Mt. Pinatubo is half-dead, half-alive.
My first look at the grey terrain revealed the chasm between life and death—shrubs, grass, and scattered miniature rivers thriving on the remnants of lahar (infamously known for killing thousands of people almost 20 years ago).
The indigenous Aetas, occasionally getting distracted as our 4×4 cars passed by their homes, reside in tents among the vast area filled with rocks and sand.
And yet, amid this constant and contradicting pull between extremes, there is beauty. I felt that most when I reached the volcano’s peak, put on a life jacket, swam towards the middle of the crater, and allowed myself to float while looking at the sky.
I’ve conquered this volcano twice: once in 2010 and another instance in 2011. Back then, tourists could still swim in the crater lake. The slightly acidic sulfur water is good for the skin. But ever since a white tourist drowned, swimming has been banned ever since. Shame.
All photos by Raydon L. Reyes