Camalig / Daraga / Legazpi City, Albay and Gubat / Barcelona, Sorsogon, the Philippines
November 21 – 25, 2015
What was it about Bicol that unleashed my inner balladeer, so much so that I would break into song mid-tour? The voice kept under my breath quite suddenly broke out so exuberantly, and without shame. I captured some of those off-the-cuff (and off-my-rocker) musical moments on video for Instagram posterity.
So here was my playlist in Bicol. In my own vibrato (or perhaps just shaky) voice.
Somewhere Over the Rainbow
Way up high…on Quituinan Hill in the town of Camalig. Hostess with the mostest Frances pulled strings to get my squad and me a late-aftie visit at the privately-owned hill, still in the early stages of tourism development. The bumpy ride uphill led to an undulating meadow made more rustic and romantic by a few grazing horses. With that postcard-perfect background, my squad was agog to see ourselves in selfies, groufies, and jump shots.
The summit revealed a majestic panorama of Mayon. What a wow-worthy, in-ya-face view! Up close and seemingly within reach, the volcano’s perfect cone was wrinkled with furrows etched by lava flows throughout the millennia. Still, the outline was smooth and even. This monster was graceful.
And shy. She partially hid behind rolling clouds that had descended on our hill and sprinkled us with raindrops “like lemon drops high above the chimney tops.” As we sprinted toward a lone cottage, a band of bright colors spilling out of the cloud cover stopped us in our tracks.
“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue” indeed. Such visual poetry compelled a response in musical verse.
With the exception of Baler up north and Siargao down south, the eastern seaboard of the Philippines had never burned up the map. I felt lonely in my excitement in getting my toes kissed by the Pacific. The crashing tide could have swirled halfway round the globe from the Americas beyond the blue horizon.
By the time we stretched out our legs from the long van ride and buried our feet at Rizal Beach in Gubat, Sorsogon, I was “so afraid to show my feelings.” I broke away to a remote spot to belt out my song to the wind. No one heard it save for an army of mole crabs that quickly burrowed into the sand in waves. Or was it the sound waves of my vocal gymnastics?
Our road trip traced the Pacific coastline to the next town, Barcelona. A seafront promenade, newly paved and landscaped, merited a stop for photo ops. The azure of sky and sea brought out the bright flowers and gray ruins of a Spanish fort at Barcelona Ruins Park.
From This Moment
As said in Tagalog, Pagkahaba-haba man ng prusisyon, sa simbahan din ang hantung. That summed up our road trip as we ended up at Daraga Church, where Frances was married some 15 or so years before. I took a stab at being a wedding singer then, serenading the newlyweds with a song at the reception. “From this moment, life has begun.”
At this moment, I sang the chorus to the elaborately carved images on the church’s facade overlooking Mayon. The church and the volcano went together like love and marriage. “Right beside you is where I belong. From this moment on.”
My squad thought I was mad. “Baby boy, you’re singing again?!”
The church’s strategic location atop a hill and a flight of dramatic steps, where townspeople could keep an eye for any volcanic activity, rendered it the most picturesque in the country. It was a photo-op I could not resist, this time with our van driver.
On the Wings of Love
“Up and above the clouds, the only way to fly.” I whispered the song as I pressed my face on the plane window to ogle Mayon’s elusive summit, finally peeking through her veil of clouds that had mostly hidden her face throughout this exhilarating trip.
The rainbow at the foot of the volcano, the vast ocean, the postcard-pretty church, the sight of Mayon among the clouds – all touched my soul, the language of which was music.
My final song lent itself as the most appropriate finale. It was the theme song of a nightly soap that Mom and I loved. “Only the two of us together flying high.” I was flying back to our life together.
But not for long. Within a month, I would be the only one. Mom would fly higher to the heavens on angel wings.