Mount Pinatubo, located in the borders of the provinces of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga in southern Luzon island in the Philippines, is known for the second largest volcanic eruption in the 20th Century when it exploded in June 1991.
Before the 1991 eruption, Pinatubo was a dormant volcanic and was hardly known, literally lying low under the shadow of the more prominent Mt. Arayat. Pinatubo’s eruption led to the evacuation of thousands of Filipinos living in the affected areas where whole villages were buried in the ash, lahar and mudflows.
The eruption, measured at VEI (Volcanic Eplosivity Index) of 6, has also accomplished in 1991 what the Philippine government and politicians have failed to do, namely, the closure of the controversial and highly divisive issue of the US military bases in Clark (Pampanga) and Olongapo in Zambales province. At the time of the explosion pro-US Philippine politicians were actively campaigning to extend or at least allow US military presence in the country.
What was once an inconspicuous but densely-forested mountain before the 1991 eruption is now a barren, ash covered and rocky landscape. Popular among mountain trekkers, climbers and other nature adventurers, Mt..Pinatubo attracts its regular share of visitors. Local government officials, however, warn of dangerous mudslides during the rainy season when rivers overflow and narrow trails are occasionally buried in landslides, incidents which have claimed lives of unwary adventurers and foreign tourists in recent years.
The mountain was also home to one of the Philippines’ aboriginal settlers, the Aetas, which have fled and were made homeless after the eruption. During the eruption many of the Aetas hid in caves on the slopes of Pinatubo and hundreds were killed, leading to some Aetas feeling that their god, who they believe live in Mt. Pinatubo, has betrayed them. The 1991 eruption was also preceded by a strong earthquake in the area in July 1990 measured at a magnitude of 7.7 in the Richter scale, comparable in area size to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake or this year’s earthquake in Haiti.
Visitors to Pinatubo are rewarded with stark views of and dramatic landscapes of ash fields, mountain lakes and the devastation that nature leaves on its wake when it awakens and unleash its full power.
Mabuhay ang Pinatubo!