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by Rick Green

Mount Mayon volcanoEasing into a seat near the front of the bus, I noticed a homemade crochet banner strung above the windshield. It hopefully declared in large letters, "Bless our trip." With the previous day's journey only too vivid a memory, I definitely counted my blessings.

The trip began with a short flight from Manila to Legazpi City near the southern-most point on the Philippine island of Luzon. The perfectly symmetrical cone of Mount Mayon volcano was our goal, along with a quiet beach away from the sun worshipping crowds.

As we made our descent, I admired the rugged tropical countryside covered in disheveled coconut palms gently rustling in the onshore breeze, disturbed by the unnatural uniformity of soggy dark fields freshly daubed with verdant splashes of tender rice seedlings.

A small crescent bay on a scalloped coastline sheltered a flotilla of fishing boats from the deep, daunting swells of the South Pacific. On the periphery lay the scruffy clutter of Legazpi, capital of Albay province and the country's main eastern port. Majestic Mayon dominated the tranquil setting, its curvaceous hips rising into a gentle cumulus veil shrouding the summit.

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