Tag Archive: Mount Pinatubo

What makes a good tour guide? I’ve met quite a few and can easily pick out those who stand out in my list. Them whose credo is to make every traveler or tourist enjoy his trip. Them who treat their job like their religion. With passion. With devotion. In the same vein, I can just as easily weed out the wrong types. Them who spit out names, dates and other historical facts almost mechanically, at times not minding whether or not you caught the trail of the pseudo-history lesson. I’m sure you know the types.




In my experience, I never really found the perfect tour guide. But each experience is rendered unique because of some “connection”. I’ve kept in touch with a few. I’ve even dedicated some blogs to “honor” them. Here’s a short list. 🙂



Randy, the Butanding Whisperer (Donsol, Sorsogon)


Randy. The Butanding Whisperer.
Donsol, Sorsogon.



To this day, Randy still sends me text messages in his “jejemon” style which gives me tremendous headaches! I am still able to refer to Randy some of my friends eager for a Butanding experience. My grandchildren still remember him fondly.



Rusty, The Last Caretaker of Syquia Mansion (Vigan)


Syquia Mansion in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Don’t miss this!



I wonder how Rusty is. I failed to take a photo of him. Does he have his “apprentice” to train now? Has Rusty retired already?



Rogers With An “S” (Batanes)


He punctuates his sentences with “I Love You”. And yes, take that seriously!



He punctuates his sentences  with “I love you’s” and his face has a perennial smile sure to infect each person he meets. Rogers — yes, with an “S” — is not young, but his energy and passion is forever on overdrive. Where does he get all the energy? Must be the Batanes air!



Cemetery Guides, anyone? (LA LOMA, NORTH & CHINESE CEMETERIES)




La Loma Cemetery. Who would have thought this makes for an outstanding guided tour? In the league of New Orleans and Paris!



I joined a tour organized by the Museum Foundation of the Philippines and was only too happy to have the brilliant Architect Manuel Noche and the hilarious, ever-energetic Ivan Man Dy walk us through history as we walked around the mounds and mausoleums, some of which are as high as 3 storeys. I’m telling ya….. this guided tour is certainly worth the buckets of sweat that humid day!



Juan Luna Shrine: So, Who Shot The Patriot’s Wife? (Badoc, Ilocos Norte)




The Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc, Ilocos Norte. Drop by on your drive from Laoag to Vigan. It’s the last town of Ilocos Norte on your way to Ilocos Sur.



Bet some of you didn’t know that. Yes, Juan Luna shot his own wife. I’d love to retell the story but that nameless guide in the Luna Shrine can’t be beaten in his craft. It was this man who inspired my grandchildren to always ask for a Tour Guide when we’re traveling. And they do listen….. In a way that makes me real jealous.



Mount Pinatubo: An Ex-Marine For A Guide and A Native Aeta for a Driver



Who would have thought I’d do this at my age? I was determined, but it sure was motivating that the trek was made shorter! I came in my old pair of comfy rubber shoes, then left with a pair of slippers. My guide’s daughter needed a pair and so mine — though used — must have made a good present.




Our Pinatubo Guides!



THANKS TO THESE TOUR GUIDES —- my trips to these places are made truly memorable. There are DIY (Do It Yourself) Trips, and there are those where the experience is enhanced by how a local’s perspective is drawn much differently from what the travel books say. Priceless. Much.

April 9, 1942. Every Filipino veteran remembers the date. It was the day Filipino and American soldiers surrendered in Bataan to the Japanese. The Fall of Bataan. The Surrender. I remember the line “Sumuko na ang mga Amerikano sa Bataan” (The Americans already surrendered in Bataan) in that unforgettable movie “Oro, Plata, Mata” by the cinema genius of a director, Peque Gallaga. So poignant in its truth, so piercing in its pain and hopelessness.







More than 45,692 Filipinos and 9,300 American soldiers who dragged their feet during the Death March from Bataan to this final destination suffered more indignities here. Camp O’Donnell it was then called, then Capas Concentration Camp where 30,000 POWs died from April through June 1942 while under detention.






We honor our fallen heroes here. There is a central walk leading to the peace monument — the Obelisk, the focal center of the shrine. Around it, marble walls bear the names of the fallen, many forgotten over time.






Looking up at the Obelisk, we are reminded how much blood was shed in defense of our independence. At the very least, we owe it to them to preserve the peace and to live in harmony and unity as Filipinos regardless of creed and religious convictions.






A visit to the Capas National Shrine after a trekking adventure in Mt. Pinatubo is recommended. No detours. The Shrine is just a few minutes away and right along the same rad exiting from the Capas meeting point where you board the 4×4 jeeps.

You may also wish to check out my blog on Mount Pinatubo. Just click on this Pinatubo.

I have never been to San Guillermo Church in Bacolor, Pampanga before. But I have certainly heard about it, and grieved with many when the mudflow (lahar) from Mount Pinatubo left the church and many parts of Bacolor, Pampanga half-buried in nature’s wrath.





San Agustin Church was built in 1571. San Guillermo Church dates back to 1576.



Mount Pinatubo put us back in the world map with its disastrous eruption after a hundred years of dormancy. A sleeping monster. The ash fall covered a large area just as I was spending a holiday in a beach in Zambales that sad day in 1991. We cut short our holiday then, but it didn’t end with that. The large deposits of lava emitted by the volcano was a serious threat to the areas surrounding the volcano each time the country experienced some heavy rainfall. Four years after the eruption, the town of Bacolor, Pampanga met its sad fate from nature’s fury. San Guillermo Church was not spared.







Sad to think that a church nearly as old as the San Agustin Church in Intramuros stood helpless when lahar flowed from the slopes of Mount Pinatubo on that fateful day of September 3, 1995. Four years after it erupted on June 15, 1991, Mount Pinatubo continued to wreak havoc on this Philippine countryside. Half of the 12 meters of this baroque and neo-classical architecture lay buried in mudflow. Yet faith and perseverance united the Bacolor folks who wasted no time excavating the religious statues, altar and retablo which they carefully and lovingly relocated under the more spacious church dome where it would fit.




They moved the altar and retablo in this space under the dome, where it would fit.


Those bats gave me the creeps…………



We were the only ones visiting the church at the time. The silence and presence of bats guarding the retablo added to the mood. Such sorrow at seeing this church “halved” by this catastrophe. We entered and exited through what used to be the church windows. We lamented seeing the arches touch the ground. So with the windows touching the now-tiled floor. We stooped through low archways to get inside the Adoration Chapel. Thank God many of the religious icons were salvaged and painstakingly restored and preserved.





Yes, it reached all the way up there.



The centuries-old religious statues on display is a testament to the town’s faith and pride. A popular TV series (“May Bukas Pa”) had their location shooting in this church. We didn’t miss checking out “Bro” — a statue of the reincarnated Christ. There were more where we found Bro. All equally finely crafted.




Si Bro…..


Don’t You Just Love This Image of this thumb-sucking Infant Jesus?




For sure, “Bro” is pleased that nature’s wrath did not at all diminish the faith in this town. In a way, Bacolor “saved” the other towns in Pampanga as it served as catch basin for all that mud flowing down from Mount Pinatubo. Many lost their homes, businesses and loved ones. One can’t help but feel sorrow for their misfortune. God bless this town.