I’m on my way to Bicol now, there is some kind of itch within me that makes me want to leave the island of Luzon as soon as I can. I felt like I’m not having a proper adventure while I’m still here. I can ride to any part of Luzon anytime I wish because it’s just big island and I have been to the most notable places.
I just kept on going, telling myself I need to get to the port so I can start having an “adventure”. Then I saw Mayon, the supposedly perfectly cone-shaped volcano. Now don’t get me wrong I have seen it before, but never up close. Looking at the clock on my phone I thought, I think it wouldn’t hurt checking it out, it doesn’t look that far.
So I asked some locals directions to the base of the volcano. I have seen dozens of photos of Mayon as a kid with that old church in the foreground. I guess I’m finally going to see it in person. So I went, it was farther that I thought that it would be and there’s a lot of winding roads all are seemingly going up.
Then I arrived at a dead end, a parking area with a lot of tourists taking selfies with a big blue structure that says “Planetarium”. I was like “Where’s the old church? The one that I keep seeing on post-cards when I was young?”. I started to ask the kids selling me bonsai plants. Apparently, I’m on the other side of Mayon, the rear part. Those photos on those post-cards are on the front part. I did a little self-talk “Nice navigation dumb-ass”. “Well, I’m here. I can see Mayon up-close and I mean really really close, that counts as something right?” trying to comfort myself. This is just the beginning of my many navigational blunders in this 2-month trip.
There were a lot of kids playing with a small skateboard, whenever a tourist car arrive they would go up to it and sell some bonsai. One kid stood out from the rest, his name is Marlon. What made him different was his eyes they were very bright and accommodating it’s as if there’s no such thing as a stranger to him.
As I mentioned on my last blog post, I’m quite popular with children. When I arrived all of the kids eyes were on me because of the way I look and the gadgets that were attached to my motorcycle as well as my body. Marlon asked what was that thing that was sticking out my helmet. I told him it was a camera, they were all amazed when I took it off and showed it to them. I then let him play with it, while I and his friends view the camera from my phone.
It was just fun to see all these kids playing around, I really wanted to stay some more but it’s getting dark and it will take me some time before I can get back to town. I asked Marlon if there it’s possible to go up Mayon, he told me “Yes and my father can be your guide. However, they don’t allow it right now.”
That got me thinking if they allow people to go up Mayon then it means I can camp somewhere around here since most probably the people going up would have to stay somewhere. I asked him if there’s a place here where I can camp. He said, “I will ask my father”. After a minute, he came back running and said, “You can camp beside that house.” I rode up to a small blue house where I met Marlon’s father. Although Marlon said that I already got the permission, I decided to ask him again. When he said yes, I started unpacking my stuff.
The sun is setting quite fast and it’s getting really cold, good thing everything is already set. The tent is already up, my stuff is already not so neatly arranged inside it and I’m already in my casual clothes. I felt like now is the proper time to get acquainted with my very hospitable host.
I saw them preparing the plants that will be used to create the bonsai that was being sold to me earlier. The whole family was in it, some of Marlon’s younger siblings were cutting the plants while the others are cleaning it. Then I asked “Tatay” (Marlon’s Father) how they make and sell these things.
I then asked if they get the plants themselves they told me that they don’t. “Somone supplies us with the plants for a certain amount then we turn them into this.” pointing to a finished product. I asked him them if this was their only means of livelihood, he said “No”, sometimes when sales are really slow he goes to the town to get some odd jobs to help him support his family of 9 (from what I can remember). By this time I started to wonder why they stay up here, so I asked him if it was their house. He told me a sad story about how they lost their home.
He told me that the last strong storm devastated their place, it destroyed his house. He then asked for the permission of the barangay captain if he can stay here for the meantime. That’s also when I found out that he sometimes work as a guide going up Mayon and until that day it was supposedly close, as there were some volcanic activities. There’s a real risk of being here but I guess he took it so they could have some temporary shelter.
The topic then focused on Marlon when I mentioned how good he was at selling those bonsai plants. I told him that the boy is really smart and has his own charm that makes people really like him. He told me that Marlon stopped going to school so he can help support his family, he was really good at selling and he really enjoys interacting with different people. The idea of him earning from something that he liked doing makes him want to do it more. I then turned to Marlon and asked him “What are going to do with the money that you earn?”. He then looked at me and said enthusiastically. “I’m going to buy a bag and go back to school next year!”.
I wanted to continue our conversation but I’m already dead tired, so I told them that I’m going to go back to my tent to sleep. They wished me to have a good rest. It looked like they are going to have a long night as they show no signs of resting early. I then head on to my cozy 1 person tent filled with stuff to get my much-needed sleep.
Middle of the night I was awakened by a strong gust of wind which made the whole tent wobble continuously. I then realised it was raining and it was becoming really cold. Good thing I had my emergency thermal blanket on hand as I was already shivering. I was still very tired and sleepy so after looking for ways to keep myself warm, I tried to sleep again.
Come morning “Tatay” approached me and asked how did my night go. I just answered “Very cold”, he then told me that the rain last night was really strong and that they were very concerned about me and my safety. They even prepared a space for me in the small house just incase I decide to transfer. I found this gesture utterly amazing, they managed to still think of me during those times when they themselves have very little room to sleep in.
We chatted a little bit more and he then offered me some coffee and some bread. This family has very little yet they are still very much willing to give. I really appreciate the offer so I took it and we had our coffee and bread together.
Tatay told me the there’s going to be some kind of event this morning and he will be busy, I told him I will leave early so that I won’t hinder him in whatever it is that he is going to do.
I then started to pack my things to prepare for my departure. Before leaving I gave Tatay a small amount as a sign of appreciation. I have a daily budget for lodging since I saved a lot by camping here, I decided that it was appropriate for them to have it.
I then said goodbye and told them that I look forward to coming back someday.