I remembered back in college when my Dad asked me to join their company initiated trek at Sitio Target, Sapangbato, Angeles City. I remembered that there were only a few bloggers that time, meaning information was limited about hikeable and trekkable hills (God, I am really old!). Still, with limited information, my dad, his coworkers, and my 18-year-old self continued to explore Sitio Target.
I remembered bringing my blue China-made iPod Shuffle full of Celtic Music, OST of Narnia and Lord of the Rings and loads of Enya and Kitaro. I was hoping for a meditative hike this time, unlike the one I had in Arayat where the trail was steep and slippery. And with Sitio Target’s charm, my goal to have a reflective hike was achieved. Sitio Target is not really a mountain. It is actually the ancestral domain of Aetas in Sapangbato which is also near the Pampanga side of Mount Pinatubo. My favorite thing about this place were the small canyon-like structures where water from the spring flows. Walking inside them felt refreshing maybe because this kind of nature was something new to me, or it felt like I was in a legendary film where elves and fairies exist. Forgive my hyperboles but this was how I remembered it back in 2008 where there were no such things as Facebook status update and HD Cameras are for rich kids.
The end of the trip was when we arrived at a site which was still under construction in the middle of nowhere. Nine years after, I was able to visit the same site to find out that it is now a heaven on heaven, where tourism thrives which opened livelihood to the locals and the Aetas.
The Puning Experience
The management of Puning Hot Springs and Xenia Hotel are now offering all-in package tours for tourists and we were so lucky to experience this for free because of a blogging event. It was an unforgettable experience because this was also my first time to travel with fellow bloggers in Pampanga.
The experience started with a sumptuous buffet breakfast at the Xenia Hotel. Since it was a blogging event, breakfast became the venue to connect with fellow bloggers, to plan future blogging activities on top of the usual millennial and adulting rants about life and the frustrations to make blogging as a full-time work.
After breakfast, all bloggers, around 20 of us were gathered for the orientation about the whereabouts of the day. It was a detailed orientation which made all of us excited.
From Xenia Hotel, we rode a shuttle van to Sitio Target where Station 3 was located. Puning is divided into 3 Stations. The farthermost is the Station 1 where the springs are located. Station 2 is the site of the Lahar Spa. The nearest from the Sitio Target is Station 3 which is the Lunch Buffet area and where tourists are required to wear the official Puning shirts.
After some preparations, we were welcomed by 4x4s which will take us to Station 1. Travel time from Station 3 to 1 was around 20-25 Minutes. A jeepney can carry 6-8 passengers and I was so lucky that I was with hyperactive newfound friends (Hello HotelGuidesPH and JansellBiskwit haha) and a daredevil 4×4 driver who made the bumpy and splashy journey more fun and exciting. We really do not have to worry because the drivers were trained and the passengers were required to wear helmets while on board the Jeep.
There were around 12 springs/pools at Station 1 with different temperatures. Our group tried the lukewarm pool which was probably my favorite. We spent around 20 minutes there, talking about travels, writing, and even the love problems of our fellow bloggers. After the lukewarm pool, we tried the cold pool and joined other groups of bloggers. Then I noticed that one pool was not occupied. I tried to dip my feet and I realized it was the hottest pool in Station 1 so I wondered if it was good for my body or if it will turn me into a boiled chicken. But my rule was, if it’s there, then it must be safe. So I took the courage to dip my whole body. At first it was really hot and then my body eventually got used to the semi-boiling heat. This reminded me of my Jimjilbang (Public Bath) experience in Seoul a couple of years ago. The only difference in Korea was that I was required to remove all my clothes including my underwear. 😉
We spent around an hour and a half in Station 1. Our bodies were relaxed because of the intentional shifting of body temperatures and the rich conversations while in the pool.
Our 4x4s were waiting for us to take us to Station 2, the site of the Lahar Spa. We were all excited because this was a new thing for all of us and probably a unique travel experience in Central Luzon. We were covered with Lahar from Mount Pinatubo for 15 minutes. Underneath the lahar was a Pugon (a Filipino Oven) which according to the management was heated every morning. The concept was similar to a sauna, with the purpose of relaxing us and to open up our pores, and to release toxins in the body. For more relaxation, we were covered with cold Pinatubo mud to close the pores.
We were then picked up by our 4×4 and they took us back to Station 3 for our shower and for our Filipino-Korean lunch. We were all quiet not because we were tired but because our bodies were relaxed.
The whole package, was P12,200 for 3 persons with the following inclusions:
- Triple Sharing room at Xenia Hotel
- Buffet Breakfast At Xenia Hotel
- The whole Puning experience mentioned earlier
Initially, I found it expensive, but after the experience, I realized it was worth it.
Here are some of the pictures during the trip: