“Why not?” we thought.
Why not check out volcanoes for real? What could be more educational for the kids? And crazy. And apparently, very, very, very risky.
Where do I begin? Perhaps by sharing the most compelling reason for choosing volcanoes for our year-end holiday last year.
You see, Joaquin, our then 4th-grader, had been doing research and write-ups on natural disasters and he decided that his focus would be on volcano eruptions. Every day for about two weeks, he would blurt out volcano trivia during dinner and tell us how he wished he could see the Taal Volcano, one of the smallest active volcanoes on earth. As it turned out, ‘active’ was the operative word here.*
The whole family eventually got involved in making Joaquin’s paper mache volcano that in the midst of pasting the sticky paper, we thought, “Why not?” We could go to the Philippines which sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, check out a volcano there, then visit our relatives and spend Christmas there as well.
My hubby, the master architect for this trip, started with just one volcano on his itinerary, but got carried away, and we thus ended up with three volcanoes and a road trip.
A volcano sounded a bit daunting to me, let alone three. But smart, presenting his travel idea as a road trip, how could I object to that?
The road trip was far from just driving from one town to another or having a glimpse of the three volcanoes.
There was hiking, lots of hiking (!), plus floating on a bamboo raft in an underground river and walking inside a pitch-dark cave. But there was also some relaxing moments on the beach, heart-warming time with family and beautiful sunsets.
The three volcanoes:
1) Mount Mayon, known for its perfect cone shape;
2) Taal Volcano, a volcano within a lake in a volcano and one of the smallest active volcanoes in the world; and
3) Mount Pinatubo, whose catastrophic explosion in 1991 was recorded as the 2nd biggest eruption of the 20th century.
The road trip (Southern and Central Luzon):
Day 1 : Arrive at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Hotel: Fairmont Hotel, Makati
Day 2 : Mass at Greenbelt Chapel, Makati. Grocery for the road trip at The Landmark Mall. Drive south to Lucena City, the first overnight stop on our way to Mount Mayon. Hotel: Hotel Rosita
Day 3 : Early morning drive to Naga City in Camarines Sur Province via Bitukang Manok route (named after chicken intestines for its winding curves). Naga is the second overnight stop to Mount Mayon. Visita iglesia to Peñafrancia Minor Basilica. Hotel: The Avenue Plaza Hotel
Day 4 : Drive to and set-up base in Legazpi City, for exploring Albay Province. ATV drive to Mount Mayon. Hotel: The Marison Hotel
Day 5: Full view of Mount Mayon from Casgawa Ruins. Day-trip to the town of Camalig to hike in Quitinday Green Hills Formation, and visit Quitinday Cave and the Jovellar Underground River. Sunset at Sumilang River; Christmas night farm experience in FarmPlate in the town of Daraga.
Day 6-8: Drive further south to the town of Bacacay for a 3N/4D downtime at Misibis Bay Resort.
Day 9 : Drive back north to Naga City. Drop by Ocampo Deer Farm located at the foot of Mount Isarog (another volcano). Hotel: The Avenue Plaza Hotel
Day 10: Drive to Lucena City, via Daet City in Camarines Norte. Hotel: Hotel Rosita, Lucena City
Day 11: Drive to Tagaytay City in Cavite Province, 2N/3D. Christmas eve with my side of the family. Hotel: Escala Tagaytay
Day 12: Christmas Day in Tagaytay City; typhoon Ursula
Day 13: Pump boat and trek Taal Volcano. Drive back to Metro Manila in the evening.
Day 14: Drive to Olongapo City for Joaquin’s tennis match. Set-base in Pampanga City with hubby’s side of the family.
Day 15: Hike to Mount Pinatubo from Tarlac base.
Day 16: Explore new developments in Pampanga.
Day 17: Drive back to Metro Manila.
Day 18/19: Hubby and kids drove back to Pampanga for NYE.
Day 20: Explore BGC area in Metro Manila. Hotel: Shangri-la BGC
Day 21: Back home to Singapore. Grateful for the opportunity to trek 3 volcanoes and to spend some time with our families in the Philippines.
I’ll be back with more details of our adventures. – xoxo –
* Taal Volcano erupted 2 weeks after.
Other posts on our volcano road trip in the Philippines: