and economic damage.  The economy of central Luzon was horribly disrupted and the Aeta people were the hardest hit.  The total destruction of many villages meant that many Aeta were unable to return to their former way of life.  The volcanic eruption and two typhoons that entered the area when the volcano was erupting, turned the breadbasket of the Philippines into a desolate waste land. 
After the eruptions ended, a crater lake was formed which was hot and highly acidic.  Abundant rainfall cooled and diluted the lake and increased its depth by about 1 metre per month on average.  In September 2001, fears that the walls of the crater might be unstable prompted the Philippine government to order a controlled draining of the lake.  Workers cut a 5 metre notch in the crater rim, and successfully drained about a quarter of the lake’s volume.  

There were 3 in our party plus our guides.  Jerry has been hiking for years and years.  He is 73.  He had hiked the area we went many years ago before the volcano.  He loved being back.  We had greater appreciation for the area after listening to Jerry's stories.


The Aeta (pronounced as “eye-ta,”), Agta or Ayta are an indigenous people who live in scattered, isolated mountainous parts of Luzon, Philippines. They are considered to be Negritos, who are dark to very dark brown-skinned and tend to have features such as a small stature, small frame, curly to kinky afro-like textured hair with a higher frequency of naturally lighter hair color (blondism) relative to the general population, small nose, and dark brown eyes. They are thought to be among the earliest inhabitants of the Philippines, preceding the Austronesian migrations.

Along the trail the Aeta tribe has a little hut up for refreshment and rest.  They are a friendly people.  There is little opportunity for many of them to ever leave.  It is such a difficult trek to get into their area.  We saw some motorcycles driving toward their land but I'm not sure how they make it through the riverbeds.  Rainy season could be very treacherous.   

The skilled driver and guides are definitely necessary in order to have a successful trip.

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