Celebrity Trekking 101

Stip invited me for a weekend getaway in Taal Volcano late last week. I was kinda hesitant at first because it wasn't included sa budget ni KUYA hehe. But since one of my few goals this year is to conquer four (4) mountains, this one might get me going...

8:30 was the sked. I woke up 8:35 hehe. Of course, what would I expect... there are already several SMSssss from Stip. But I still showered my pillows with my oh-so-viscous saliva. Ewwww...Wehehe.

The town of Talisay, where Taal Volcano is, is just a short ride from Batangas City. You can take the Bauan-San-Pascual-Lemery route or you can try the Lipa City STAR tollway and exit at the Bulihan interchange route which is much faster than the former. If you are coming from Manila, I suggest you take the Sta Rosa-Tagaytay City route as you may encounter nasty traffic at the Calamba Interchange before the entry to STAR tollway.

At the Talisay harbour, a friend of Stiffler's mom (hehe), Tito Carlitos Soriano, met us. He somewhat monopolized the boat rentals in the area. With that huge billboard, you will surely know that he is the boss of the bancas in Talisay. His house will also be our nook chow once we hit back the shore.

The vista at the harbour is a site to behold. At the shore, you would practically see the splendour that this volcano is famous for. Its small size doesn't speak of its vulnerable potential as an active volcano. In fact, according to Mr. Wikipedia, it is one of the 15 decade volcanoes of the world- they are called as such, because in the past decade, these volcanoes had activities close to rupture or eruption.

Arriving at the local port, I was surprised to see huge number of residents at the bottom of the volcano. It may be because tourism has caught up as one of the lucrative businesses that the Taaleños have take on. You can see dozens of Korean nationals readying for a hike to get a better view of the crater. There are also dozens of small, locally-bred horses which takes people up for only Php 600-800 (Usd 15-20 for other nationalities).

It's quite amazing to hear that most of the horse guides can speak Korean, Taiwanese, and God knows what other languages. They have embraced the fact that more and more tourists will trek and visit the rich wonder of this side of Batangas so they need to optimize learning other languages to get that 8-10 dollar tip from the generous tourists. Not bad huh!

As for Stiffy and I, we opted to use our two good feet in climbing that 1,500 meter steep stretch to the Taal caldera. Based on historical facts, the caldera was smaller before it erupted back in 1965 where scored of residents perished. That gave me a chill upon the hike to reach the summit.

The sun is scorching hot, yet, we managed to hurdle the dusty trails covered with lots of horse poopies. At the top, you can reward yourself with a thirst-quenching 30 peso pre-chilled, freshly-opened coconut. For the business-minded Taaleños, this will cost a Korean 1 won, a Taiwanese dollar or a US dollar for any other nationalities. Hay Pinoys talaga...

After taking some pictures, we were about to go back to the harbour when I asked Stip if we could go down the lake inside the crater. We decided to do it on our own without any guide. Mind you, the guides would cost you around PhP 2,500 (~USD 50). It's kinda hefty so we opted not to use a guide.

I saw a small camp (?) not far from where we are standing and as usual, I insisted to follow that trail for I thought it might lead us to the lake itself. Reaching the camp was not too easy. You need to literally slide, hold on to tiny branches and practically make short steps as the trails usually measure less than a feet.

Moments after arriving at the camp, I saw a familiar face - it was Billy Joe Crawford. Remember, that tiny kid from That's Entertainment, Thursday Group, who always win the much-coveted Performance of the Week of Kuya Germs. Hehehe. Funny thing was, when I saw him, I asked "Billy Joe....are you Billy Joe?" with matching handshakes and picture taking ala promdi fan....wahahaha...hayuf talaga...the first and probably the last time that I'm gonna do that (hopefully)....hehe

Actually, it was a blessing in disguise. The gate leading to the lake is padlocked. Luckily, for us there was a Billy Joe Crawford around. And so the gate was opened for the celeb. We easily snagged the trek down the 480 steep, wooden steps. We were six (6) in the group - my friend Billy Joe, his girlfriend, Stiffy, 2 guides and me.

The lake was fantastic. There is not much to see in the area but you can tell that it is the most unique experience one can ever have. Being close to one of the most active volcanoes in the world is definitely an experience you can brag about. Plus the spontaneous, elbow-to-elbow talks with a celeb from the camp to the lake, is worth a story to tell.

The Taal Volcano hike gave me a much needed boost to appreciate what this country still has to offer aside from the political errings and showbiz gossips this country is known for. It widened my view of what nature can create both for the benefit of the people around its span and the destruction it might generate.

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