Thursday, August 1, 2013

July 16th: Flying Bicol!

Entering the Cebu Pacific airplane headed to Bicol. 
Hey everyone,

So today we left for the airport at 6 am to get to Bicol. (I'm not sure of actual time since all of us were pretty worn out from Cebu.) Our choice of aircraft, Cebu Pacific. Not the best quality, but decent for a cheap, business-class airplane. At the Cebu airport in Mactan Island, we ran into a few technical difficulties. First of all, we're a group of approx. 50 people. That's a lot when you're trying to check into a flight that only holds at most 80 people! On top of that, we each had a check-in weight limit of 30 lbs per person! So, after we got through that headache, we encountered another minor problem...JR's rock. Hard, solid, yes. A weapon? Perhaps. Well to the Customs you betcha!

The Rondalla Rock given to us during our Immersion Day
 at the Bayan-Bayanan Elementary school.
Each rock is specially hand painted.
On the way through security, that's exactly why JR got stopped -- for hand carrying the rock we got from the Aeta children in Bataan. It was a pretty funny sight to see, actually. JR, being halted by the Customs, the Customs, checking JR's pockets and rummaging through his carry on items, us, wondering what's taking him so long. They completely turned over his hand-carry bag, like a sunny-side-up egg, until the solid mass fell out! When JR saw what they were holding, he completely freaked out! They couldn't take it away from him, especially because it meant a lot to us and the kids from Bataan. Eventually, the Customs complied, put the rock in a plastic bag, duck taped it, and checked it in at the counter. Good thing they didn't throw the rock away or we would have went nuts!

Although JR's experience through security is surely a unique one, he was not the only one who was halted that day. Jessica and Marisa was stopped for the same reason. They actually didn't want their rocks to be mixed up in the bag, which is probably why they were really annoyed. I bet a few people got away with it though...Shhhh!!! I guess it's hard checking in an object so close to you that you would risk getting caught by security! Well, at least in the end, we still got back our Rondalla Rocks! Lesson learned: Don't ever hand-carry rocks.

Mayon Volcano, known for its perfectly shaped cone.
What a beautiful view from the rice paddies.
Now, after all of that, I'm still not done with my story. Nooo...there was still one last flying difficulty we faced. Clouds. Very, very low clouds. And may I say, large and fluffy cumulous clouds that if you wanted to look down and see the ground, you couldn't because they were so thick. For two-and-a-half hours we were on the plane, an hour of it was literally spent circling around Mayon Volcano because we just couldn't land! My dad told me that small regional airports usually don't have navigational radars to direct planes onto the landing strip. Likewise, small aircrafts running regional routes also don't carry radar so pilots have to rely on LOS (line-of-sight) to land. A thick cloud cover would be enough to prevent the airplane from landing safely. So, the pilot had to circle a number of times to find the runway, or another airport to land.

The view of Mt. Mayon was spectacular, though, and having woken up after a nice nap, it was quite surprising. The perfectly cone-shaped volcano was right in front of my eyes, and for that hour, it wouldn't leave my eyes. Honestly, we had circled the volcano three times, and by then, I was becoming restless. "Why haven't we landed?" I silently asked myself. And it may have been the heavens who heard my crying plea (or just my own imagination playing tricks on me again) that then and there, the airplane's speakerphone answered, "We just spotted the landing field. We'll be landing in a few minutes." And so we did. After a rough landing, a quick swivel around the tarmac, and a plop open of the door, we were finally, finally set free. At least an hour late to Bicol wasn't the worst thing that could happen. It was actually the BEST thing that happened!

When I related our Bicol experience to may Aunt, her face lit up and told me that we were actually very lucky. She told me that for most of the year, especially during the rainy season, it is quite rare for people to get an unobstructed view of Mt. Mayon's almost perfect cone. As the local legend goes, how much of Mt. Mayon's full grandeur lies hidden behind the clouds is an indication of how much her spirit welcomes visitors. I guess Mt. Mayon favors and welcomes our group so much that, before letting us land, she made us see and appreciate her beauty from the air not just once, twice or thrice but FOUR TIMES!  Looking back, save from the short time at the Cagsawa church ruins, indeed the view of Mt. Mayon was crisp and clear throughout our stay in Legazpi City.

Thanks Mt. Mayon and our great Bicol hosts.

Sierra Jamir                                                                                                              

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