FOR THOSE SEEKING a unique day of health, wellness, and adventure in a picturesque setting not far from Metro Manila, Puning Hot Spring situated in Sitio Target, Brgy. Sapang Bato in Angeles City, Pampanga offers an amazing travel and pampering experience.
Merely two and a half hours away from the metro via luxurious and safe travel on a Victory Liner bus, three land transfers will further take you to Puning Hot Spring, which can be found at the foothills of Mt.Pinatubo. It is nestled within the lush and sprawling ancestral domain of the indigenous people of Pampanga, the Aetas. Hence, the term “Puning,” which translates to Mother Nature in Mag-antsi, the native language spoken by the Aetas in Mabalacat, Pampanga.
Puning Hot Spring is divided into three stations. The First Station houses the receiving office, a restaurant and the starting point for the 4×4 jeeps to be used in getting to the two other stations. The Second Station serves as the sand steam and mud pack area. The Third Station offers the pièce de résistance—a complex of magnificent and elaborate structures containing 13 pools with water sourced directly from a hot spring waterfall cascading from Mt.Pinatubo.
Our Puning experience began when a 4×4 vehicle picked us up from Sutherland in Clark, Pampanga. After a 20-minute drive, we finally arrived in Puning’s Base Camp or the First Station. There we found an open garden marked with several gazebos, a refreshing assortment of plants and flowers, and tables strategically placed so as to afford privacy while guests enjoy their buffet in the open restaurant. After a brief visit to the receiving office, we met our local Aeta guide who was to accompany us for the rest of our trip in the complex.
A 15-minute drive aboard our 4×4 vehicle took us further to the Sand Spa Area or the Second Station. The health, wellness and pampering section of the Puning experience commences here. After a change of clothes, we were led to an outdoor sauna. We lay down in hot sand and were covered with it from foot to neck. The temperature of the sand was maintained by heaters built underneath the sauna. While buried under the hot sand, you could feel your heart racing, but not in an alarming way. We lay there for about 15 to 20 minutes, after which we were given a body massage–yes, while still covered with sand—by female local Aeta staff who informed us that the sand steam helps lower cholesterol, relieves body pains and improves blood circulation.
After the staff towelled off the sand from our clothes and bodies, we proceeded to the mud pack area. While we comfortably lay on our backs, mud made from lahar spewn by Mt.Pinatubo was applied to our bodies. This mud pack is purportedly good for treating skin allergies and tightening pores. We lounged while waiting for the pack to dry, after which we took a shower in preparation for our trip to the third and final station.
The adventure part of our travel began here. A 15-minute ride aboard our designated 4×4 jeep along the rugged and beautiful terrain leading to the Third Station presented us with a visual feast. We saw imposing rock formations formed by lahar, alternately mixed with verdant greens on both sides of the jagged roads. The occasional splashes of water hit our faces as the wheels of our 4×4 vehicle treaded an uneven path along a narrow stream flowing through the craggy terrain. We tightly hung on to the railing of the 4×4 jeep as we took in the sights before us. Mother Nature had us breathless and enthralled by her rough, natural beauty.
The Third Station is a beautifully designed resort that creatively places the hot pools— more specifically, 11 hot pools and 2 warm pools—atop stone formations, which can be reached after climbing different stone staircases. These dedicated pathways to each pool ensure the privacy of guests, who are encouraged to hop from one pool to another, to test the various water temperatures and enjoy any which pool they fancy. We opted for a shallow warm pool and decided that it was perfect for relaxing and soothing our tired muscles. Individual cottages are also conveniently situated near each pool for guests to enjoy any snacks they brought with them. A glance up at the towering rock formations within the resort reveals billowing hot steam emanating from crevices and from the natural hot spring waterfall around which the pools are constructed.
After several hours of enjoying the hot springs and gazing at our lovely surroundings, we showered and made our way back to the First Station for our early dinner buffet. The buffet spread was simple, unassuming, but very filling. We went back to Manila with our bodies soothed and our spirits energized.
To get to Puning Hot Spring, take a Victory Liner bus and alight at the Mabalacat bus terminal in Pampanga. Ride a jeepney or a tricycle going to the Clark main gate, then take another jeepney to Mini-Stop in Sutherland, Clark. A 4×4 vehicle from Puning Hot Spring picks up guests from that point. Puning Hot Spring has day tour packages that start at P7,200 for two persons. The package price includes a tour of the hot springs, a buffet-style meal, sand spa, mud pack, use of a 4×4 vehicle, services of a local guide, and a nominal barangay entry fee.
* Another one of those fun times with best buddy Smash. I do not know if this would interest my boys; perhaps their girlfriend in the not so near future.